Friday, August 26, 2011

A "Block of the Month" quilt lingers on

 City buses on Solano Avenue, Cuenca, Ecuador. Buses run every 4-6 minutes all day long. Cost to ride? 25 cents.  The US dollar is used here, making it easy to drop a quarter in the slot.

A languishing project? This began as a "block of the month" quilt project.  It will be a king sized bed quilt for us. Here is how it unfolded:

I took a "block of the month" quilting class with tons of good intentions in 1/2010. The idea is that you take a class that meets one time each month.  At each class you get the directions for one quilt block to do that month.
The goal:  complete the block to show at next month's class to avoid paying $3extra for that class.  The next class is where you get the second block to complete, and then the third and so on.  By the end of a full year, you should have a completed quilt, right?

A festival in the town of Tarqui, outside of Cuenca about 15 miles. Women in traditional dress.

Well, I started out pretty well.  I spent 3 solid hours picking out the 12 fabrics that had to be in specific color groups. The full quilt pattern is not given until the last month.  The example the teacher gave out was a scratchy black and white copy that was hard to figure out just what the quilt would look like.  A beautiful sample quilt was hung in the shop but the colors were not at all to my taste so it was hard for me to visualize what I could do to make this project mine.

I am pretty independent when it comes to fabric.  I did not want someone else picking out my fabrics ,but I worried quite a bit about how to make my quilt "look right".  It needed to suit both my taste and that of my husband and still turn out to be something beautiful for our king size bed. Not being able to really see the pattern before spending over $250 on fabric is not something I will sign up for again!

However, selecting fabrics and coordinating colors is one of the steps I especially enjoy in the process of a quilt. There were several color issues I needed to address: I really like eggplant/ deep purple and found a great sunflower batik fabric in a deep purple and sunset orange to become the outer border as well as the center of each block.  However, my husband really likes blue so different shades of blue needed to be incorporated that would coordinate with the sunflower fabric. I needed to create a quilt that is somewhat feminine but is manly at the same time. So I ended up with a couple of shades of lavender/purple and several shades of blue.  I selected a range of vanilla through rose-tinted tans for the third color group to suit to the pattern and add contrast.

 Here is the stack of fabrics I selected:

Here is what the first blocks look like:

Around the fifth month, I got a little derailed in spite of all my good intentions. From day one, I had some challenges with this project.  First, class members are not allowed to see the entire quilt pattern but have a vague black and white sketch of what it will look like. A sample quilt was hanging in the shop but it was hard to sort out colors and no one knew which block we were doing first.

Class members could not get quilt block directions ahead to cut out fabric for later blocks if one had some unexpected time. This was hard for people with handicaps and limitations (time, physical, etc) and was not made clear until the 2nd month of class.   Because I was working full time, I rarely had extra time to cut out fabric for a project.  And yet, sometimes, I would be feeling well and have the energy so that I could have cut out extra pieces to help me stay current. But I understand this is a"hard and fast rule" of block of the month classes. It also would have helped me know if I had enough of each color of fabric.  Even today, I worry that I will not have enough of one or another fabric as I continue to complete the quilt. Although that worry is misplaced because any fabrics I purchased in 2010 are long gone by now.  Plus I am living in Ecuador! A quick trip to the fabric store is not easy to accomplish.

I am not an advanced quilter. The talent of the women in the group taking this class was phenomenal and exciting to see...and more than a little intimidating. I only saw these women one time per month so there was not a spirit of camaraderie developing where I might have felt comfortable asking one of them for a little direction. The teacher also was quite busy with an unexpectedly large class. So I remained quiet about being a little off the rails. 

The first 5 months, I did great and was pleased with the blocks. Then I got behind when my elderly mother fell and broke her hip, leading to frequent trips to another state to help out a bit.  She is doing much better, by the way.  She is 93 and quite a pistol, spunky and strong. Then in August of 2010, my father had a very bad reaction following a hip replacement so that he also was not doing well at all.  I am glad to report that he is much improved but has a longer road to regain his former mobility. He turns 94 in about 2 weeks.  I am so grateful I was able to make several trips from Oregon to Idaho to visit/help out the year before we moved to Ecuador. I have 3 brothers and sisters-in law who live near my parents and are a tremendous help to them. Thank you to my siblings for your careful work and devotion to our parents.

However, my quilt project was officially now languishing. There was one block I simply could not figure out and the teacher was not available for specific questions.  Finally, I asked my wonderful other teacher Victoria if she could help me sort out what I was doing wrong.  She looked at the teacher's directions and found places where specific corrections had been made to the pattern - by the pattern company - but I had missed the classes where this was explained. So some of the directions handed out each month had incorrect directions. Sheesh!

I got discouraged about the time a few of the other women were showing their completed projects in December, 2010.  Many of the were quite beautiful. A couple of them were actually stunning. Several others had not yet finished their project. I imagine some dropped out entirely. But this is the way of quilt classes and projects.

When we decided in January of 2011 that we were moving to Cuenca asap, I decided to wait until my move to Cuenca was complete and then find the right time to pull this project out again to make the king size quilt.

One thing you need to know about me and quilting is that I always have about 3 projects going. For example, this week I put more borders on the cheerful yellow quilt, I learned to make button holes for a pillow I am making and I finished a pair of pajama pants. Iwill put a project away for awhile if something is a roadblock but I pull the project back out later on.  I will complete this quilt.  I have a "quilt queue" as I call my list of projects.  The king bed quilt is slated to be completed by 12/12/2012.

Looking at the fabric and laying out the completed blocks to photograph for this post got me interested and psyched up again so it may get moved up in the queue.A few months from now will be the right time to pull this project out again and complete the king size quilt.

Wish me luck in getting this BIG project completed by 12/2012 which will make it a 2 year long quilt... or as I have dubbed it (tongue in cheek), my "block of the year" quilt.

Hey: Here is a peek at another project in the queue: a tribute to my great-grandfather on my dad's side, Milton Sovereign, who was in the civil war (I showed in a previous post the fabrics for another civil war tribute to my great-grandfather on my mom's side, Spencer Douglas)
I plan to fussy cut that fabric in the center as it has about 4 different flowers like the one above. The flower will go in the center of each star in the quilt.

So my days are busy with quilting, meeting people, exploring tiendas in different Cuenca neighborhoods, working to learn Espanol and the usual activities of cooking et al. I am a happy jubilada (retired woman).

Happy quilting. Thank you for your interest in my blog!
And happy weekend to each of you!

PS  If you are interested in civil war era fabric, you should know about the site:  it is really fun to browse.  They carry fabrics representing many periods in the 1800's.


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