The only quilty project I brought with me to Australia is Junebug’s eventual bed quilt, affectionately named the “Star Spangled Diamonds Quilt” because it (originally) was made only from Riley Blake’s “Star Spangled” fabric collection, and it’s made out of sixty degree diamonds, pieced together EPP style. (I expect no admiration for my naming skills on this one.)
It was to be my (ironic) Australian masterpiece, making use of my time down under to hand piece seventy-two blocks out of brilliantly American-patriotic fabric—as my time here is time without access to a sewing machine.
(Funny aside: When I asked our “relocation specialist” if it would be possible to bring my sewing machine with me to Australia, she actually laughed out loud and asked me why I would want to do that. “I quilt,” I replied. “Oh,” she said, “Well, why don’t you treat this trip as a vacation rather than keeping up on house work?”
I made some sort of agreeable murmur in response, so shocked I was that she would even assume quilting was some sort of obligatory chore I had to do. I’d forgotten, what with my past decade surrounded by the Maker Movement and amazing fellow crafters, that not everyone looks upon creative pursuits as enjoyable ventures. And while it’s true that, based upon the state of our luggage’s contents when we arrived in Aus, my sewing machine was better left at home, I am missing it sorely every day. House work. Sigh.)
So I have this immense, entirely pieced-by-hand project; which is totally OK because I have no sewing machine. The timing is perfect!
The timing, yes; the execution…well, not so much.
While smugly pleased with how my life had ironed out so neatly to allow for all this hand piecing, and looking forward to my six months of blissful stitching, I had an entire house to pack up into suitcases and put everything else in storage. I packed up my craft room first, seeing how I knew exactly what I needed in our new home, creativity-wise. Easy peasy, pack it up. First. Then pack everything else on top of it, around it, and in front of it. The craft room’s contents are contained in boxes in the farthest corner of the basement, with bookshelves, clothing, and furniture stacked neatly around them all.
Which was fine until I realized, after arriving in Australia, that I was fast running out of my main fabric—the mostly white prints that make up the stars in each block—and upon taking a moment to do a quick count, I realized that I was indeed short on those fabrics by more than half. In fact, I only had about one third of the needed amount. One third, because I only cut the same amount of white as the colors, momentarily forgetting that there are six white diamonds in each block, and only two of each color. I have all I need (and then a little extra) of the red, aqua, and blue fabrics, but the main fabrics are short by two thirds and, even if I could remember exactly which box those fabrics were packed away in and could describe it to our house sitters, it’s in the farthest corner of my basement, hedged in by almost everything we OWN.
[Insert an entire week of silent fury at myself for being such a smug little idiot.]
So, as I came to the eventual acceptance of my situation, I decided I had a few options:
1. Have the house sitters find my original fabric. (Highly unlikely.)
2. Buy more Star Spangled fabric and pay the ridiculous shipping to have it shipped to me in Australia. (Bank account difficulties make this near impossible right now.)
3. Put the project aside until we returned home. (Then what the heck else am I going to do with my fidgety self while we’re here?!?! And, remember, the timing was perfect for this project!)
4. Buy some low volume white fabric here in Australia and just grin and bear the fact that the fabric would no longer be mostly from the “Star Spangled” fabric collection. (Oh, heart…everything will be OK…I think.)
You see, somewhere along the journey of immersing myself into this quilting world that exists nowadays, I’ve picked up on the sentiment that staying within a particular fabric collection will draw more attention to your work. I see all these beautiful quilts being made from single fabric collections, which guarantees perfect color coordination and theme incorporation in fabric choices. I like that. I also like that this kind of perfect color harmony appears to afford more pins, comments, likes, and awards. And I’m of the opinion that this particular quilt could be a serious contender at the next county fair, what with the hand piecing and theme. (Patriotic counts for a lot at fairs!)
With a resigned heart in regards to my quilt’s descent into obscurity, I made my way (on the left-hand side of the road) to the local quilt shop here in Bundaberg. When the kids asked what we were doing, I sighed and said that I’d left Junebug’s quilt’s fabric at home in the States, and that we were going to try to find some replacement fabric here in Australia. “We get to buy fabric for my quilt in Australia?!?!” Junebug squealed, “That’s SO COOL! I’m going to have Australia fabric in my quilt!” And she skipped into the store, eager to begin the hunt.
We found two mostly white polka dot prints straight away, although I didn’t really want to get the red and pink polka dot fabric because pink broke with the whole “red, white and blue” thing we had going on in the quilt. “But Mom,” Junebug frowned, “the pink dots are pretty, and there aren’t a lot of them.” Sigh. Alright.
We came across some plaids and ginghams, but those received an instant thumbs-down from Junebug. “What is wrong with plaid?” I asked, while simultaneously trying to smother Monkeyboy’s hands within my own in an attempt to save all the thread, buttons and embroidery floss from disastrous endings. “I don’t know,” she said, “it’s just too square-y.”
“But it matches the whole ‘Fourth of July’ theme of your quilt,” I said, “it’s actually rather perfect. See? Picnic blanket fabric.”
She wrinkled her nose. Fine, no plaid today. Perhaps I could talk her into it at a later time.
And then we went head-to-head over the next fabric choice. While it technically had a white background, it was a floral print teeming with not only pink, but also yellow and green. “This fabric does not match your quilt,” I said, breathing hard as I struggled to keep Monkeyboy on my hip, “put it back on the shelf and let’s look for something that matches better. There’s no yellow or green or pink in your quilt. It doesn’t go. Put it back.” Junebug, who had spotted the bolt on her own and brought it to me with triumph shining in her eyes, cast her eyes down upon the fabric in her hands, running her palm over the print, tracing the flowers with her beautiful little fingers before murmuring to herself, “But it’s so pretty.”
And that was the moment that woke me up. My adorable little girl, my first grader missing one of her front teeth, had found something she thought was beautiful and I was shutting her down based upon the imagined opinions of complete strangers. The fabric WAS pretty; on any other day I’d buy a yard of the stuff based simply upon its eye candy merits. It would look lovely in anything, but it would completely destroy the cohesive look I was going for with this quilt.
This quilt…was her quilt. Her quilt. Her quilt that we had dreamed about and planned out together, with her input being the highest priority every step of the way. (Why else would I ever, EVER agree to hand piecing an entire twin-sized quilt?!?!)
Pins and ribbons be damned.
I whisked that bolt of fabric out of her arms just as she was turning to take it back to the shelf. “You’re right,” I said, “it is pretty. How about we get twice as much of this one as the others?”
The gap-toothed smile she gave me was all I needed to know that I’d made the right choice.
It really is pretty.
Rundown for the month of August: I whipped out twelve more blocks, smashing my record of five blocks in both June and July. I now have twenty-two blocks done, only fifty more to go. (That’s 30% done, people! Woot woot!)
Goals for September: I’d like to piece at least ten more blocks, and hopefully get one whole quadrant of the quilt pieced together (eighteen blocks). I had to divide up all my “original” white stars into four piles so that the fabrics will be distributed evenly throughout the quilt; so, although I have more than eighteen blocks at the present, I can’t piece them together. Once I get enough “new” white stars put together to add up to eighteen in one section, I can start assembling.
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