Like anything else, quilts have a beginning, a middle, and an end. The beginning is what I call the dreaming phase, where we imagine the possibilities, test out patterns for fabric we have or instead test out fabrics for a pattern we have. We then gather the tools we need to begin on our journey of making a quilt.
The middle part or construction phase is the most time-consuming part. It’s turning your vision into a reality. There is frustration, pride, and if you chose the right pattern, there is learning!
The ending is when you have finished your quilt top, your flimsy as we call it, and either choose to have somebody else quilt it or quilt it yourself. The final step in the whole process is putting on your binding. Whether you sew it to the back and flip to the front or do the opposite, when you finish, it locks in all of the hard work that you put into your quilt. For myself, every quilt journey is a lesson, sometimes many lessons. One quilt in particular taught me many things and the ending was a bit more emotional than usual.
Let me start from the beginning. My son, who at the time was seven, asked me to make him a Pikachu quilt. Pikachu is a cartoon character from the Pokémon anime series. At the time, Pikachu fabric was not something that was easy to find. I decided it would be nice to create the Pikachu myself. So I went searching for the perfect pixel graft project. Now, keep in mind I had previously started a pixel quilt of a flamingo, and this flamingo is in my UFO pile to this day.
I honestly do enjoy the process of sewing one tiny square to another repeatedly. It makes my heart happy. The problems come however when you lose track of where you are on the graph or when you realize that you put the eye where the leg should be! And this is the reason the flamingo is still in my closet. Of course, for my son I was willing to try again. The beginning was easy. Yellow, red, and black squares, cut at 2½ inches using my Shape Cut Pro. As I began the middle part, I decided to take this very large project to a quilt retreat. This was my first retreat with a great bunch of ladies. So project in hand, I had hopes of finishing the quilt quickly and efficiently.
As I began to sew one tiny piece to one tiny piece, Maryse (who now works at the shop) asked me WHAT was I doing! Maryse had previously completed a pixel quilt. I explained to her my plan, and she told me that she knew of a better and easier way. I was all for it, having lived through the flamingo catastrophe. I was determined not only to finish this Pikachu quilt but also to complete it in good time. Maryse showed me how to use a quilter’s grid. This grid is a fusible product that allows you to place your squares in position, and using the iron and fold method, to be able to quickly work up your quilt.
As I navigated through this quilt, Maryse gave me pointers. I didn't listen. I took the foundation of what she was teaching me and decided to head out on my own. I have to say that the whole thing was an adventure in itself: from having to unsew large sections that had been sewn in the wrong place since I hadn’t labelled them as suggested, to learning about the pressing mat; from perfecting the quarter inch seam after I had gaping holes in the front, to learning that true friends don't judge you when you won't listen but instead keep helping you along the way.
This quilt followed me to three retreats. I progressed and regressed during the first two, and then I got discouraged and threw it in the UFO pile with the flamingo! It became a monster in my closet of UFOs. I was torn… I wanted it done but I did not want to finish it. And I didn't want to give it to somebody else to finish as it was a gift for my son. I pushed it around. I would take out all the pieces from the box and then put them all back in at least once a month.
Finally, when a local quilting group “Les Coudeuses de par chez nous” had a UFO retreat, I decided this project would no longer haunt me. It was getting finished! Perfect or not perfect, it didn't matter, it needed to get done.I finished this beautiful quilt with so much pride.
Yes, there were holes; yes, the seams were crooked; yes, nothing matched up, and I never pressed a seam in the right direction; but it was finished. I brought it home to show my son. He was all excited: “Mom! I can't wait for you to quilt it.” But surprisingly, the quilt remained unquilted for a long time.
A few Sundays ago, after piecing the flannel Pikachu backing we had bought for this quilt, I put it on STAN the Stadler. I had mixed feelings with this quilt. I quilted it with white thread using one of my favourite patterns, the 13 ripples. As I got halfway through the quilting, I realized that instead of being super happy that the quilt was done, I had that “Oh my... this quilt is DONE” feeling.
It wasn't the momentous joy that I thought I would feel finishing this quilt. It was sadness. Sadness for the struggles that I had gone through… a longing for all the laughs from the retreats and the help and the friends that this quilt had brought me. Of course, I will have other quilts to make. But this one had been such a struggle and such a learning experience. And now, it was done. I was surprised at all the emotions I felt at the end of this journey.
All this to say that the feelings that we put into our quilts are not necessarily just love and happiness. Sometimes it’s frustration, sometimes sadness, sometimes all these emotions. It’s a little slice of real life and of ourselves. Quilting is a journey from start to finish, and I hope everybody goes on this journey at least once in their life.
Helping you make memories one memory at a time.
It’s a beauty, especially through the eyes of your son. Only you see the imperfections. A lot of Love in your quilt ❤️
I hear ya! I think we all have these “treasures😵💫/nightmares” in our history of quilting. Great story, thanks for sharing!
Thanks for sharing your story!..It was a reminder for me, that as imperfect as I may feel about a finished project, the recipient will be thrilled in receiving a handmade item made, built from the heart. 💞
Oh Vickie, I understand. Even though I’m by no means tackling anything like your pixelated quilt, I am finishing two UFOs that I’ve struggled with. Done is better than perfect – I’ll keep saying it until the bindings are on!
I find that most times I grieve a little bit when I complete a quilt. I’ve put so much of myself and my time into it, only to see it go. This feeling only lasts until I start the preparation for the next quilt. Of course, those quilts that are difficult, or memorial quilts done from someone’s dearly departed’s various clothing types, are sent on their way happily, with a figuratively boot to the door. Adios, lol!
Love your story! I have a few UFO’s. Although the idea of finishing one project before beginning another sounds great, I’m a scattered squirrel. Happy New Year.