Thursday, January 17, 2013

Taking Care with One's Handiwork

Many years ago, I was making a quilt for my husband of a couple of years.  I was using the construction method of lap quilting it for a queen sized bed.  I was hand quilting it in sections that I could take with me anywhere. I was proud of the quilting design, an elaborate self drafted patterns of undulating feathers in the borders, heart shaped feather wreaths in the open parts, cross hatching and feather wreaths in the 4 corner blocks of this quilt.  I had been quilting about 10 years at this point but had never designed my own quilting pattern to use.  It was exciting. 

It was also very pink, pink and cream to be exact, with the majority of this quilt using a little calico print with hearts and a solid rosy pink alternatively.  The pieced blocks were the Churn Dash/ShoeFly block all done in scrappy colors, 6 inches in size.  Those were machine pieced and if I remember correctly, I think I won some of them from my local guild as a block of the month drawing.  So you probably have an idea of what it looks like, no picture necessary.

We were traveling to one of the first quilt shows I had ever attended, it was summer time we were going to the Kutztown Fair in Pennsylvania with my brother Steve and his wife Peggy.  My ex and I were sitting in the back of my brother's car, I believe it was a small silver Chevy at the time.  I was quilting in my lap as we drove along and chatted.  When we arrived, I casually rolled up my work and tossed in the back of the car.

We went to the fair and I was amazed at the gorgeous quilts hanging the in barn on display and for sale.  Many of them were made by the local Mennonite and Amish women in the surrounding communities.  Many of them were appliqued in stunning designs, with colors that were not typical of what I thought the Amish would use (prints and brights).   I even got to see my first Amish Stand Up comic.  I had no idea there was such a profession!  It was a great all around experience.

When we left the fair at the end of the day, we climbed back in the silver car and headed for home.  My quiltwork was in the back, I grabbed it and put it on my lap, but didn't start to immediately sew.  We were too busy talking about all the things we had done and seen that day.  I noticed that my quilt seemed a little bit damp to the touch, but didn't think much about it.  Soon afterwards I felt a slight bit of discomfort in my fingers, almost a burning, itchy sensation.  When we stopped, we looked at it to figure out what had happened because the discomfort in  my hands had grown quite a bit.

It turned out that my dear brother had replaced the battery in his car and the old battery was in the hatchback.  I had inadvertently laid my quilt piece back there and unfortunately, the battery was leaking acid and the quilt had soaked it up!  It was a mess.  I was able to wash my hands and clothes and get it out, but within 48 hours that section of the quilt was ruined and full of holes, all the way through and it couldn't be replaced.  It needed to be completely redone.  I remember thinking to myself, how weird it was that the quilting thread (that was waxed and pink) didn't dissolve right away, but the fabric did turn to flakes in sections and I could see my tiny 10 stitches to the inch embedded in the batting.  Eventually the entire piece kinda dissolved  before my eyes and had to be thrown away. 

I guess I wouldn't have minded so much if I had not almost completed the entire section.  I wasn't upset with my brother, it wasn't his fault.  It was mine for being so careless and tossing my needle work in the back without looking to see where it ended up.  I learned a two very important lessons that week.  (1) Always take care where you set down your hand work in progress; and (2):  never trust the trunk or hatchback of another person's car or vehicle  to be safe from environmental hazards that could prove disastrous.  As I stitched the new section to replace the damaged one, I thought, well at least it was just a work in progress and it wasn't a finished quilt or priceless antique one that had been ruined.  And how lucky was I that I had enough of the fabrics I needed to be able to remake a replacement section. 

I gave that quilt to my ex for Valentine's Day.  We slept under it for several years.  When we split, he didn't want it.  Since it was hand quilted, I was happy to keep it.  In hindsight now, maybe that battery acid was just a foreshadowing of the eventual erosion of my marriage to the wrong partner.  <3

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