Tag Archives: modern quilting

One more quilt for Dad….

I finished this quilt a few days ago, snapping photos right after Silicon Valley received some blessed rain.  Not sure if those things go hand in hand, but we’ve had cool temps for a while, the perfect time for a quilt.

Especially a quilt like this, ushering in my modern/improv quilting life.  What better way to practice this new technique than make one last quilt connected to my dad.

My first comforter was for Dad, although not in the beginning, much like this attempt at floating squares.  Dad’s first blanket was actually meant for me, because it was my first go with quilting, and I wasn’t about to foist it on anyone but yours truly.  However, Dad was undergoing chemo at the time, and often found himself chilled.  He appreciated that blanket, even using it a few times this year.

This blanket wasn’t planned for Dad at all.  I wasn’t even into improv quilting before he died, although I had asked my husband for a book about modern quilting earlier this year.  But as so much changed this winter and spring, so has my quilting method.  I dove right into this project, once the last of the baby quilts had been completed, and for a time, I had no handle on what this piece meant.

Initially it was an attempt at a score within Sherri Lynn Wood’s new book The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters.  Then it became an ode to The Sinking of the Lusitania.  Then suddenly it was for Dad.  Or maybe it was about Dad, because I wasn’t going to give it to anyone.

This quilt is all mine, not from greed, only in how much it means to me, for many reasons; modern quilting, floating squares, Winsor McCay, and my father.  I used it the night I finished hand-sewing the binding, watching basketball well protected under its perfect length.  Now it’s been washed, photographed, and sits on the back of the sofa, as more cool weather heads our way.

More sport as well; Golden State starts its run at the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday evening.  I’ll be happy to watch the Warriors and Rockets safely snugged under this lap blanket.  Well, unless my daughter is in labour.

I'm rather fond of that one small orange square....

I’m rather fond of that one small orange square….

If she is, basketball and quilts will wait.  And one day, that little granddaughter will have a terrific story about how her abuela whiled away the time sewing fabrics not measured with rulers for perfect edges.  Just letting that rotary cutter slice at will, then fastening pieces in what might appear an indiscriminate nature.

One little piece of tropical fabric sneaked into this binding; I love the randomness of this entire quilt.

But everything happens for one reason or another.  I machine quilted this diagonally, also a first, the binding a scrappy assortment from the binding bucket.  I even pieced the batting, wanting a true from left field approach to this quilt.  The back is fabric I bought on a whim, with large scraps from what had been used on the front.  I wanted to follow Wood’s use what you have adage, and this quilt complies with that idea all through.

One more note about the binding; in a previous post, I remarked how the bottom fabrics, representing Dad’s later years, were darker than those at the top.  Yet, he found great peace in his final decade, what the lighter coloured binding means.  This is why I sew, why I write; to set into this world fragments of my memories.  Perhaps these recollections are only for me, but maybe they will resonate with others.  If nothing else, I think it’s pretty.  And I can’t wait to make another!

Making the Dadland flag….

First, thanks to Laura for Dadland; that pretty much sums up where I’m living in the new normal.  Let’s say that Dadland is a county within this novel country, and this modern quilt constitutes the colours that once I get this baby completed will fly with honor.  Or drape over our sofa with similarly good intentions.

I’ll pull that Dadland flag over myself as I watch the San Francisco Giants this year, pondering what might Dad have thought of this or that play.  In Dadland, even if Dad’s no longer a citizen, the reverberations are lasting.  An improv quilt that initially held few notable qualities other than being my first attempt at floating squares morphed into a statement on the sinking of a British ocean liner, one hundred years ago might I add, then was truly revealed for its worth.

Although I still think of Winsor McCay when I stare at this piece.  World War I in 1915 in the blue, orange and beige, with a hint of green and yellow, representing the Lusitania’s passengers.  Some lived, many perished, as the Irish coast was in sight.

I rue not having snapped more shots as this quilt top came into being, but I found myself sewing even before I’d had a shower.  The thrill of piecing this project was infectious; every morning between sips of tea I fashioned small blocks, going between the grotto and the living room, not thinking about much else.  Which was a nice change, after the last couple of months, thinking about way too many things and not getting even close to my sewing machine.

I found that improvisational quilting requires the creative mental spark throughout the putting-together-the-quilt-top process, unlike how within my traditional patchwork scheme once the fabric goes on the quilt wall, it’s simply a matter of sewing those cottons into rows.  That part has felt tedious in my last couple of quilts, a sensation I couldn’t shake, nor did I appreciate.

Seams were pressed open, which was also a first, and most were of the quarter-inch variety, but not all….

Yet in making the Dadland flag, not a moment was dull.  It was at times slightly frustrating, until I turned a section sideways or completely upside down.  Then I was happier.  Of course it helps that none of the fabrics I chose were directional, a note to self for future modern quilts.

As the quilt emerged, it wasn’t until it was almost done I saw my father within it.  Wider at the top, it’s also more scattered in colour, much as how Dad’s early years were fraught with plenty of complications.  As he aged, his life settled, some difficulty involved of course, but he was sober the last ten years of his life, for which I am still amazed and grateful.  And that was while battling prostate cancer, which turned into bone cancer.  Which coupled with COPD and heart failure killed him.

The darker bottom prints signify that era of Dad’s life, but the hues are lively, the beige filler fabric not the same as what started out at the top.  I didn’t have enough blue and orange to fashion a decent-sized quilt, so I knew more colours would be necessary, and I’m partial to dark pink.  The navy blue and cream print isn’t one of my faves, but I had plenty of it, and didn’t want all solids.  And little by little, all of these fabrics turned into something far more than merely a step into the improv quilting realm….

This isn’t just floating squares, it’s about barely scraping the surface of comprehending loss.  But it’s also about life, for death is part of living.  Boats are sunk, men pass away.  Sometimes those men are fathers, of daughters who fancy themselves as artists of sorts.  And sometimes those daughters, even ones at forty-nine, still think of their father as Daddy.

The county of Dadland is an intriguing one, like no county I’ve ever visited before.  Looking forward to seeing more of it, day by day by day….