The Whale that found its home…

Within my life, a few things happen by sheer force of will.  But not all things.  Many a good number of occurrences are when I let go, and well, let God.  All of this past week was like that, especially on Thursday.

I love shots of quilts on laundry lines, but our line doesn't hang high enough to get the proper effect.

I love shots of quilts on laundry lines, but our line doesn’t hang high enough to get the proper effect.

On Thursday, I finished my youngest daughter’s Whale Quilt.  Here’s how it happened (not without some gnashing of teeth, mind you…).

So, on Wednesday, after I wrote about that quilt-top, I got down to business; I had just a few rows remaining to be sewn, plus making the binding.  I wasn’t thinking about doing more than that, but as it came together fairly quickly, and baseball that morning was sort of a wash (Giants lost in Pittsburgh), I decided to get right to the next step; piecing the backing.  I had a generous helping of blue fleece, but it was *just* this side of too narrow.  That was no problem; add more to the end.  Having never used fleece, I was pretty unbothered, although I can now say I have learned plenty.

But ignorance can be bliss; by Wednesday evening, I had the whole quilt basted.  My husband worked a different shift, getting home much later than usual, which meant I kept busy with safety pins and the like.  We had some Friday plans, which would take me away from sewing, but put me in the proximity of that youngest daughter.  Yet, as I went to bed on Wednesday night, wondering if the Giants might beat the Dodgers the following day, I had no idea of what Thursday might hold, other than I’d probably start the actual quilting process.

Now, I don’t know if because I didn’t over-think it, but when I woke on Thursday, I knew a different course.  I would, by hook or by crook, finish that quilt so I could give it to my child.  Her enthusiasm on Wednesday, as I completed the quilt top, was infectious; she ached for that quilt, and as a mum, who can resist that cry?  We desire to give our children great gifts, as God longs to bring tremendous joys into our hands.  Perhaps Mother’s Day influenced my thinking; I love my kids to pieces, and what better way to celebrate their presence in my life (for I certainly wouldn’t be a mum without them) than by giving that girl her heart’s bliss, in the form of a snuggly quilt.

To finish that blanket, I had a few obstacles, but they weren’t related to the machine quilting (or so I assumed).  I wasn’t going to quilt squares, only straight lines along the width, for two reasons.  One, I wanted to leave the big squares as untouched as possible.  Two, I didn’t want to impede the softness of the fleece by over-quilting it.  I started quilting just after eight a.m., and everything was going swimmingly.  Music was playing, I was singing, rows were being tacked with ease.  I’d hoped to finish the quilting by noon, for I wanted to eat lunch with that completed, plus I did have to break away for a dentist’s appointment at two o’clock.  By ten, I had one half done, feeling pretty chuffed about things.  Every few rows, I took the quilt into my room, laying it over my bed, to reroll it for the next row.  It was then I found an issue had arisen.

Stitches were being lost where I had cut the strings on both ends of the quilt I had just sewn.

Now, I’m a little OCD about strings; I cut them to avoid them somehow being caught into the next row being sewn.  Up till now, with flannel, I’d not had this problem, even when not backstitching.  Yet, fleece is different from flannel, more strong-willed, I suppose.  By sheer force of will, the fleece had wiggled its way loose, in some spots up to two inches from the beginning of the row.  Suddenly my dreams of completing this quilt went right out the window; no way was I going to get the quilting done (and on half the quilt, redone) by noon.

Faith is a funny thing; I liken it to when Ben Kenobi tells Luke Skywalker to use the force.  Use the force is a big saying around our house, in regards to faith (although not the Jedi faith, per se), or just when a task needs to be sorted and the means aren’t obvious.  As I began quilting the other half of the blanket, I had no idea how I was going to finish by the end of the day, which for me, regardless of when my husband was coming home from work or my trip to the dentist, was going to end well before the San Francisco Giants completed their first of four games against the Los Angeles Dodgers later that night.  I’m in bed by nine p.m. at the latest.  How in the world was I gonna finish this flippin’ quilt???

Use the force honey, but remember, it’s not about your strength.

Sometimes mistakes are the catalyst for success; as I backstitched all the subsequent rows, a plan formed; what if I machine-stitched the back of the binding?  I’m a hand-stitcher when it comes to that part of the process, but to be honest, the edges of the quilt were already compromised; when I finished the quilting, I went back over all those little sections where stitches no longer rested.  It wasn’t neat in appearance, but I knew that the quilt wouldn’t fall apart.  Another line of stitches securing the binding wouldn’t make a dent in the aesthetic look, and my daughter wasn’t going to raise a fuss.  All she wanted was that quilt in her possession.

Sewn, then sewn again...

Sewn, then sewn again…

Lunchtime wasn’t spent reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s letters from Tegel Prison; it was spent reading quilting sites learning how to machine bind.  By then it was past one, so as I prepared to affix the binding to the front, I also set the microwave timer, so I wouldn’t get so caught up in sewing that I’d miss my dentist’s appointment.  The day felt slotted into compartments; the first part of the morning was euphoric, until I saw those loose stitches.  The rest of the morning was a quizzical collection of minutes pondering the next move.  Lunch was a peanut-buttery mess on a bagel while intently studying the previously unknown qualities of machine binding.  And the afternoon began with that binding, morphing into a discussion with my dentist about how even though we were both nearly fifty, we didn’t feel all that old.

Or he did the talking as I endured the scraping.

I left that office with an appointment for November, and a clean bill of dental health.  Arriving home, I whipped that binding into place, mitered corners included.  Then, after pressing the binding toward the back of the quilt, and some deep breaths taken, I started to sew the binding in place.

I chose the stitch-in-the-ditch method mentioned on the tutorial I always watch when it’s time to bind a quilt.  Made By Marzipan is a great site for all sorts of quilting tips; I love the fabrics she uses for her log cabin quilt, and one of these days I’ll master how she sews her invisible join (mine was hand-sewn, as I just couldn’t get it otherwise).  Now, I did have to faff about with my seam allowance, ripping out a few stitches so I was actually attaching the binding.  But once I had my bearings, the sewing went splendidly, if not imperfectly.  However, perfection wasn’t this project’s focus.  It was about surprising my youngest with this quilt, and to be honest, a machine-sewn binding would probably hold up better for how much she was going to adore that blanket.

Out of the washer, with thanks to my husband, who assisted between innings...

Out of the washer, with thanks to my husband, who assisted between innings…

This is a girl who loved the flannel backing right off her star blankie when she was a toddler.  That was in the back of my mind as stitches mostly stayed straight.  Between that seam sewn, plus the one attaching the binding to the front, as well as one added even before the binding was started, that quilt was going to remain in one whale-loving piece.

I couldn't be more pleased with how this turned out.

I couldn’t be more pleased with how this turned out.

By the time my husband came home, the quilt was in the washer, and by the time the Giants and Dodgers were playing, I had it in the dryer.  Then I took a walk, as Brandon Belt came up to base, runners in scoring position.  (Belt’s hitting has been iffy lately, poor chap, and he didn’t do well while I was walking.)  When I returned, the quilt was dry.  I inspected the work, but didn’t look too hard at edges resewn or the uneven back binding.  I admired the whales, finding the dark solid squares had an affinity for blue fleecy fluff.  Sitting on the sofa, I picked off the fluff, then took the quilt back into the grotto, pressing the binding that had folded up on itself.  I did want to give it to my daughter with that binding somewhat flat.

Fleece is snuggly, but watch out for those stitches...

Fleece is snuggly, but watch out for those stitches…

When I headed for bed, I had texted my eldest with the secret, and she thought it was fabulous, both in the quilt, and the effort.  And looking back, yeah, it was quite a feat, from Monday through Thursday, to take a quilt from the wall and turn it into the real thing.  But, and I can’t stress this enough, it had nothing to do with me, other than I was the hands and feet of its true Maker.  You can call it using the force, or if inclined to the Christian faith, just an example of letting go of self and allowing God to do His thing.  Either way, the quilt was delivered yesterday, and my daughter LOVED it.  She didn’t give a single hoot about an uneven binding or slightly messy edges; she adored the softness and warmth, the whales, and that it was in her happy hands.  And now on her bed, just in time for the brief heatwave slated to hit much of California in the coming week.

In its new home, and looking happy to be there!

In its new home, and looking thrilled to be there!

And now with an empty quilt wall, but a very full heart, I reflect on last week’s endeavors, which must include the Giants’ two straight wins over the Dodgers.  After how San Francisco played in Pittsburgh, neither my husband or I were expecting much down in Los Angeles.  But SF has continued their winning ways against LA, again by hook and by crook, and now, without Brandon Belt, who was hit by a pitch last night, resulting in a broken thumb.  I want to tell Brandon not to fret this unpleasant development, for as I learned with fleece, that while I didn’t backstitch those rows, the quilt was still finished on time.  In fact, it was probably due to those frayed stitches I was able to complete it as I wanted, for the odds of actually hand-binding the back in one night would have been slim at best, even if that night’s game did go to ten innings.

Instead, I’ll pray for Belt to heal quickly, and for God’s grace to continue to infuse all I do.  Just let the force flow, and all will be well indeed.

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