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Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Challenge

by Joy Rusonis 

   I love hand quilting. I do not, however, love to do it on deadline.

    I only had myself to blame. The quilters' guild I belong to announced their challenge last winter--"quilt like your ancestor." I was very excited about the challenge--I see almost all machine quilting at the guild and I was hoping to see from some of the hand quilters.

    You know how it is--a year seems like a long time. I was anxious to work on my grandmothers flimsy, and I had a few small gift projects to do and I thought I'd do a crib sized quilt. I had plenty of time, right?

    Well, someone told me about Ruby McKim's 101 Patchwork Patterns book. Perfect, I thought, I will really go traditional. I got the book and thought that I could do a sampler quilt from some of the blocks.

   In the meantime, other projects . . . happened. A pillow here, a pillow there and then I decided to do the table runner for my sister's birthday. By the time that was done, it was almost Christmas.

  When I finally got down to work, I found the wide disparity in the sizes of the blocks in the McKim book. I don't know if it is my reprint of the book, but it was clear that the first 10 inch block I tried would have to be altered to come out the right size. 

  Time for plan two. When I had started to quilt, I had pieced a stack of blocks with traditional prints and traditional blocks. I'd used some of the blocks for baby quilts, but I still had a lot of them. Okay, that will make piecing fast. Except . .  I measured the blocks. Well you know how it is when you start to piece. If all those seams aren't exactly 1/4 inch, the blocks with lots of pieces can be very different sized.

   Plan three? I started looking through quilts using traditional 30s fabric, and found an easy to piece variation on the snowball pattern. I hand pieced the blocks and put it together over Christmas. I sized the white snowball blocks to fit a beautiful stencil I have.

  I quilted at lunch time, I quilted in the evening. My fingers were sore--I kept quilting. Let's not talk about the lack of cleaning that happened at my house.

  I finished hand sewing the binding on Tuesday. It was due on Thursday, so I had time to wash it and let the batting fluff a little. I have to admit, I am happy with the result. The cheerful colors were perfect for this cold and gray winter. I have calluses, but it was great hand quilting practice. 

  The challenge had to have three traditional elements. I had a traditional pattern, reproduction fabric, hand pieced and hand quilted. I call the quilt Mama's Aprons, because the fabrics reminded me of the feedsack aprons my grandmother always wore. The back is a tone-on-tone pink fabric.

  Well, I didn't win anything. However, I have to say that my quilt was one of the few that really featured hand quilting. I was a little disappointed, but I am still happy with my results.

  When I was quilting at work, everyone asked what I was going to do with the quilt when I was done. Most of my projects have gone to someone else. I may change my mind, but I think this one is going to stay with me.


  1. Your quilt is beautiful, Joy! The back is as gorgeous as the front. Sometimes a deadline gives that little nudge ...

  2. Nothing like a deadline to get us rolling. I work better under pressure, though I wish I wasn't like that. Your quilt is beautiful! Enjoyed your post!

  3. Really a shame that I can not English, I could use my motivation for hand quilting. Your text is entertaining and nice to read. Thank You

  4. Beautiful work. Yes, deadlines really get us going. You met a lot of road blocks along the way! You must feel a real sense of accomplishment. Congratulations.

  5. I admire your determination. I think I would have given up at plan 1 or plan 2 at the very least. But it was well worth it, it is beautiful!

  6. Well, I would have given you a prize! Lovely quilt and the quilting looks great.

  7. Thanx for your lovely comments. You are a great quilter! It's great to make a quilt with such lovely memories...

  8. Another beautiful piece by a true artist! Well done, Joy!

  9. As Joy said, a bedroom is a pretty personal place, so I make lap, baby and wall hangings. The few bed size quilts I've made are on my twin beds in my guest room. That's how I store most quilts. And true, I want them to be used, but I know some of them don't.

  10. Glad to give a "Yeah" to a hand quilter.. My passionate preference is for hand quilting.. even the worst seems better to me than any machine quilting there is... A friend who has won so many amateur national quilting prizes that she was barred from competition once said that machine quilted quilts reminded her of mattress pads.


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