As we celebrate the end of a year I just had a flash back to how I marked the end of the 20th century. I received a quilt top I had made with 2000 different fabrics to mark the end of 1999 back in the mail from a friend who had quilted it for me.
I had long ago forgotten about this quilt, mostly because it turned into an overwhelming project that did not pan out to this wonderful creation I had imagined when I started it. As we approached the end of the 20th century, there was a plethora of folks who thought if we swapped fabric that we could all end up with 2000 different fabrics from around the country if not the world. Then each of us would make an amazing quilt using 2000 fabrics to celebrate the end of the century.
I am not exactly how we all exchanged addresses, but we did. Each of us sent one another an envelope with 10 squares of different fabrics. They were suppose to be quilt-quality fabric. Some of what I received went directly to the trash clearly not quilt quality fabric even for the 1990’s when quilting was in the mist of a reawakening. I taught quilting and used all sorts of fabrics, but was beginning to explore some art quilting and the new emerging batiks. I used it as an opportunity to cut up what remained from quilts I had made and trade it out with others. Lots of what I received was that classic calico I am not sure they even print any more.
Soon my rural mail box was full of squishies every day. This is what we called an envelope with 10 squares of fabric. Some tucked notes in with their squares, explaining the significance of one of their squares. Several from Canada found fabric honoring their country with the name Canada blaze on the square they sent a print with the maple leaf that was synonymous with their country. One lady who own a bakery in NYC, said she bought special bagel fabric so she could include a square in each package she sent out. I got one with an ostrich on it from a lady in Australia. A person from New Orleans found fabric in gold and purple with figures of Mardi Gras, fabric that would likely never be found in northern Michigan. I got an Asian print from a woman in Japan, long before they became a mainstay option for quilters in the US. I remember this inspired me to go out and buy fabric that would represent where I lived and enclose a square of fabric with pine needles on it to tell the story of the pines where I lived.
Once I collected my more than 2000 pieces of fabrics, I purged some of what I could not believe that someone sent, or pieces that were a long ways from square, until I pared it down to 2000 pieces of fabric. Then I thought about design and became overwhelmed by what I had and how to best organize them to sew them together. I toyed with color rainbows, light vs. dark, designs within designs….but no matter what I came up with my project was huge and I had no way to manage it. I eventually threw up my hands and just sewed my 2000 squares together. When I finished it was not this wonderful master quilt I had foreseen. It was too big for me to quilt I was now over my head again, and whatever inspiration I had when I started this project it was long gone.
I pondered and finally decided that I would send it to my friend, who was also a long arm quilter with the statement, “quilt this puppy and send me a bill.” Now this friend is a perfectionists. She organizes her fabrics by color and light to dark. She makes amazing quilts that have an iridescence and luminescent by using that understanding of color and light to make them sparkle. I am sure she looked at this and want to use it as a dog blanket. It was bundled up and put in the bottom of a pile almost completely forgot about,and she was hoping that the UFO (Unfinished Objects) fairies would come steal this nasty from her closet. Some how occasionally she found it and we talked about it, but always finding its way back to the bottom of the dark closet.
Just this week it showed up in a box from the UPS man unannounced. It was like having someone dig out the card you made for your mother in the third grade, framing it and sending it to you. Oh my! I called my friend and she used this an experiment in quilting style she had thought about but never tried before…to make her feathers freely come from all different directions on a long arm quilting set up that doesn’t really lend itself to that kind of style. She said she was glad she tried it but no hurry to do it again, so much trouble. The quilting is absolutely breathtaking. It is the star of the quilt. You want to appreciate this quilt from the backside and the talent of my friend.
Receiving this has taken me back. This group of squares has provoked memories of the grand experiment. Looking at them make me I remember a few of the folks who I swapped with. It reminds me of the talent of friends who introduced me to quilting so many years ago. It has also let me know how far I have come and the evolution of not only the art of quilting but also of me.