Way back in 1998, when James and I were engaged (wow, we are getting old), I went with his family to their family reunion in Indiana. It was a neat trip with a lot of good memories. One of the traditions the reunion group has is to have a "quilting challenge" every reunion. There were several ladies participating, though not all of them. They would go to a nearby quilt shop, pick a fabric and divide it up with the idea that each person would bring a finished project back the next time. There was a little upset over a not-quite-a-member of the family taking some of the limited amount of fabric and I didn't think I would end up getting to play along, but a very kind cousin surprised me by mailing me some of hers. The funny thing was that when I said, "Oh, I only need a scrap," I really meant it. There is probably not two square inches of any one fabric in the whole quilt!
This was created from a pattern in a magazine and believe it or not, the piecing was quite easy. You make six copies of a foundation template and machine sew directly onto the paper - no marking or measuring whatsoever. Once you get a little rhythm going it is quite fun. The challenge fabric was a big floral print with blue, yellow, white and black ("challenging" indeed). It was interesting in that it had very dark areas and very light areas, so I was able to put in in every side of every row of the quilt one time. That means there is a piece of it in each dark row and each light row. You can see an example of a dark and a light piece of the challenge fabric in the close up photo; the dark is it is the blue piece in the lower left corner, second from the bottom (well, technically third but you can barely see that teensy piece in the very corner) and the light is the white piece with a little blush of blue, fifth up (technically sixth if you can see that little corner) from the bottom in the light row next to it.
There are also many of James' grandmother's flour-sack fabrics that she had saved over the years. She died when James was a baby but some things like her old fabrics remain. It seemed fitting to include them. Even though many were rather fragile, this quilt seemed like a good way to incorporate them, since it won't be taking a lot of wear.
I've been trying to piece together when I actually made it. I think I started right away. But I know I got stalled once it was time to do the quilting. I really wanted to follow through on the project, but I had only done quilting design work for my mom and piecing for myself. I'd never actually done the quilting. I tried it and hated it. It was frustrating and so slow. I didn't like the results I was getting and by that time I had a toddler so the idea of "just take it with you and work on it when you are waiting for things" wasn't happening at all. Meanwhile, I had picked up two more reunion's worth of quilting challenges!
The reunion ladies showed me some lovely pieces that they had machine quilted on regular sewing machines. I hadn't really realized that was possible! I eventually took a machine quilting class at a local quilt shop. It was neat but it takes practice and I never took the time to make a practice quilt (who wants to work on something that's just practice??).
This week with my mom visiting we decided to just go for it and try machine quilting (I started on another piece). It was so much fun. I'm still working on finishing the binding on that one, but I immediately did the quilting on this teensy one and we got it finished right away. It was really nice to have a cheering section and someone to rip out my mistakes so I could just correct them right away and not get discouraged and stalled.
I feel a little astounded that I actually finished a project. I was beginning to think I should just chalk it up to a character flaw. This opens the possibilities for all the crafty projects I could actually get done... someday. Or maybe when my mom visits again!
p.s. Julie says I need a photo with something recognizable in it to better show the scale, so here it is: