Monday, June 28, 2010

Seven habits of the (in)effective quilter, or, "It only took thirteen years!"

Why am I so happy? I finally finished a quilt!

I started this one back in 1997. Yeah, you read that right. Thirteen years ago. The year I graduated from college. (No, it does not take thirteen years to make a quilt. It does require a lot of procrastination. And you may have to box it up and move it eight times in that interim, along with needles, a quilting hoop, various threads, and the meticulously cut but not-yet-applied binding. It is a testament to my hoarding that I kept that binding fabric for all of those years.)

The color scheme and fabric choice for this quilt were inspired by my grandmother Wendy Joy, known as "Nanny" to her grandchildren and many others. She loved American folk art like only a woman born and raised in England could! She was a London girl who became a World War II G.I. bride. She came to the U.S. as a young woman. She was an accomplished needlewoman, and could have made this quilt in two days, and done a much better job than I did! She loved traditional quilt designs, blue willow pottery, and red barns. She always called me her "Bicentennial Baby," because I was born in 1976. I was able to show her this quilt right before she died, about thirteen years ago now, when I had just started hand-quilting it. She assured me that I would get the hang of hand-quilting with a little practice, and she was right. Thirteen years later, my hand-quilting stitches look pretty good!

This quilt has gathered dust for years at a time, but I always knew I would finish it. One day.

Well, apparently I just needed a little motivation - a new baby in the family! This is going to my neice, baby Helen Elizabeth. I even stitched her initials into the corner.

But first, I had to try it out, of course. Joe and Crouton give it their stamp of approval as well.


And now, without further ado:

Seven Habits of the (In)Effective Quilter*
  1. Always plan large quilts. The (in)effective quilter is not interested in wall hangings, doll quilts, or small baby blankets.
  2. Select a difficult patchwork pattern, preferably one with small triangular pieces. Then become overwhelmed at the sight of piles of rotary-cut triangles all over your house.
  3. Adopt two rowdy, badly behaved dogs. They will make basting your giant, complex quilt damn-near impossible because every time you try to lay it out on the floor, they will decide to have a wrestling match on top of it.
  4. Hand-quilt everything, because you love that old-timey look. The (in)effective quilter looks down her nose at machine quilting and scoffs at "tying off."
  5. Decide to hand-quilt your large, complex quilt with dense, closely-spaced stitches.
  6. Frequently give up in despair, fold up your quilt, and let it collect dust for a year or more.
  7. Rather than working on your half-finished quilt, plan a new quilt.
* (Thanks to Anne's mom for this idea!)


  1. I am so impressed, Inder. It looks absolutely beautiful. If this were me, the weight of guilt would have led me to stuff the quilt guiltily into a dumpster like a murder victim, somewhere around Year 8, with a terrible sense of necessity mixed with crushing guilt. I am so, so, SO impressed. (I have never quilted, but it took me almost a year to knit my one and only baby blanket. Then I switched to baby hats.)

  2. Melissa, it did spend many years wadded up in the back of various closets. Every time I moved (did I mention EIGHT times?), I packed it (and that dang binding) up with feelings of extreme shame. But I never quite gave up on it, mostly because (1) traditional Americana was never really in style, so I couldn't loathe it because it went out of style; and (2) I think my grandmother must have been cheering me on from heaven.

    Nanny always used to say, "I didn't have the patience for quilting until I turned 50." This from a woman who knitted socks for the soldiers in the bomb shelters during the blitz, and sewed everything from scratch. So I would tell myself - worst case, I'll finish it when I'm 50!

    When I think of it that way, I finished it sixteen years EARLY!

  3. It's absolutely gorgeous, Inder.


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