Look out, Maroon Bells, here we come!
That was the plan, anyway...
Our final charity ride each year is in Durango, and we must pass through about 200 miles of extraordinary aspen stands to get there. Typically, this annual pilgrimage is our first photographic autumn color tour of the year. This year, the leaves began turning early, so our five-day getaway was our second leaf extravaganza of 2014.
Monarch Pass, Week 1
Because we had five days, we planned to get up at 4 a.m. on Day One and drive to Maroon Lake outside of Aspen for a 7 a.m.-ish sunrise. This typically is a stop on our annual autumn leaf tour every year, nearly 16 years straight for me now.
One year more than a decade ago resulted in this awesome poster.
This poster was so popular in the mountain-climbing club I then belonged to, I thought it should be a quilt, too. So I printed eight of the manipulated photos on fabric; eight because that's what I could fit on two sheets of 8x10 fabric. Because this was a wild concept, I thought zebra stripe borders were in order. The blocks turned out incredible, in my opinion, but I needed one more.
To harmonize with this crazy theme, I thought a hand-appliqued dahlia block would be the perfect center for my Crazy Bells blocks. All the zebra stripe fabric and dahlia fabric were leftovers from clothes I'd made for my kids when they were really small and still crazy enough to wear clothes mom made.
The dahlia block was much bigger than my Colorful Bells blocks, so I chopped it down to match, then assembled the quilt top. It then hung on my quilt rack for about 12 years!!!
Last June, I realized I was going to be the only member of the Send group in Ravelry's Spring 2014 UFO Club without a finish. The group offers a fun quarterly challenge to get at least one unfinished quilt (WIP or Work In Progress) done. The Send group sends fat quarters to finishers at the end of each quarter. There also is a No Send group; they get no fabric rewards for finishing... by choice! Perhaps one day I will be able to temper my fabric addiction, but for now, Send group for me!!! I LOVE the rewards, especially because they come from all over. I even received a fat quarter from Canada for my previous finish!
Fat quarters from other Send group members sounded delicious, but my main goal was to NOT be the only one in the group without a finish. So I rummaged through my leftovers to find something for a backing and came upon almost enough of the plum zebra fabric for the entire back. I added a strip of white zebra to make it big enough to cover the back, then pieced together batting leftover from past quilts to make the center layer big enough.
I then did something I've never done before. I pin-basted the layers because I thought that would enable me to finish by the end of June. Just getting the layers on my quilt frame would have taken longer than the one night I had before this year's MS-150 bike ride.
I thought I could whip this WIP into shape after pedaling 150 miles the following two days. I underestimated the drain of 150 miles on a 50-plus-year-old body. I was too tired after the ride to finish. Then life got busy. No time for sewing. The UFO (UnFinished Object) hung for another 12 weeks or so.
Finally, the night before our Durango trip, I decided I didn't want to be the only one in the Summer 2014 UFO Club Send group to NOT finish a quilt. I would be gone through the end of the month, so it was now or never. Or at least not in the summer challenge, and a second consecutive quarter of being the only quilter not to finish a project. NO WAY!
I got off work late that night, packed for the trip, then sat down to start machine quilting this baby. Once again, I chickened out of true free-motion quilting and did the lift-and-rotate method to work an outline around the dahlia star all the way to the edges, except for the Maroon Bells photos. Lift the presser foot; rotate the quilt, two, three, four; lift the presser foot, rotate the quilt... This quilt was small enough (43 inches by 40 inches) that lift-and-rotate wasn't as much of a pain in the back as Lizard Leftovers.
Most importantly, finishing another quilt would give me just enough confidence to take on the next UFO. One of my problems, in addition to being over-committed all the time, is that the time between finishes diminishes my faith in my machine quilting. I've read somewhere you have to log about 1,000 hours of machine quilting to be truly good at it. I go into every project with an attitude of "This will be perfect or else!" Or else it doesn't get finished.
I NEEDED a finish. I needed to know it's okay if a practice quilt is not perfect, as long as I'm building skill and confidence. And finishing!
This quilt top was just what the quilt police ordered. It's not perfect. I've decided I HATE pin-basting. The quilting alone took until nearly 1 a.m., which made both of us too tired to get up three hours later to drive to Maroon Bells. And I still had to finish the binding.
The next morning, we slept in. Because really, we had no choice, with an eight-hour drive ahead of us! And then while The Lizard loaded up the car, I put on a binding made of leftover black fabric from Dancing Lizards, my first entirely-by-machine binding, and by golly, what a start to a great vacation! I FINISHED A QUILT! A very old quilt, to boot!
It cost me the Maroon Bell sunrise I was hoping for, but perhaps this fabric Maroon Bells finish is even better than a few more photos in a vast collection. I was so happy as we finally began to head west at about noon, I'm not sure our tires touched the ground until Kenosha Pass, where the leaves were at peak! We would have missed the leaves at Kenosha Pass had we taken the Aspen route to Durango instead. Kenosha Pass leaves were mostly gone when we drove through again five days later!