10 March 2011

Quilted Race

quilt pieces printed
I'm racing the clock, trying to finish a snowflake quilt in time for the 2011 Denver National Quilt Festival and 2011 Quilts at the Capitol. The first show is in May, and the second begins in July. The deadline for both is this month. Prizes are awarded for top quilts in the DNQF, but to me, the best reward is being juried into the show.

The idea for this quilt popped into my head two years ago. We were in the process of finding a new quilt habitat (and people habitat!), which was followed by the process of relocation. Very difficult to sew when you're packing and unpacking, organizing, searching for things you can't find, and stressing about total absence of organization.

No problem, I consoled myself. I can do the quilt next year.

That would be last year, 2010. Didn't get it done then, either. We lost my husband's brother unexpectedly, and I just didn't feel like quilting.

fabric detailThat brings me to 2011. When you've been away from quilting for such a long time and bogged down with a full-time job, deadlines, charity projects, snowflake designing, multiday cycling tour training and making fruitless attempts at gardening, that sewing machine can seem like a monster.

Nevertheless, I conquered the monster and completed piecing the quilt face in a day. Now I'm buried in appliqué heaven, not a bad place to be, but still facing stitching deadlines.

This is supposed to be fun; I'm not supposed to be stressed by creating. Although I did learn in a recent Sunday school class that it's okay to be stressed by something you love. If everything was easy, what would be the purpose? To work toward something difficult is to enhance the feeling of accomplishment. To overcome the impossible is to glow with joy.

So I'm tackling this project the same way I intend to Assault the Peak in August. I'm looking the deadline square in the eye and defiantly pressing forward. Actually, I'm doing lots of pressing these days. Working on the quilt top wrinkles it, and I have to iron it many, many times!

My corners all match!Initially, I envisioned photographing my white crocheted snowflakes on a light-colored background. I would then print the photographs on fabric, which would be used for the quilt top. I then would embellish the quilt with colorful crocheted snowflakes made from leftover sock yarn.

As the deadline once again grew near this year, I purchased white on white snowflake fabric I could use in a pinch if I was unable to get my photos printed on fabric. I bought the fabric online via a clearance sale, because after-Christmas is the best time of year to buy snow-covered fabric. When I set my eyes upon the real fabric after tearing into the package a few weeks ago, I knew there was no way I could use it for a quilt face. I wanted it to be a dress! I've got the design completely done in my head! The pressure to print the fabric myself was back on, this time with a vengeance.

One of my quilting friends told me to just make the dress. That way, I'd HAVE to print my own fabric. I wouldn't have a backup plan anymore. I really don't have time to make a dress right now, but I decided Ruthie is right. The purchased fabric really does need to be a dress. So for right now, it is hidden and doesn't exist. That way, I can't use it. I must make my own snowflake fabric.

My first attempt at photographing my white snowflakes took place on my living room floor. I put the flakes on a white sheet, set up my camera lights and shot from the top of a ladder. This produced more snowflake shadow than I wanted, so I had to wait for just the right weather to repeat the process outside. I needed a cloudy day with no wind.

Eeenie, meeeeenie, mineeeeeee, mo...Last fall, I finally found a couple of free hours to play around with my snowflakes on the patio. The sky was gray, providing perfectly even, shadowless light. Once I got all the flakes in place, I climbed atop the ladder once again and began shooting. And the clouds began to let loose. Oh, no.

I managed to fire off about two dozen shots before racing to get everything back inside, safe from the downpour. I ended up having to PhotoShop raindrops on my background fabric out of the pictures, and I didn't have as much variety in snowflake composition as I originally planned, but all snowflakes are safe and accounted for, thank heavens. Oh, and the camera stayed dry, too. Can't make that claim for the ladder. Fortunately, I married someone who doesn't take me to task for allowing his ladder to get wet...

My printer decided to give up the ghost about 15 months ago, further complicating my dreams and magnifying my tendency to procrastinate on this project. Now I had the snowflake photos. I dreaded having to tinker with the new printer. I had no clue the old one was about to die, therefore dramatizing the printing process every time I printed. When I finally worked up the courage to try using the new printer, I was delighted to discover I did not have to endlessly mess with head alignment and thickness lever in order to print 16 fabric squares. (Or well, rectangles.) I got all the bugs worked out after just one test print, and printing the fabric squares proceeded smoothly and slick as ice. I had delayed starting this project for a fear that never materialized!

now comes the tedious partI tremendously enjoy sewing and quilting by hand, but not necessarily aboard a moving train, so I opted to do the appliqué work in the comfort of my home, thereby reducing the potential for blood stains on light-colored fabric. That also dramatically reduced the time I would be able to work on the quilt. As I worked on the first snowflake, I realized the appliqué process was going to take much longer than I anticipated. I thought I'd get only one flake done each day. I didn't have enough days left before the entry blanks and photos must be mailed in.

We had planned to photograph sandhill cranes in Monte Vista last weekend. But then the price of gas shot up. Me being the rebellious and tight wad traveler I am, we ditched our plans, and I got nine snowflakes done! Crane photos from yesteryear were used for Wordless Wednesday this week, and I got just a little bit closer to the finish line. Plus, I saved money!

Each night this week, I got a few more snowflakes done. This weekend, I will do the final quilting. Then I shoot the quilt. Fill out the entry blanks. Pop them in the mail on Monday, then sit on pins and needles while I wait to see if my baby gets accepted.

Good thing I’ve already developed a callous or two from my real pins and needles the last couple of weeks! Waiting shouldn’t be too hard at all.

11 down, 4 to go


  1. My goodness girl, your talent never ceases to astound me. It is truly wonderful to visit and see what you are doing. This is going to be outstanding! How you do all you do ... wow! Have a wonderful, blesses day.

  2. This is really beautiful. Can't wait to see pictures when it's done.

  3. Wow, that fabric looks amazing! I can't imagine handsewing that much, but the quilt is coming out very nice.

    If everything was supposed to be easy... well. I think I would have given up on life already. Hah. The hard parts make the work that much more sweeter when it's done, knowing you did your best.

    Good luck finishing your quilt!

  4. love your snowflakes they are very inspirational

  5. This is going to be spectacular! What a challenge it's been for you to get to here..:)

  6. Já ganhou!!! (You won!!!) Hehehehehe... This is the most beautiful fabric I saw! Perfect idea! First prize for sure! Brazilian kisses.

  7. It's absolutely wonderful. What a great design idea. My fingers are crossed that your baby is chosen!!!

  8. What a unique and wonderful idea! I'm sure you'll be accepted! :0)

  9. This is looking amazing. Don't you just love it when we let a fear slow us down and then it laughs at us when we finally take it on and the fear says, "what took you so long, I am not even real..."

  10. My husband has been bugging me to make a quilt using the snowflakes I have made from your patterns. When I see this I think it may be possible but I have never made a quilt. I have a friend who does quilt and even has a business quilting and binding quilts.

    Looking at yours I'm thinking of just plain fabric pieces and then sew a crocheted snowflake on each one.

    Hmmm....may be doable!?!?


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