The Pink Quilt

The Pink Quilt

It’s finished! Almost a year after I bought the fabric, the pink quilt for Little is finally done. This is my second quilt. The first one was blue and I made it for the teenager out of his father’s old dress shirts and two sheets.

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My quilting journey began in the Ottawa Public Library. I was browsing in the the knitting section and not finding anything new, when I saw on the next shelf a book called The Gentle Art of Quiltmaking by Jane Brocket. The colourful quilts caught my eye and I took it out to have a look. I remember thinking at the time, “Oh, I’m never going to be one of those crazy stay-at-home mums who makes quilts.” Hahaha. Jane Brocket’s message is that you don’t have to be the best seamstress in the world, but if you have the urge to create, you should go for it and perfection be hanged. Since I am a recovering perfectionist, I took the bait. In my further reading about quilting, I found that the instructions that began “cut 1024 2 1/2″ squares out of fabric A” did not appeal.

I like the peacefulness of sewing by hand, and so that first quilt was hand-pieced and hand-quilted. It took about 18 months. The time of day when I actually sit down is in the evening, during what we call Mummy and Daddy hour. When the children are in bed, and the work is done, our rule (and haven) is that we spend at least an hour together in the evening, chatting or watching Netflix. Both hand-sewing and knitting are ideal activities for that hour: relaxing but not distracting.

As soon as the blue quilt was done, Little started wishing for a quilt of her own. We looked at lots of images of quilts on Google, and she was inspired by one with lots of pink and blue and red. On a hunch, I got in touch with my friend Kate Austin, an immensely talented artist. Yes, Kate had scraps for me to look at on my next visit to Toronto. That was the nicest shopping expedition ever: cup of tea, gorgeous fabric, and hanging out with Kate and her two adorable sons. I came home with about 90 squares of fabric samples from Kate’s page on Spoonflower. Little laid our her quilt at home the very next day.

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I then ironed all the squares (luckily, I like ironing) and pinned them all into rows before putting them in separate bags so I wouldn’t get mixed up. Then the piecing began, this time by machine. I’ve always been a little cautious around sewing machines, since the speed and noise make me nervous. I like activities to be slow, and quiet to silent. Piecing 80 squares together helped me get over an shyness of my sewing machine admirably. The piecing was done last August, but September is the start of my Christmas knitting season and I had a big blanket in the works for one of my sisters and her family.

Work on the quilt resumed in the new year. I trimmed all the edges and ironed them all flat, then made the quilt sandwich: Backing fabric face down, then organic cotton batting bought from Sew Sisters, then the quilt top, face up. I remember not enjoying this task with the blue quilt but Little helped me this time and it went fast. For the backing, I used a sheet with a pretty busy print so that all the pink quilting thread wouldn’t be that obvious. 20160217_161950

Then one evening I armed myself with my needle (a size 9 between, if you please), the quilt sandwich, pink hand-quilting thread and a thimble. Every evening I could, I quilted each individual square according to its own pattern. I really got to know the quilt this way, and grew to love some of the patterns that I had never really paid much attention to while I was piecing. I had liked the small all-over patterns on the page, so to speak, but when it came to quilting the bolder patterns insinuated themselves into my heart. Since I was never quilting the same designs consecutively, the work remained interesting. I was glad that I was friends with the designer, since I felt a bond with her while I was quilting; it was as if we were working on it together. One thing about hand-quilting: the soundtrack of the process is “where the bleep is my bleeping thimble?” I was always losing track of it.

Slowly the number of quilted squares grew. Once I was done the quilting process, binding began. Little had requested that the backing be the binding fabric as well, and she wanted the top striped border of the sheet incorporated into the design. Endless fiddling on the ironing board ensued, and I pinned and repinned the binding and especially the corners. I decided not to do mitred corners as I had on the blue quilt, but rather folded over ones since they seemed to suit the quilt better. After two evenings of hand-sewing, the quilt was bound.

One member of the household who took a special interest in this project was Georgia the cat. Quilting books often have pictures of cats on the quilt tops and Georgia was no more impervious than any other member of her species. She lay on the quilt while we were laying it out; she lay on the parts while I was piecing it; she lay on it every chance she could get while I was quilting it. That is one really excellent way to get boiling hot: sit under a quilt that you are working on and have the cat come and sit on top of you. She added an extra layer of cosiness to what was already a pretty cosy project: making a quilt for my daughter out of fabric designed by an old friend, with my husband at my side.

Little is delighted, and has been sleeping under the quilt for the last week. I am already planning the next quilt (theme: birds), for Middle.

 

 

 

 

Remembering the apple tree

Remembering the apple tree

 

ICopy of winter to spring 2007 055n May 2006 the spouse and our oldest boy, who was then three, planted an apple tree in the back garden to mark the spouse’s birthday. We had two little boys then. It was an Empire, a cross between Red Delicious and McIntosh, an ideal apple to eat right from the tree.A dream come true

 

 

 
I planted daffodils under it, hoping for another baby. I had had this dream, you see, when I was in graduate school, and lonely, and we were not yet married and not living in the same city. It was a dream of a baby, sitting among daffodils under our own apple tree in our own garden next to our own house. That baby, our last, arrived in August 2008 and sat beneath the tree the following May.

We had our first real crop three years after we planted it. That year, the little boy who had planted it with his dad started biking to school on his own (not so little any more).  I noticed that every morning that fall he went out to the garden, picked himself an apple and got on his bike. He didn’t ask, or discuss it with us, he just helped himself to his own apple from his own tree.DSC03955

DSC03792It grew broader and I had to trim a branch off one side so that the children didn’t gouge themselves during their vigourous swinging on the hammock.

As the tree grew, birds came to it, and the squirrels, and the children sat in its shade. We buried the collar and tag of our first cat, Beatrice, under its branches after she died at the age of sixteen in May 2012. Our next cat, Georgia, liked sharpening her claws on its trunk just as much as her predecessor did. DSC03807

 

Since we planted the tree during a rather intensive child-rearing period, I skipped a number of the tips Ed Lawrence always gives on CBC Radio here in Ontario on Monday afternoons. I didn’t wrap the trunk to protect it from the nibbles of mice under the snow; I didn’t prop a plank against the south-facing trunk to protect if from the freeze-thaw cycle during the winter; I didn’t do much pruning or dormant-oil spraying in February. After a few years we noticed an ominous fissure in the bark near the ground.

JpegThen one day last August I came outside to see my beautiful tree, laden with apples, lying on its side. The strong winds the day before had knocked it clean over. This was also the day before we were to leave on a camping trip to the east coast so I had not much time for grieving then. We picked all the apples we could and left the tree on the lawn until our return. In September I cut up the branches and made applesauce (the last batch!) from the almost two bushels of apples that were that tree’s final contribution.

And now this spring there is an absence in the garden. The garden feels more open and airy and I have some ideas about other trees to plant and changes to the layout of the garden. Still, this beauty is no longer there. I remember its blooms and this poem always brings them back to me.

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The Stolen Branch

By Pablo Neruda

In the night we shall go in
to steal
a flowering branch.

We shall climb over the wall
in the darkness of the alien garden,
two shadows in the shadow.

Winter is not yet gone,
and the apple tree appears
suddenly changed
into a cascade of fragrant stars.

In the night we shall go in
up to its trembling firmament,
and your little hands and mine
will steal the stars.

And silently,
to our house,
in the night and the shadow,
with your steps will enter
perfume’s silent step
and with starry feet
the clear body of spring.