I have probably shared this photo here before but the story behind it is part of my post, so I will share it again.
In 1998, while I was volunteering at a local heritage center, I became acquainted with the master quilter that did the quilting demonstrations at their Heritage Festivals. She was hand quilting a Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt that she had made using the English Paper Piecing method. Though I had been quilting for years, I was unfamiliar with this technique. She told me to come back the next day with some fabrics and hand stitching supplies and she would get me started.
I really didn't have much of a stash at this point, so I raided my mother's (which consisted of a whole lot of 1980s calico prints, it appears), promising to share with Mom what I learned. The next day, after receiving a plastic template and excellent instructions from my mentor, I proceeded to clumsily attempt assembling a flower.
Following my volunteer shift I went to my mother's and traced my template onto a plastic cottage cheese lid and cut it out for my mom to use. I shared with her what I had learned and away she went, while I plodded along, slowly making a flower now and then. The following year my Mom's quilt was completed (pictured above)--hand pieced, appliqued to the border, and hand quilted and bound. I was still making an occasional flower.
I don't know if the precut hexagon papers were even available then, but our local shop didn't carry them. We used our cottage cheese lid templates to trace and hand cut each cardstock hexagon from those annoying subscription postcards that fall out of every magazine you pick up. I didn't even want to think about how many I would eventually need to cut, but in my mind I was sure I was going to make at least 60 flowers.
This was my "Lady in Waiting" project (as my teacher had so aptly called it). For years I kept a baggie in my purse with the necessary supplies to make one flower. I pulled it out while waiting for my children at piano lessons, orthodontist appointments, track meets, and basketball games. I made up dozens of little "kits" so that I could grab supplies for a new flower in a heartbeat, on those rare occasions when I actually finished one.
I am exceptionally slow at hand stitching, no matter how much practice I get, which has created many embarrassing experiences related to this project. I carried this around for so long that many times people who had seen me working on it years before, would see me pull it out and say, "Oh, are you making another one of those quilts?" I would have to explain that this was the same old one. But the most embarrassing was when I was helping check in quilts at the county fair once, about 8 years after I had started this quilt. As usual, I had my little baggie out on the table, stitching away when things got slow. Up came a young woman, carrying a Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt to enter in the fair. I knew her--she was the same age as my youngest son, and at this point they were both 18. I was marveling over her quilt--she had even hand quilted it. Then she explained that years ago she had seen me working on mine in the waiting room when she came for an orthodontist appointment. On their way home she told her mother she wanted to make what I was making. They went home and looked it up online and she figured it out and made it. And there I sat--still making flowers.
Since cutting out the hexagon papers was such a chore, my Mom saved a bunch of hers when she removed them from her quilt top, and she offered them to me. I was elated. The cutting of the hexagons was so tedious to me--actually the whole process was tedious to me, but I wanted the end product, so I kept plodding.
After I got a little over half of my flowers stitched (almost two decades later), I stalled. Just could not bring myself to whip one more stitch, or baste one more hexie. I decided that my quilt would not be as large as originally planned and just maybe, if I started assembling some of what I had made, it might spur me on to further progress. WRONG!
As I sorted through the flowers and tried to decide what type of "path" I wanted between them I discovered something extremely disheartening. My flowers were different sizes. The ones I had made using the papers I cut out were smaller than the ones made using the papers my mom had cut out. Depending on the angle of your pencil when you traced around the template, and whether you cut out on the line, or inside or outside the line, you could use the same template size, but end up with very different sizes of papers.
It was enough of a difference that I couldn't see how I could assemble a quilt top using both sizes. You can see above, I have one of the smaller blocks on top of one of the larger ones. Too much of a difference to just "ease" in. I was sick at the thought of all that work, and I couldn't put it together. I dumped everything into a box and shoved it into a dark place where I hoped to forget about it indefinitely.
Last year it started to haunt me. Do I just give it all away, or is there some way to save it? I finally came up with a plan and prepared what I needed, but hadn't done anything with it until now. On a short road trip last week I took it along (instead of my other hexie project that I struggle to work on), and I now have my first two blocks finished, and two more prepped and ready to stitch. Gotta love those calicoes.
Though applique is not my favorite thing, I think I am far more likely to finish the quilt this way, than if I had to stitch more flowers. I have all the muslin cut and ready. It is so easy to pin on a flower and start stitching, but since it will just be a travel project, it isn't going to set any records getting finished.
Do you have a 21 year old UFO? Surely someone out there has an older one--something you actually work on now and then. Tell me about it in the comments.
Until next time,