The Tree of Life 17: slowing the pace

As some of you already know, the attempt at machine quilting this epic has failed. 

There are simply too many changes of direction to make it even remotely viable. I blithely imagined myself whirring along at speed. Amazing how one conveniently forgets the wrestling with fabric, cursing, rolling and unrolling, aching shoulders, sore neck and all the other associated joys of machine quilting. Now multiply that 3 or 4 times taking into account outlining every leaf, branch, fruit, flower, root, blade of grass, bird and fish. I was ludicrously ambitious! After starting and stopping, sewing and unpicking several times, it was clear that I was going nowhere fast, and in order to preserve the fabric without further damage, I followed the Husband’s eminently sensible suggestion to hand quilt it. That man never ceases to amaze me. I assume all this quilty stuff is going right over his head, but actually, he’s paying attention and actually processing the information.

Three middle birds and three branches completed

Three middle birds and three branches completed

So, it’s being hand quilted. And you know what? It’s going well. I’m not going to pretend that my stitches are neat and Amish-tiny – I’m doing ‘big-stitch’ quilting because I want to finish it in my natural lifetime – but it looks nice, softer and a little puffier than machine quilting, and the stitch police aren’t coming round to check my work any time soon. Plus I don’t have to worry about aching shoulders, burying the knots or unpicking wonky bits. I’m using a combination of a round frame and just stretching an area over my hand to hold things flat, and so far that’s working well too. When I made my heirloom bed quilt and hand quilted the whole thing with an overall clamshell design, I didn’t use a frame. I had it rolled up on a table, and worked along the table edge, using tension from the roll and a hand underneath to keep things flat. That worked perfectly. Unfortunately I don’t have such a big table here, but I may see if I can make it work, since the quilt’s smaller too.

So there won’t be any dramatic visible changes for a while. Small increments of achievement, probably not very exciting to look at. Big celebration when I’ve finished in the central circle. Another big celebration when I’ve finished the rest, and then a final whoopee when it’s completed. Meanwhile, I’m going to allow myself to start contemplating other projects, so long as I don’t start taking major chunks of time away from this one.

Time to get those needle calluses back on my fingers. I’ve already left blood on the quilt…