Sunday, October 24, 2010

Slow Quilting

You may have heard of the Slow Food Movement, which is an umbrella term encompassing ideas such as buying local produce, growing your own food, and cooking in more than eating out.

I suggest there is a corollary to quilting, but it isn't complete or perfectly accurate. I'm not talking about buying fabric made locally (although supporting your local quilt shop is always nice), or growing the cotton with which to make your own fabric.

Instead, what I mean is that slow quilting is what many, many quilters must do just because we are so busy with the rest of our lives. No matter how many gizmos and gadgets we own to help speed up the quilting process, it just takes many of us a long time to get from concept to finished quilt -- and we should accept that.

And what about when quilters choose to create quilts slowly, instead of quickly and fast? What about those of us who choose more complicated patterns or projects, or who prefer to work entirely by hand? Or to start a project by dyeing fabric and thread, even?

Thankfully, there is room in the quilting universe for everyone of every persuasion. It's a rare treat for me to attend a class or workshop, but when the opportunity arose recently to study (again) with Cindy Blackberg, I was quite content to hand piece a feathered star block. Two and a half days of quietly, slowly putting together one of quilting's more challenging blocks was a real tonic.

And something you may not know, if you've never hand-pieced a block before, is that it can be about as fast as machine piecing if you've got any experience, and, the finished block has a distinctive 3-D quality to it. I'm not a good photographer but I tried to show this in the first photo; those seams were lifting the block right off my ironing board, so I spritzed them with water and let the block dry for a day. Had this been machine pieced, the smaller stitches would have helped compress the seams and the block would have lain flatter before pressing.

Then I flipped the block face up and spritzed again, with another day for drying. If there had been blocking problems, this is when I would have pinned my block to make it square, but Cindy's cutting method reduces bias edges to almost zero, and my block was true.

Talk about sharp points! There are times when hand work brings a certain precision to your work. I know, I know; machine precision is also eminently achievable, but hand work brings so much control -- no machine between you and the result. Just your own body and rhythm.

Now that it's complete I'll contemplate what to do with my feathered star block (I'm sure I won't make an entire quilt of these blocks, as satisfying as this one was to make), and that, too, can be a process as fast or slow as the quilter involved allows, requires, needs, or wants.

Isn't this a great hobby? Bottom line: fast or slow, enjoy the time you spend quilting.


Bonnie B - Quilter said...

Wow, Andi, I love your feathered star. And kudos for hand piecing the whole thing. There really is something about the rhythm of your needle as you hand piece. Can't wait to see it all finished pressure or anything. GRIN

Robin said...

Beautiful work and enjoy the satisfaction! I would love more people to convert to the joys of hand work.

Monica D Hayden said...

So well put! I bless the day I decided to take a hand-piecing class. The reason I got into quilting in the first place was to enjoy THE PROCESS. Hand-piecing lets me do just that: enjoy the process. I like getting into the groove of piecing those bits of fabric together; I like the portability of the projects (I can take a few blocks with me on long car trips, or friends' homes, or even around the house when carrying around the sewing machine, cutting board, etc., is not a viable option, such as when I'm in bed, for instance). Sometimes I envy those super-productive people who can whip up 10 quilts in one month! But then again, what would I do with all those quilts? I suppose I could sell them, or donate them, or give them to friends; but isn't there a point when one wants to actually KEEP the stuff that we have so painstakingly worked on, either because we love the fabric, the design, and even the effort that we've put into it? In this world of rush, rush, it's nice to find an alternative that actually quiets us down.

MariƩ said...

I love handwork to- although most of my projects are carried out by machine. I use to complete at least one quilt a year by hand. I now go to bed to early to do my hand piecing seeing that I need to be up at 4 in the morning to tend my dairy.