Thursday, August 25, 2005

Learning Hand Piecing

Back in '88 after I'd moved away from home, I took a class on hand piecing. Now remember that I was madly in love with quilts at this point, and had worked on a couple of bed-sized ones with my Mom, but so far had not enjoyed the whole sewing experience. Rotary cutters, going fast, matching seams - very stressful. So a hand piecing class seemed like an excellent way to learn the calm, hopefully happy, way to make quilts.

Loved it from the very beginning. Took a class at a local high school thru an adult education program. We had an instructor who fit my learning-style to a T. She showed us her wonderful quilts, she showed us a wide range of blocks to choose from and in no way tried to make us do a certain quilt. All we were working on was one block and we could do it in whatever colors or fabrics we wanted and we could make any changes we wanted. She just showed us HOW to construct the block. These are templates, this is how you figure out what templates you need, this is how you mark and cut your fabric, this is the stitch you use...

The woman sitting next to me was always confused. She wanted to be told exactly what to do for every single step.

For me, it all made sense, it all gelled. Sure, there were boring parts (tracing around templates and cutting each individual piece, snooze), but they weren't stressful. It wasn't hurry, hurry, hurry. And I was working on my project, not something pre-chosen. Knowing me, I'd have dropped the class if we were forced to work on a project I didn't like.

And you're going to laugh at me now, because I usually don't have these flights of fancy and I don't believe in reincarnation, but it seemed like I'd done this before, that these were familiar actions, that I was drawn to quilts because they had been so important to me in a previous life or something. Not that I'd have made a good pioneer or Amish woman - no plumbing, electricity, heating, air conditioning, you want me to do what with that chicken? I don't think so.

Back to reality now, I chose my block and three colors to work it in. Have no idea what the name of this block is, but I think I made changes to it - made it more complicated. Looking at it now I think, why did I do all those triangles - I could have done this with a lot fewer seams.

After I completed the block, I planned out a whole medallion-style wallhanging. I started sewing on tiny borders and worked on a more elaborate pieced border (that's over on the left side towards the bottom of the orphan quilt layout).

I had meanwhile been piecing other blocks on the sewing machine and had grown more confident in my ability to use it. So it struck me, why am I spending all this time hand-piecing straight lines? I hate it and it would be much faster to use the machine. Tried that and could really tell the difference between the hand pieced and machine-sewn borders. Ripped out the machine ones and was then too bored with the project to ever pick it up again... Sometimes I lose the momentum on a project and that's all she wrote.

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