For as long as we can remember, Boomer has been an aspiring quilter. With an emphasis on “aspiring”. She would get regular shipments of fabrics, bought all kinds of books of patterns, and subscribed to every manner of quilting magazine, even though she never did anything with those materials. As crafty little kids (and then teenagers, and then adults), we would riffle through all these supplies as they made their way into the house, and dream big dreams about someday having beautiful, handmade quilts to call our very own. But since the grand total of quilts Boomer had ever completed was zero, finally, in the summer of 2000, we wised up and realized if we ever wanted that perfect, heirloom quilt, we’d have to make it ourselves.
We aimed low with our first project, opting to do just a simple scrap quilt with ’30s-reproduction fabrics, which Schnookie had decided was the aesthetic she most loved when leafing through Boomer’s quilting magazines. Our approach was just to put together strips of three-inch squares cut from all the ’30s fabrics Boomer ordered from one fabric store.
Working on this project was absolutely awesome. It stands today, over eight years later, as our very favorite stitching experience of all time. The Devils had just won the Stanley Cup, so we spent an extremely happy summer sprawled around our living room, piecing strips, while reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire aloud to each other. The thing went up in a jiffy, and by the end of the summer, we had a glorious, adorable quilt top all assembled. There were only two problems:
1. When we ran out of fabric we were terribly unfocused. Instead of ordering more of the ones we’d already committed to, we went to a local store (very intimidating) and bought a whole bunch more patterns and colors, because we have really short attention spans and were bored with the fabrics we’d been using. That made the finished quilt a lot less pretty than it probably should have been.
2. Our grand plans of also quilting the quilt were a resounding failure. Piecing and quilting are two very different beasts, and when we reached the point where we’d need either a long-arm machine (perish the thought! We were hand-making this bad boy!) or a giant quilting frame that would prohibit working on the project in front of the TV, we lost interest. Boomer found someone through the local quilt shop who would do the quilting for us, but then the shop went out of business, and it looked like we’d never get the quilt back, and then finally, two years later, it was finally produced as a surprise for Schnookie, who had kind of forgotten about it and cried with happiness at how wonderful the ugly, imperfect quilt turned out.
What we took from the whole experience is that quilts take forever to make, buying fabrics sucks, and assembly is really easy as long as you’re doing nothing but making long strips of three-inch squares, but requires way more organization and focus than cross-stitch if you’re doing anything more involved than that. We talked Boomer into spending less money on quilting supplies, and we all committed to our other stitching media.
Until, that is, this past December.
In casting about to think of Christmas presents for Boomer, we settled on the idea of buying her some little bundles of fabrics from our local quilt store, which we’d been into once before and found nowhere near as intimidating as most other quilt stores in the world. Boomer uses the fabrics as backing for little tiny seasonal cross-stitch ornaments, so we figured we’d surprise her with some more seasonally-appropriate patterns for her stash. Pookie went over to the store on one of her vacation days, and was confronted with this:
Beautiful bundles of cool fabric! Coordinating lines of designs, packaged up together! Approachable displays of fabrics inviting the rank amateur to jump right in! While she was making the purchase of a few pieces of Christmassy fabrics, she felt a weather shift. She felt herself want to be a quilter. She promptly jumped online and started furiously IMing with Schnookie at work, firing off links to fabric designers’ sites and quilt patterns, and within 24 hours of one innocent trip to the quilt store, we were both completely, totally, utterly obsessed. We had plans to spend December doing nothing but Christmas stitching while photographing and blogging about all our seasonal decorations, and instead, we spent the month leaping headfirst into a new, wonderful craft.
It helped that Boomer, the compulsive craft shopper that she is, had projects on hand that we wanted to work on. Pookie dove into a kit for the American Jane design, “Merry-Go-Round”, with jelly roll packs of their “Look And Learn” fabrics.
And Schnookie tore into a kit for the Fig Tree Quilts design “Figgy Pudding”, made with mostly their “Dandelion Girl” fabrics.
And this time around, guess what we’ve learned? Quilting is awesome. Back when we were impressionable youngsters tagging along on quilting outings with Boomer, quilt stores were just filled with calico prints arranged impenetrably by color, and the aspiring quilter was left to her own devices to know which fabrics would work well together. Nowadays? There are still the old calicos, and those batiks that became popular just when we stopped paying attention to the craft, but there are also tons of funky, fresh, stylish, contemporary, fun, wild, sassy and modern fabric designs to be found. There are pattern designs that run the gamut from uber-traditional to uber-21st-century, and everything in between. And handcrafting has become so much more popular in the last decade that most of the various crafty industries have evolved to make it much easier for a newbie to approach them. There are gorgeous quilt patterns that are simple enough for beginners, and many fabric manufacturers or designers will sell all the materials already kitted (or, if you’re lucky and have a warm and inviting quilt shop down the street from you, they might be kitting projects up for you!). And there is no shame at all in not wanting to quilt your whole project when you’re done assembling it — there is a cottage industry of quilters out there who will happily do the finishing for you, which really isn’t that different than our sending our cross-stitch to a framer.
In the last three weeks, we’ve gone completely under. Not only have we both taken huge chunks out of our starter projects (both giant-sized bed quilts), but we’ve also made great inroads into second projects (both lap quilts).
So we might not have had the December we expected, craft- and blog-wise, but now here we are in the New Year, with a new craft, crazy excited with our dreams of a house brimming with quilts. Life is full of surprises!