Having stepped away from the machine…

Not the computer, obviously, but the sewing machine.  After a couple of intense days of quilting, by late yesterday afternoon, I decided to hand-bind this quilt, because I needed to sit somewhere else for a while, and even though this quilt had a few issues, I needed to give it the best possible send-off into wherever quilts go.  And a hand-binding is, to me, the best way to do that.

But well before binding was considered came the quilting.  This is the largest comforter I will machine-quilt, which is not to say I won’t do another similarly large blanket on the machine, but it won’t be this big.  Still, it was a good experience, even if I had to re-baste parts, as the weight of the quilt stretched the top, causing the re-pinning.  And I learned several important factors, which is always a good thing.  Like, for instance, make sure enough batting and backing are left to compensate if one has to smooth the quilt top over them in the re-pinning process, otherwise there won’t be anyplace for that quilt top to go…

Ahem.  So, moving on, yes, lessons were learned, but I didn’t dwell on the lesser aspects of the experience, for like the other quilts I’ve made, it’s the experience that makes me happy.  I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t enjoy it, and after finding a new way to attach the ends of the binding, well, no single part of this process troubles me.

Seriously.  It’s like writing in that manner, for I love all the facets of writing.  And now quilting falls along that path too.

It starts after taking the quilt top from the clothesline, folding it, then placing it on my sewing table.  Piecing the quilt top comes first, but once it’s finished, then the binding is sewn, which I find relaxing, after lugging around a hefty collection of fabric back and forth from where my machine usually lives to the ironing board.  I get steps that way, and it’s how we manage to sort stuff in a little house.  Anyway, the binding is quickly put together, and other than being rather long, it’s light and airy, like a kite tail.  I rolled it up, just to save space, although I knew it was going to be employed relatively soon; that was yesterday morning, and by lunchtime, I was trying to decide how to baste the quilt.

The last time I basted this large of a project, I did it on the living room floor, which wasn’t the most pleasant of experiences.  My back certainly wasn’t happy with me, so I chose to start the basting on my bed, which was nearly large enough, and while there was some stooping over, it wasn’t as low as the floor.  After securing a couple of centre rows, I called in my son, and together we hoisted it to the sewing table.  From there, it was a matter of safety-pinning square after square, which didn’t take that long.  Well before my husband came home from work, I had that baby pinned and ready for quilting.  And when he called, noting he had a long-ish day, I decided to start the quilting process.

Before I cut away excess batting and backing; I will endeavor to leave plenty of excess in future projects…

Quilting is full of stages, like writing.  The quilt top is the rough draft, with a few early revisions thrown in for good measure.  Sewing the binding is like fact-checking, necessary but often overlooked when compared to the bigger picture.  Basting is editing, smoothing out the top and making sure it fits perfectly (or pretty darn close) to the batting and backing.  And quilting is…

Ahh…  Quilting, while not without its niggles, is like reading over a well-handled manuscript, knowing that the story is very close to where the author wants it to be, whether publication is the goal or just a completed tale.  Novels all have their own ends, some for practice, some for release, and quilts are no different; some are for personal use, some as gifts, some as entrants in competitions.  But regardless of their ends, each has to undergo the same rigorous channels to reach that final stage.  Quilting, either on machine or by tying, is the most visible stop on that journey.

Yet, it’s not the last tasking.  Once a comforter is actually quilted, the perimeter needs to be secured, by a less than quarter-inch seam all around the quilt.  Then the excess batting and backing are cut away, like a sheep that has been sheared.  However, unlike those poor naked creatures, a quilt receives a reprieve.  For then a binding is attached, either by machine or hand.  And while I had planned to machine-bind that quilt, by the time I trimmed away the last bit of batting, then pinned and sewed the binding to the front, I was, well, sick of sitting in front of my Janome.  The sofa beckoned, baseball too, but more was the relaxing manner in which to put the finishing touches on this special quilt.

Right before being sheared, I mean, trimmed of batting and backing...

Right before being sheared, I mean, trimmed of batting and backing…

It’s going to my daughter’s new place, where curtain remnants will blend with new fabrics all in pre-washed bliss.  And I just couldn’t slap the back of that binding on there mechanically.  I needed to place it there stitch by hand-pulled stitch.

I started at what would have been the beginning of the Dodgers/Reds game, but rain was pouring in Cincinnati, so I caught the aural snippets of various Major League contests across the eastern half of the country while blind stitching that binding to the back of the quilt.  The last quilt binding, on my daughter’s whale extravaganza, was machine-sewn, and I missed the ritual of parking my keister on the right side of our couch, where the light is best, fastening that last part of a quilt.  Machine binding saves time, certainly, but I like hand-work, especially if there is sport to enjoy.  (Although by the end of the evening, not much love was found in our section of Mudville, as LA won and SF lost.)  Through my glasses, I could see the delicate stitches, then I would glance up, checking out the game.  Again my hubby was busy at work, so I ate dinner solo, went back to stitching, then sat with him when he came home.  And by the end of my night, about the fourth inning in San Francisco, I had nearly half of that mammoth quilt binding completed.

Now, considering it all in a new day, I smile, pleased for the chance to revel in a little bit of sewing heaven.  But it’s more than steps and a process, much like writing is deeper than jotting sentences on paper or a virtual document.  It’s the satisfaction of creating, working through unexpected headaches, triumphing even!  Quilting is more hands-on, in that my hands are constantly full of something, be it fabrics or thread or, ahem, a seam ripper.  Writing requires hands, but also a lot of thinking, while quilting is somewhat mindless (hence the occasional need for the seam ripper when the mind strays too far).  Yet, the results in both vocations are… Beautiful, inspiring, soothing, and good.  And the journeys, while contrasting, are equally rewarding.  Revisions on The Hawk are coming along, sort of how I sewed together row after row, feeling like I wasn’t doing much more than making piles.  Yet, as each chapter falls under the editing hammer, like those collected rows of attached squares, a bigger whole awaits on the horizon.  And one day, as happened yesterday, I’ll have The Hawk finished, and I mean The End sort of finished.  And not only The End, but as if a hand-sewn quilting binding has been lovingly stitched, that tale will be wherever it needs to be.

Having pinned one side under the assumption I was going to machine-bind, here's how it looked, before I actually sat on the sofa...

Having pinned one side under the assumption I was going to machine-bind, here’s how it looked, before I actually sat on the sofa…

For now, the Pre-Washed quilt is lumped on the couch, but the day is young.  Not sure if I’ll get the other half done, plenty of other bits to keep me busy.  But very soon that blanket will be newly washed, ready for snuggling under, or as much snuggling as summer allows.  And as it seems to go, another quilt will top the queue, another bit of love waiting to be delivered.


2 thoughts on “Having stepped away from the machine…

  1. laura bruno lilly

    Love this post!

    I confess, I can machine stitch a quilt top without giving it a second thought but there’s something about hand-stitching the binding that just feels good to my hand…

    “…satisfaction in creating…” Yep, you got that right, kiddo!


    1. Anna Scott Graham Post author

      I am all over machine stitching quilt tops, but I had no idea how much hand-binding meant to me, until I skipped it on the whale quilt. I’m nearly done, and in the first inning, my Giants are about kaput too, three straight walks to open the game, yikes!

      Better to be creative at a time like this. Such a blessing, such a blessing! I need that actual hands-on experience, not sure why, but yes, it does feel good to my hand too. 😉



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