I am a bit embarrassed to admit that it has taken me nearly a decade to finish a quilt. Nearly a decade? Yikes! How is it possible that much time has passed since I started it?
In my mind, every quilt has a story. Some stories are short...and others are long. Some stories are sweet...while others have a serious dose of blood, sweat, and tears. The story of this quilt is one of those longer stories.
A little more than ten years ago, I left my small town and my small college for a trip to Tanzania. It was just a month-long trip, but it was a trip that would end up influencing how I view the world today. I know its a cliche to say that it was a "life-changing trip", but it was just that for me.
Not long after my trip, I discovered that my mom had taken up quilting. It didn't take much for me to convince her to try to teach me the basics. We spent a weekend making my very first quilt. One with big blocks, large pieces of fabric...and it was flannel. It is proudly hanging on the quilt rack in my sewing room - my very first quilt. Soon after that, I decided I wanted to try another quilt. I wanted to make one big enough for my bed. I didn't want to spend much money (quilting fabric is expensive on a graduate student's budget) so my mom and I went to the quilt shop and bought fabrics from the clearance section. They weren't fabrics that I would pick now...and if I'd had a bigger budget then, I certainly would have picked other fabrics. My mom helped me find a pattern that I thought I could pull off on my own (a simple 9 patch) and I went to work. My mom helped here and there, but it was mostly my own. I still use that quilt on my bed (though its getting kind of worn...and the dog has put a hole or two in it).
But the quilt that this story is about is the very next piece I started on. I remember I was using an old hand-me-down machine from my mom. It was actually the machine that I learned to sew on when I was a kid. It was basic, but it was all I needed back then. I had two roommates, and not much living space that was "mine". But, I crammed my little sewing table into my room and convinced myself that I would find time to sew.
Somewhere along the line I found this book:
And on page 150, I saw this quilt:
And I knew I HAD to make THAT quilt. That quilt transported me right back to Tanzania. That quilt made me feel Africa all over again - just by looking at it. I knew I had to have a quilt like that in my house to look at every day.
I had no idea what I was doing. The book didn't have a pattern for the quilt. Just the picture. It had patterns for a couple elements that are in the quilt, but nothing specific for that quilt. I had no sense about quilting etiquette or about translating a photograph of a quilt into a quilting design, but I knew I had to try to re-create that quilt for myself.
So I worked on it. I made lots of drawings. I did lots of math trying to figure out how to make all the pieces fit together and trying to figure out what sizes to make everything. Once I thought I figured it out, I headed to the quilt shop to buy fabric. Then I started cutting...and piecing...and ripping seams...and re-piecing...and buying more fabric to make up for the bits I had ruined along the way.
In the end, I got the quilt top I wanted. I had another local quilter do the quilting for me...and when I got it back I got to work on the binding. And that's where I quit.
For a long time.
I got married. My husband spent a year in Iraq. When he got back, I didn't do much sewing. We adopted two little boys...and all the sewing I did was for them (or other babies in the family). We moved a couple of times.
And all this time this quilt sat in a box in storage.
I have decided that this summer is all about finishing projects. I have several quilt tops that need to be quilted, and I am convinced that I am going to make a genuine dent in the "partially finished projects" bin in my sewing room. But in order to do that, I had to go back and finish this quilt. So last week, I pulled it out and finally hand-stitched the last bit of binding.
It felt so good to finally finish this quilt.
So thank you to Laurie Barnett for designing such an amazing quilt. One that invoked such an amazingly strong emotional response from yours truly. And now I have one to hang on my wall to bring me back to Africa every day.