My last quilting stitch went in at about 11pm on Thursday August 27th 2015 and I can completely understand Catherine Tebay (yesterday's post) marking up her 1817 quilt with a national event that had happened at the same time; it is a bit of a red-letter day in an quilter's life. So you will all be very relieved to know that this post brings the narrative of the millenium quilt, now fondly known as Blue Moon, to a close...almost.
It is finished and I can't quite believe it.
Six weeks of wonderful, single-minded, all-absorbing concentration and a task that had seemed overwhelming and impossible is done. But perhaps that was the problem really, I was looking on it as a task and had lost sight of quilting's real purpose for me...the minute I saw it differently I couldn't wait to work on it.
And maybe that had been another problem...I had seen it as 'work.'
Tsk...all wrong, and it needed this summer of time and thinking to set it all aright...and the relentless rain and chill factor has helped too, being tucked up under the pure wool wadding I used for this has been pure pleasure. More about the audio books I have listened to soon, but here's the little work board that has been at my right hand throughout...
Notions and haberdashery, don't you love them. Beeswax, chalk markers, needle threaders (I didn't even need glasses when I started this) and I am now a huge fan of Aurifil thread No 12. I must have used several hundred metres of it, creating just a few loose ends in the process...
And I am a complete convert to my new Clover Protect and Grip flexible thimble with its metal tip. It took the tragic splitting in half of my thirty year old wooden thimble (Plum, bought at Burford Woodcraft c1985) to send me wailing into a corner (some of you will understand this) but the Clovers come in varying sizes and helpfully allow you to try for fit before buying. The flexible moulding comfortably grips my middle finger whilst also providing the occasional assistance when the needle gets stuck, and the metal tip is reliable under pressure.
Pernickety though it sounds, a good thimble might be one of the most important bits of hand-quilting equipment....and I have tried them all.
There is a very exciting moment in the life of a quilt when you trim off all the excess fabric, wadding and backing from around the edges ready for binding, whilst praying the thing will emerge reasonably square, and there were no guarantees with this one. It had been roughly pegged x three in the tent at Port Eliot Festival, hanging there through rain, wind, tempest and heat-waves for starters... enough to pull even the best-tempered quilt out of shape. It has been bundled up in trunks, squashed in a bag, stashed in cupboards, left out for cats to home in on and generally sat neglected, watching the years stack up and biding its time.
But I trimmed and to my surprise it was fine. Exactly 6ft 8" x 6ft 8" (my picture distorts it, I need the Kayaker back from India with his camera)
I have started using the spray-on temporary glue to hold quilt layers together in recent years, though I am not sure I like the stiff feel it seems to give the piece as I work on it, but these three layers had been held together with miles and miles of good, old-fashioned hand tacking. Sometimes there can be no short cuts, and who knew it was all going to have to stay in place for so long.
In the end I plumped for a midnight blue binding and had bought half a yard at the NEC. I don't bind square things with bias strips because it uses so much fabric, straight strips work fine, so I cut twenty eight feet of two-inch-wide midnight blue and proceeded to bless Bookhound for buying me the walking foot to go with my machine back in the day. A quilt is all there for the ruining of at this point but the binding went on like a dream, and three hours and about a thousand blind hemming stitches later it was done.
Reading so much about old quilts in recent weeks, and the fact that for so many the narrative is lost, makes me realise anew how important it is to record the story of a quilt.
The blocks for Blue Moon (and there is a blue moon quilted into this) were chosen for their names (from the book Around the Block by Judy Hopkins) rather than their designs, and all to reflect our home, so from top left in a clockwise direction..
Puss in the Corner - for the felines.
Maple Star - for the trees in the garden.
Flight of Swallows - for our annual visitors.
Swamp Angel - because we had three of them playing outside in the mud most of the time.
Fox and Geese - for all those chickens we have kept and the foxes who eyed them up.
Summer Winds - because you can't have the view without the weather.
Rambler - because we can go out of the gate and just walk.
Rising Star - because they do...and a lot of them.
Sunnylanes - for the lane to the house.
Buffalo Ridge - the nearest we could find for the cows in the field.
Autumn Tints - for the leaves.
Coronation - because Bookhound and I were both Coronation year babies.
The centre block is called Milky Way because that looks down on us every night.
I used stencils for the lattice strips and quilted free-hand for everything else. Each block gave me different ideas so it was about going with the flow and sometimes doing the less obvious. Coronation accidentally ended up looking quite crown-like once quilted...
The border is a series of stars alternating with waxing, waning and full moons, and how could I leave out the cats. In the fifteen or so years five of them have padded across this, slept on it and hidden under it, so I have quilted in five little paw prints...
Tradition has it that you stitch what is happening in your life at the time into any quilt you make, which is why they are such good things to create at certain times. There is so much stitched into this, not only love for family and home but special thoughts about the Tinker this summer too.
I said the narrative for Blue Moon was almost complete...but not quite.
Lots of people have asked what will happen to this.
Well I make quilts to be used not displayed, and as I stitched I realised that we live here all the time; we sleep under those stars every night, and walk the lane and revel in the swallows, so really this quilt could only have one home, and that had to be with the one member of our family who lives furthest away.
'Would you like it?' I asked over Skype one evening...
So Blue Moon will be going to a very delighted Offspringette in New Zealand.
I went to the Post Office to check out postage and insurance and everything else and came home saying,
'Good grief I could fly there cheaper than this....'
And Bookhound looked at me and said...
'Well why don't you?'
So that is what I am going to do....yes really.
Bookhound is going to hold the fort at home, and will be busy on his book-binding course, and I'm off to New Zealand to stay with Offspringette and share her Southern Hemisphere life for a month in January, via Singapore Airlines and with the quilt tucked safely under my arm.
And I fully expect to come back with the inspiration (and maybe some fabric) to make ourselves a New Zealand version of Blue Moon, though hope it won't take me fifteen years to complete.
And thank you everyone for all your encouragement and for reading all these Blue Moon posts...'tis done.