It’s often said that you need a lot of patience to be a patchwork quilter. I believe this is so true. Creating a quilt can take such a long time that you need to have the mindset to keep going and see any creation through to the end. And even then, who doesn’t end up with UFOs?? (For those who aren’t familiar with how this term is used in the quilting world, it refers to ‘unfinished objects’, meaning all those quilts and quilt blocks that have been started and never finished for a variety of reasons.)
These days I usually only have one quilt that I’m actually sewing or piecing, and this one will be my main focus, though at the same time I will also be toying with ideas for future quilts and will often start making sketches of designs and researching fabrics and colours schemes. I might also be working on a quilt that I’ve just finished, typing up instructions, putting together kits, etc. Working this way means that I aim to complete the sewing of a quilt within a few months.
I do, however, have a quilt that took me about seven years to complete. I had borrowed ‘The Quilt Sampler Book’ by Lynne Edwards from my local library. It was soon after discovering patchwork quilting, and after making my first and very simple quilt made up of 10” squares, I had read somewhere that making a sampler quilt was a good way to try out different sewing techniques and styles. However, I wasn’t too keen on all the blocks featured in the book so I decided to focus on the blocks I liked and make a quilt just featuring those ones.
The result is my ‘Garden Sampler’ quilt, a double bed quilt, which features ‘Drunkard Path’ blocks in white and blue to represent the sky and clouds, a ‘Grandmother’s Fan’ for the sun, ‘Log Cabin’ blocks to represent the ground, ‘Spider’s Web’ blocks for… spiders webs, and various appliqué flower blocks. I started the quilt in 2003, when I lived in London. Parts of it travelled with me when I accompanied my husband on business trips to Japan and the US, and I finally finished piecing it in early 2010.
Once it was complete, I laid it on the bed and felt an enormous sense of achievement. I couldn’t believe that I had finally finished it! The intervening years had been quite eventful, so I wasn’t going to be hard on myself for not finishing it sooner – between 2003 and 2010 we had moved out of London, bought a house in the country, I started a new job, and then we were blessed with the arrival of our first child in 2006.
But now that the quilt was laid flat on the bed, a thought suddenly daunted me. The quilting… I thought to myself, it’s going to take another seven years to quilt it, especially as I wanted to do this by hand.
It’s then that I remembered a little piece of advice I read in another quilting book – sadly I can’t remember the name of this book – but it basically said that even if you only do five minutes sewing a day, you’ll be five minutes closer to the finish. And armed with this knowledge, I was determined to sew every night, even if I was extremely tired and even if I found this a little difficult given that I was heavily pregnant with my second child. But I did it. And I finished the quilt in just two weeks. Sometimes all it takes in quilting, and in life, is a little patience and perseverance.