Note: the title of this post refers to the name of my current quilt WIP
As mentioned in a prior post, I’m a quilter from way back when. For the most part, I prefer to work with what is at hand, supplementing materials as needed during each individual project. As a result, my projects display differing degrees of scrappiness appropriate to their ultimate use. Whether utilitarian or artistic, literal quilt blankets or wall hangings, craft or fiber art projects, the underlying theme is always one of creating pieces from what I have on hand. Very much in keeping with the fundamental value of making do with what one has, then augmenting as the need arises.
While living on the compound in the desert outside Las Cruces, NM, I worked retail at the JoAnnFabrics in town. Just being in the store each working day was creative eye candy to my soul. I couldn’t make quilts due to our living circumstances, but those creative juices had free roaming privileges within my mind.
One of the tasks involved with working the cutting table is to ‘edge-straighten’ before measuring then cutting fabric yardage. Depending upon the degree to which the fabric is crooked, this yields a strip of fabric anywhere from ½ inch x 45-60 inches to 3 inches x 45-60 inches. Sometimes there are flaws in the middle of a bolt of fabric that needs to be selectively removed. This process involves cutting out a larger section of material before continuing to cut the desired amount for the customer.
This measurement is then entered into a notebook as allowable shrink*. Once documented, the actual fabric piece is promptly tossed into the garbage bin by the cutting table.
For all of us creative types, that last action of throwing away scraps of otherwise usable yardage is a real killer. Especially to those of us whose recycling ethic is central to one’s being.
Nevertheless, I acquired a stash of random scrap strips. (Let’s just say that those of us in fabric retail understand the saving graces of dumpster diving…)
I determined that once we had settled somewhere and I could access my sewing machine, I’d create a quilt sewn entirely from these strips to represent that time of our between homes experience.
Needless to say, it wasn’t until we moved our storage unit contents in Colorado to our little rental here in Florence, SC that I could start this project.
Around the first of this year I began the process of prepping the strips. Washing and drying them resulted in a stringy, knotted up mess. Once the strips were untangled and ironed, a motley crew of fabrics of various widths and shapes came into view. Ranging from a lovely milk chocolate brown linen, to a bold turquoise solid cotton, to a jewel-colored medallion print, to animal skin patterned cotton flannels, to a crinkly white cotton gauze; these were but a small sampling of what I now had ‘at hand’ for use.
Because I usually don’t follow any set pattern, each block is a unique creation. Requiring time to explore, experiment and manipulate the fabric strips, the reward is in the surprise of what is ultimately sewn as a completed block. This is the part of ‘quilting’ that I enjoy the most.
Within a few months, I had 15 squares ready to be arranged into a final quilt top placement pattern.
As I began shuffling them around, trying to make a pleasing presentation, I realized the making of this quilt reached beyond the creating of beauty out of scraps.
The gathering of those scraps, keeping them tucked away in my duffel while continuing our between homes journey was hands-on hope that ‘this, too, shall pass.’ And now, here I am in the midst of creating this work of (he)art; this physical, tangible proof that there was joy, purpose and beauty in our journey through displacement, loss and disconnection. In many ways, this quilt WIP is a symbolic wrap-up of our Swimming with Swans life path.
Continuing the process of arranging the borders and squares, it became apparent that the finished product would in no way be functional as a true quilt. I kept trying to stretch it into a usable small sized throw, but it just wouldn’t co-operate. Instead, it wants to be a wall-hanging; measuring ~ 50 x 70, and viewed horizontally rather than vertically. I respect that.
Ultimately, I eliminated one of the pieced blocks for a solid square cut from a fabric I had purchased at the time as a splurge with my JoAnnFabrics discount. This coffee themed print adds eye continuity since I sewed it as an end block to each of the four corners along the outer border. It also symbolizes the fact that no matter how tough things got for us during our between homes time, my hubby did his best to provide a bag of beans for me to grind up for my daily brew.
And therein lies the inspiration for the name of this quilt:
*retail term used for documenting loss of inventory