I was at a bit of a loose end yesterday – I had finished the marking and didn’t feel like doing anything very mentally demanding, so I decided to go up to my workroom and assemble a small project I have been working on for quilting. In the end, for some reason, I started playing around with the leftovers from that project to make a little piece just for fun. The fabric comes from a manufacturer’s sample that my ever resourceful mother got from a warehouse/shop in Leicester called Kisko. I think it cost about £3.50. So far this is the second mini-quilt I have used it in. The backing is a piece of Laura Ashley wool/cotton blend that I bought years ago and made a horrible dress from, and the binding was leftover from another project. The wadding is fusible cotton. It is a small piece – about 13″ by 16″ (33 x 41 cm).
Those are the bald facts. But this is in a small series I want to make about what I love about quilting. I want to make some small quilts which will eventually go on painted box canvasses exploring my love of the craft. So this one is a reference back to the very first quilt I ever made for my doll when I was a very little girl. I blogged about finding the book with the instructions some months ago.
So, I started to stitch together the leftover squares from the first project – to be completed – with a view to making a simple quilt. But then the spirit of Gee’s Bend descended, and I decided to do some liberated Gwen Marston-style piecing. The quilt really fell together, and I even found a bit of the peacock batik I used in the winter quilt which I posted recently and which was exactly the right colours to fit perfectly. Then I decided to quilt it pretty freestyle, but, of course, I couldn’t resist using my favourite motifs: the feather and the bubbles. To even it up I did the stylised sunflower up the side. I stitched the binding on, trying to fight off the embellishment fairy, but no, she won and out came the Golden Fluid Acrylics and I used some bronze paint. I think it really lifted the piece:
I normally paint over the stitching as it’s a wonderful way to hide wonky quilting, but on this occasion, spurred on by the Kemshalls’ wonderful painted quilts. I decided not to and I think the turquoise stitching and the bronze sing together. I don’t like the bars up the side much, I thought it needed something on that right hand side. I didn’t notice until I looked at this real close-up that the paint on the flower has some sort of streak in it – it is barely visible to the naked eye (and turned out to be chalk!):
I liked the heavy quilting on it, and this is probably best seen from the back:
The wool-cotton gives it a lovely soft feel.
So, this was a very quick make – I finished stitching the binding on while watching a documentary about women in the church in antiquity with the medieval historian hurrumphing in my ear, so the whole thing was made in an evening. But it was a joy to make. Nothing tricky. Nothing to communicate. No theoretical or methodological point. Just a little quilt full of the things I love: great prints, sparkly blues, a bit of Bridget Riley, free quilting, liberated piecing, and painted surfaces. Even the striped fabric on the mitres on the binding matched. When I had finished it, I sat and stroked it and then propped it up and kept sneaking looks at it. I had a real, ‘I made that moment’ with it, which I haven’t had for a long time with the big complex pieces which take months to make. I wonder if it was because it was made from the starting point of love – what I love about quilting, and happy times making dolls’ quilts with my mother. I love quilting and embellishing surfaces. I certainly don’t do it through gritted teeth, but this very simple, unambitious piece brought me real joy and delight. The exercise of skill.
One other thing occurs to me. I seem to be in a real phase of wanting to show my skill as a maker. So things are being properly bound, and I am seaming panels together rather than doing raw edge applique. I am finding delight in going back to the prints I started out quilting with. I wonder if this is because in my job I get so much criticism – student feedback, reviewers’ comments on my research articles, gradings, ratings, league tables, stats, and the feeling that nothing is ever quite good enough. It’s my joke that if I said I had got the Nobel prize for physics I’d be met with, ‘Oh, we were rather hoping you’d get it for economics’. So maybe this is me telling myself that I am good at something, and that I do have real inimitable skill. It might be quilting as consolation, or it might be quilting as identity. Quilting to please myself.