Sunday, January 18, 2015

Still Pickin', Still Grinnin'!

The picking process on Country Charmer is slow and steady.  I have lost track of how many hours I have picked away at the offending threads at this point...I'm certain some people would question my sanity if I were to publish any such calculations.  Sane or not, to me it's still worth it.  Country Charmer would have haunted me from the depths of any closet she might have been stuffed into.  Better to face it head on and deal with it.
I cannot begin to express the gratitude I feel for all the supportive comments I've received in this endeavor.  Corny as it may sound, you are my cheerleaders, my inspiration, yep...the wind beneath my wings...if only those wings would stop flappin'!
I thought long and hard about whether or not to write about this unfortunate experience.  I began writing that post several days before as a diary that might not ever see the light of day.  When I did decide to "go public", I drew a long breath, paused and squeezed my eyes shut in silent prayer & hit the publish button. 
I have what is probably the equivalent of 10 or 11 blocks picked out now...about 1/3 of the way through, give or take.  I began working from one corner on the diagonal, then decided to pick away at the opposing corner.  That evolved into picking a every loose corner like one picks at a peeling sticker!  Last night, just to change things up, I worked in the round...picking around the entire circumference.  I still find that once I get started I have difficulty stopping.  Can't accuse me of having or more of several other disorders, yes, but I can certainly focus my attention!  Several TV shows and movies have played to the top of my head...and I can't really tell you much about them.  I will have to re-watch How To Train Your Dragon II with my Grandson...I was too busy taming my own dragon while it played in front of me! 

Don't worry, hubby has been fed... in fact, fed well courtesy of my pretty red Crock Pot!

It is amazing to me that I have been able to pick away at some of those little birds who were bound and gagged by layers of crossed over threads and set them free again.  I looked at one such fussy cut center last night, cursed a little under my breath, and began to pick, fearing that in the process I would rip a gaping hole and have to replace that square.  Somehow, it came out, tediously, working from the back and from between the backing and the batting until I was able to remove all the loosened threads from the front and see the little critter emerge again.  Sure, he has been punctuated and perforated, but I think its entirely possible that with the right batting, the right quilter followed by gentle washing(s), that those little pockmarks will eventually heal.

I do take occasional breaks from the birdies to play with my daughters butterflies and am making progress there as well...until the birdies start chirping at me from the other room and demand that I come back and attend to them!

Here's a peek at the butterflies who are flying around my design wall, in strict formation as prescribed by my otherwise COLORFUL & imaginative child for whom they are being assembled.  I would have gone all out and had these little fellas flitting this way and that, but NOooooo...she didn't "want any upside down butterflies"!  "Oh well.  Pick your battles, Mom", I said to myself!  Then I saw more renditions online that were set in this way and decided they look just fine! 
Yes, she is my child, the bright lime green she selected is still on her bedroom walls here at home.  The very same shade of green I wanted on my bedroom walls in the 70's.  I, on the other hand, wound up with something much more subdued which was applied in my absence. 
I recall my eldest daughters eyes nearly rolling back in her head when came home from Vet School & first saw her former early 90's soft peach & green bedroom repainted and her sweet cow stencils that I had so lovingly & meticulously applied now covered up.  I quickly resuscitated her by opening the closet to reveal the interior had been made off limits to her crazed lime green paint roller wielding baby sister.  The interior was still in her colors with two of her dear little cows, nose to nose.  Funny how territorial older sisters can be...interesting what a Mother goes through to keep the peace!

This is Buggy Barns pattern, "Butterflies".
The sashing to aide in increasing the size of this quilt for her bed, is inspired by Atkinson Designs pattern "Slide Show" 
The easy recalculations are by Moi with support from my graph paper notebook!
My find when searching out  white border print makes me smile...the design echoes the curl of the butterfly antennae.  Soooo cute!

Here's to more picking!

~Nancie Anne

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Extreme Makeover...Quilt Edition...Lessons Learned

Last summer I entrusted my Country Charmer quilt to a quilter who represented herself as an experienced longarm quilter, teacher & as one who had quilted numerous quilts for guild members that had been exhibited in the biggest local quilt show.  We were going to get together so I could see pictures of other quilts she'd done for clients and her own quilts, but I got busy and she wound up moving and changing jobs and it never happened.  I had originally intended to have her do a "less important" quilt for me so that I could see her style, but time flew by and suddenly the quilt that I really wanted to get done that fit the local show theme to a T was screaming at me to be quilted and finished. We emailed back and forth about my vision...about the whimsical feathers that collapse back on themselves that I thought would be such fun on the border.  We talked about thread color briefly, I didn't have the opportunity to audition threads, but figured it would need to be relatively neutral to work on this already very busy quilt. The quilt was promised to me by early July.  Two weeks later I still had no quilt and the clock wasn't slowing down so I messaged her.  Then another delay and another couple of days of valuable finishing time lost...oh well...I could be a really good boy scout and have my binding ready to go, the second I got it in the back door!  Finally, the day arrived and I met her at the quilt shop, full of excitement and ready to run home and trim her up and bind her...I even had the show paperwork filled out and the description ready.  I was all but salivating!  We were in the longarm area and another quilter was there, taking a brief break from working on a little beauty that she had on the sweet and her quilt design was perfection.  Then my quilt was taken out of the bag, opened and laid out before me.  I was speechless, & not in the good way...  I couldn't think of what to say...words were completely lost and I'm not sure what I might have babbled in the awkwardness while the clock and my heart seemed to have come to a dead stop.  How to exit gracefully?  I had a pit in my stomach.  I took notice that the other quilter in the room remained quiet all this time, no admiring comments or glances, she didn't even get up off her stool to take a closer look.  Very unquilterlike.  I stood there looking at my quilt versus the one on the machine asking myself why that one couldn't be my quilt?  I was relieved to fold it up and put it in the bag.  Out of view...out of view was definitely best...incinerator might even be better.  I had a purchase to make before leaving the shop and I sat the bag containing the quilt by my feet as I paid for my purchase, praying that the clerk wouldn't ask to see it.  I got out, sat down in my car and called my husband immediately, completely confused, doubting myself, and heartsick. I would probably have been in tears had I not been in what felt like shock...or an alternate universe.  He tried to reassure me that it would be fine, just go ahead and bind it..."b-b-but, this is the better part of a years work & love and I can hardly stomach looking at it now!"  I hopped on the freeway and then thought, no, I need someone who knows, who understands, to look at this quilt right now, to tell me if I'm wrong, if I'm expecting too much.  I hopped back off the freeway and waggled my way to my friends house where we spread it out on the lawn.  All she could say at first was, it's your quilt and you're not happy.  Pick it out.  Then the real affirmation came.  She verbalized what I had been thinking.  The quilt was weighted down by the dark variegated threads and by the overly done heavy quilting that crossed over so many of the little birds and pumpkins that I had spent so much time meticulously fussy cutting.  Country Charmer was not enhanced, but obliterated.  
My husband was more succinct when he saw it.  "I haven't done any quilting but I've seen a lot of quilts and I'm pretty sure I could do better than that!" and with that he took back everything he had previously said about just going ahead and finishing it.
With a heavy heart I emailed pictures off to Lynn, about a half hour passed and I couldn't stand it...I had to call her.  By then, she had already opened my email and had even shown it to Joe.  I think she was nearly as heartsick as I, this quilt being her design, and she offered several suggestions that were helpful and also allowed me to hear what my heart was telling me. 
In the following days, the consensus by all who viewed this tragic accident of quilting, was that the whole business resembled a picture that a child had carefully colored only to have an angry sibling scribble all over it in a fit of temper. 
The feathers on one hand were very heavily spined, but the gaps along the edge created by the arcs in the feathers concerned me as well.  I was worried about a ripple effect happening if not extremely cautious about attaching binding.
I really needed to think about it, no matter what my heart said, someone else's head was saying something different.  To try to rescue or not.  It would be like making it all over again.  Maybe I should, as suggested, just move on and start over.  Would I be able to find enough of the same prints?  Did I want to try and reproduce it?  Did I want to spend money on the same prints all over again?  After spending all that time picking, would it be salvageable?  Could I entrust it to another quilter? (A lovely, knowledgeable & much appreciated offer of assistance has graciously been extended in that department!)  Being nearly August, it was too hot to sit with it spread out across my lap and spend the hours picking that it would take to make any headway.  I decided to set it aside, allow myself to calm down and revisit it in cooler weather.  Anyone who knows me well, also knows I don't give up easily on the underdog.  I will fight for the life of this quilt, much the same as I have fought for life for countless little four leggeds who have been born in our barn...sometimes with success, sometimes not.
I took a few days & found my words, what I needed to say to this quilter, and carefully constructed a rather lengthy email to her explaining my position and feelings, trying to be fair and take my share of the responsibility for the way things had turned out.  I didn't want to be mean.  A week or so later an envelope with no return address arrived in my mail, no note, no nothing, except my uncashed check.

So the fight, the resuscitation, the revival begins...

January 2, 2015
This post is a journal about the makeover of my Country Charmer Quilt.  This journey to save my much loved quilt began on New Years Day while watching the Rose Bowl.  It all began with using the seam ripper to separate the border from the body of the quilt.  The border is quilted with a very heavy spined feather that would be extremely labor intensive to remove and in the end would likely leave me with little more than swiss cheese.  Better to discard it.
Since it is so heavily quilted and because I am a "waste not, want not" kind of person, when it suits me, perhaps the borders will be cut into sections and sewn into doggie beds or floor pillows.  Can't think of a better use for them than to comfort my loved ones!  Besides that I found a new darker green that  I think will frame it in better than the original and I'm excited about that! 
PS- Maecee loves napping under it while I pick away.  I pop up the footrest on the couch to help support the weight and she curls up by my knees and I pull her out, all sleepy and toasty when I stop for a break.  She wasn't sure about the noise my battery operated mini clipper made while I undid the seams, it made her a bit nervous and probably bothered her ears some, but she became accustomed to it and finally just let the quilt muffle the sporadic bursts of buzzing noise.

January 3, 2015 
Today I scored more of the new fabric that will become the new outer border for Country Charmer.  It was on sale and I bought 8 yards.  It's deeper green, calmer, more structured and I think will corral all the busyness in the blocks better than the original border.  It will also help piece in the parts of the backing that I will have to dissect to keep areas that don't have damaged areas from the picking process.  Like the old homes we see on TV, rescued from the wrecking ball by people who want to preserve their history, the resurrection of Country Charmer has become a labor of love.
As I work away stitch by stitch, I find that using the seam ripper is less about frustration and more about dedication & inspiration.  It is about rescuing one that I love so much from being buried.  I am a woman possessed.  A dog with a bone!  I dove into it, often having difficulty in finding that stopping place, taking off the glasses and turning off the lamp.
Little Birdie is shaking his tail feathers again!

January 4, 2014  I need to temper this seam ripping passion I've discovered in myself with something on the positive side of the constructive scale.  The backing fabric for Country Homecoming has been waiting to be pressed and pieced.  If I do that this morning I might venture out to put it in the mail to my regular quilter tomorrow.  The back and is pressed and I still love it and the unexpected element it will bring to Country Homecoming.  Most of my quilt backs are pieced with leftovers or big novelty prints that have been languishing in storage for years.  My quilt backs are made based on the "Use It Up" theory and I've overheard the comment, that my quilts always have really great backs.  This one fabric, one seam back is definitely a departure for me!
Pressing is a great time for thinking and planning.  First of all, I was grateful for the big pressing area my husband helped me construct last year.  Perhaps I should sew on unfinished projects during the day and save the deconstruction project for evenings in front of the TV, there's no need to rush at this point.  This also reminds me, I need to crawl around and disconnect my Ottlite with the magnifying glass & relocate it where I can make the best use of it..  I'm finally coming up with some New Years Resolutions.  Finish the unfinished.  Only entrust my work to well known and preapproved quilters, DUH! (you just saw me do that head thump thing, right?) and harvest my selvages.  I keep seeing too many cute quilts and quilty things made with where's that tutorial before I start assembling this awesome hunk of fabric into a back?  Hmm...that could be a new Pinterest to save selvages and then utilize them!  Some days I'm just smart like that!  Not many, but some!

January 5, 2015 
I'm making progress...slow steady progress.  Last evening I draped the quilt across my lap and settled in for the US premiere of Downton Abbey and picked away through it and most of the Manners of Downton Abbey show that followed.  Hubby gave up and went to bed without me.  There's something about getting a wad of strings loosened up and clipping them all off at the same time.  Sort of the same sick pleasure one gets from peeling a sunburn & seeing how much you can remove all at once.  Earlier in the day I finished my Country Homecoming back and played with the scraps from that a little bit.  Has anyone out there done an Aunt Philly's Toothbrush rug before?  The how to start part of the process is tedious, but once you get going it clips along really quick...until you run short on your working strip and have to stop.  Today Country Homecoming will go in the mail to the quilter...we chatted back and forth on FB yesterday and I think I frightened her sufficiently with my unusual custom quilting request...based on what she's done in the past for me...I know she's up for the challenge!  I eventually just told her to have fun with it...and that's all I'm going to tell you for now!

January 6, 2015 
More reverse sewing accomplished last night!  I'm working diagonally and have what is equivalent to 2 blocks with sashing unstitched now.  Only 33 more to go!  This evenings quilt rehab will be severely hampered by cuddling.  Baby Girl is bringing her parents for dinner!

January 8, 2015 
No journaling yesterday...I spent about 11 hours of my day off picking away!  This is worse than eating potato chips!  I guarantee you that there is no way I could spend 11 hours eating potato chips!  I got out of bed yesterday with an entirely different plan.  Work on picking for an hour or so then turn my attention to my daughters of many UFO's I want to complete this year!  I really shouldn't have done the 11 hours, the pinched nerves by my shoulder blade started registering regular complaints up into my scalp by the time I had reached the 7 hour point.  The pain we endure for our art!  This morning I'm listening in on Garth Brooks on his 4 hour Today Show stint and admiring the POTC blocks that Lynn just posted over at Sew'n Wild Oaks!  Once this picking thing is complete, I think I'm going to experiment with some of those wonderful Lucy Boston blocks myself.
Country Charmer...beginning to breathe again.
~Nancie Anne