Thursday, June 22, 2006

Masterpiece Quilt

This is the Masterpiece quilt. It's not called that because I am egotistical, but because it took me long time to make and I put a lot of my heart into it. I worked on other, smaller projects while I was doing this one, so I needed a handy way to refer to it. "Crown of Thorns Variation" was just too long.

Ya'all have seen a tantalizing bit of this quilt before, when it was all folded up in my display box.

It makes me want to cry when I see how badly this fabric has faded in places. In the lower left corner, see those green spikes? That used to be black in the arc - now it's brown.




I've really been struggling with writing about this quilt. It's very emotional for me, so much happened while I was making it.

After I made my first real quilt with my Mom, I started making blocks out of the book Quilts, Quilts, Quilts. As I was doing that, I saw a picture of a quilt made from a block described as Crown of Thorns varition (cover of QNM magazine, Oct 1987). For some reason, that stuck and I decided I had to make this particular quilt. Not in the same colors - heck no - and not with that border, but I loved the block.

A friend had the pattern, so I traced out the templates and began hand-piecing the blocks. I didn't have much of a stash, but desperately wanted to only use each fabric in two different blocks. I begged and borrowed and used some fabric in retrospect that I shouldn't have. It was 100% cotton but meant to be turned into clothing. Had a rougher texture. Used cheap calicoes, and those are the ones that have faded so badly. They came from regular fabric stores, not quilting shops. Learned that lesson - to me it's worth the price to pay for real quilter's fabric.

I designed the border myself. I'm actually amazed that I managed to measure everything out properly so it all fits together right. I find it a much easier process to make things fit together when I'm hand-piecing than when I'm working on the machine.

When I started piecing the blocks (in either 1990 or 1991), I was living on my own for the first time (woohoo, no roommates) and was very very far from home. I met a man, got engaged a month after we started dating, got married 5 months later by a justice of the peace with two friends as witnesses. (I hate ceremonies.)

That was right before Christmas of 1992. In mid-January my dad called and said my mom had inoperable brain tumors. The cancer had spread. She was terminally ill. I had known she wasn't feeling great, but certainly not the extent of it. And my dad had waited for three weeks before telling me how sick she was. I don't want to talk about this particular subject anymore, but Mom was gone a month later.

Flash forward to August 1993. Sweetie and I flew home to visit Dad. I had the Masterpiece top completed by then and brought it home. Dad set up the quilt frame he'd made for Mom and I struggled to baste the top. I remember how frustrated I was and in tears throughout the whole process. I didn't know how to do it by myself and I just plain wanted my Mom.

I hand quilted the whole top. No hoop or frame, of course. Regular black quilting thread. That took awhile. This is embarassing to admit, but I didn't date the quilt when I finished it. Signed it but that's about it. I do a much better documentation job now. Masterpiece was in a quilt show in August of 1994. Got a ribbon for best hand quilting, even with all the little quilting knots left on the back.

23 comments:

anne bebbington said...

Oh Tonya - your mum certainly left you a real lasting legacy introducing you to quilting like that even though she's not here to share now. Funny how much we can put of ourselves and the circumstances of the time into any one piece. I spent 5 months off work after pancreatitis while I was quilting my brothers wedding quilt and there is so much of my frustration at not being well enough to do more in that quilt - so much so that I almost wish it belonged to me as the feelings stitched in are so personal - a lovely picture of your mum at work - one to treasure :o)

dot said...

Beautiful quilt Tonya.

Lois R. said...

Holy cow, that is one gorgeous quilt! Don't EVER regret your fabric choices or that they faded -- that is how women used to make quilts before we had the luxury of quilting fabric and quilt stores. Begging fabrics from friends adds to the story. And when I look at the whole quilt, the faded parts don't jump out at me.

The story is the important thing here, including friends, new hubby, dad, mom, and ribbon for best hand quilting!

Thanks for sharing the story and the quilt.

Judy said...

Well, I certainly think the name fits! It's wonderful! Simply beautiful! I talked the other day to my local LQS owner and she mentioned that JoAnn's best choice is her lowest choice of fabric, just not the same. But you used what was available at the time and that's how they used to make quilts!

Sorry to here about your mom. I know how hard it was to write. I had myself quite a good cry writing about my Father the other day. Hope you are getting better now. I was a quick marry-er too. Engaged after 6 weeks, married 7 months later. When it's right, you know it. Glad you found a good one.

Seriously ...LOVE that quilt! Thanks for showing it to us.

Fiona said...

A fabulous quilt, and all the more so because of all that it means to you.

JudyL said...

Tonya, it's a beautiful quilt with a lot of history! Thanks for sharing the story behind the quilt.

You were a new quilter when you made that quilt. I wouldn't tackle those blocks now! Great job!!

Judy L.

Nines said...

Tonya- goodness. I thought I was the only one who invested so much of myself into some of my work- certainly not all of it. It's a weird choice I make when I decide to go there- almost a form of self-torture, but my choice. Thank you so much for sharing the pictures of your masterpiece and the stories behind it. The life you and it have lived. I think that loss is one of those things that mellows over time- at first, an overwhelming swell and finally an ache that allows you to smile as it brings back more of the sweet than the bitter memories. Bottom line, it's a great quilt made by a very talented person and I am all the more impressed that you could accomplish such a feat using fabrics that aren't ideal for quilt making. You are one incredible person. And the quilt's a testament to that.

Tina said...

Hi Tonya,your quilt is wonderful, the colors are rich, it's sad that there is some fading but it doesn't detract from the quilt at all. Thank you also for sharing your story, I know it never gets easier when we miss our loved ones .... Now no hoop or frame for quilting just amazes me...Hugs Tina

bluerain said...

Oh Tonya, what a lovely quilt! and the 'imperfections' are just what makes it a masterpiece. As memories fade with time beauty replaces the sadness...
(((HUGS)))
Paula

The Calico Cat said...

Lovely quilt, thanks for sharing its story. :o)

cher said...

what a story behind this gorgeous quilt. The ravages of time only make this quilt more precious Tonya-what a tribute to your quilting life. It has such wonderful workmanship and quilting in it! thanks for sharing about your mom-I am sure you continue to miss her as I miss mine. let's hope we see a cure for cancer in our lifetime!

Finn said...

Absolutely gorgeous quilt Ton! I had to go back and read about your Mom and getting started in quilting. It was a really beautiful story last August, and still is today..*VBS* Congraulations on the blogaversity...High Five for a year !!
All you quilts are so amazing...but this one even more so. A very ambitious undertaking for a newbie!! I actually remember the issue of QNL that you are referring to. Oh yes, and those good old days of poly cotton fabric with it "I can't hold a crease" workablitiy. These new quilters just don't know what they missed, do they...LOL?

Holly said...

Gorgeous quilt, Tonya, especially with all the memories it holds that are too sacred to intrude upon. No one but you would see fading in some fabrics. You quilted perfectly even then.

LNLisa said...

It's just beautiful! That outside border especially amazes me! I usually peter out towards the end of the quilt, I'm so impressed that you pieced all of that while still a beginning quilter. I love the colors too. Thank you for sharing that.

Katie said...

Quilting is so many things - history, creative expression, therapy and emotions among them. Your quilting and this quilt has all of these. Your story is in every stitch. It reminds me of the women who have used their quilting as a major expression of themselves for so many years gone by. Hold your treasure dear and near.

Sharon said...

Lovely, lovely, lovely quilt and lovely post, Tonya. And the faded fabrics? Remember that today, there are quilt artist's who are deconstructing colors using bleach to make other colors from their existing fabrics - so you were just ahead of the game!

Dawn said...

Even though it is faded, it is a gorgeous quilt! I'm so glad to finally see the whole thing. I love the border!

Lily said...

Oh Tonya no wonder you are emotional about this quilt. It's just beautiful too. Look how pointy your points are! It's gorgeous. No wonder you won an award. Sorry it has bittersweet memories for you, but that is what makes this quilt so special. And thanks for sharing your experiences about using dressmaking fabrics. I've heard that from salespeople (of course), but to hear it from pros like yourself reinforces the need to invest in quality material for our quilts.

Sassenach said...

Tonya,
Your quilt is beautiful, and going by the pictures, the fading doesn't harm the beauty of the quilt (though it's certainly not what you intended).

The quilt is certainly restorable, and well within your own skills. If you'd like some advice, shoot me an email.

Kim

ForestJane said...

The quilt's lovely, and even more so for being filled up with memories - surely a masterpiece! And I'm in awe of all your perfect points.

Darcie said...

That's what quilts are all about. All of the emotions that are stitched into your quilt make it a Masterpiece...ribbons or not. It's priceless!

And well worth our wait to see it in the fiber! I remember seeing it in one of your gorgeous cabinets. Thanks for sharing your quilt and its beautiful story, Tonya!

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Willy Wonky said...

I'd never seen this quilt before, and of course, I love it!