25 March 2011

Things I could not have foreseen.

Stack of quilts - Lily, Nina, Ruby, Grace

I can no longer remember what I thought it would be like to be a mother before I had children. 
In my professional life, many things turn on the notion of foreseeability.  It's a much harder question than you'd think, legally, but in my real life most things are foreseeable: tiredness makes everyone grumpy;  if there is only one pink plate and two three year old girls, there is likely to be a fight; if you sit quietly in a corner and read, small people will gather (good when you're doing parent duty at kinder, not so good when you're trying to finish a book for book club).

However there are a few things that have occurred since becoming a parent that I really never could have foreseen.  I never would have thought that the first poo my offspring did in the potty would get eaten by the dog.  I didn't foresee that whilst inspecting a child's itchy bottom at 2am I'd see a live worm wiggling at me.  I never imagined I would discover first hand that colds spread when someone else's snot drips into your open mouth.  

I am a great one for saying aloud, (or quietly thinking to myself) the things I will never do.  And yet a day, a week, a year later those are often the very things I find I am doing.  And so it was with quilting

I never was particularly fond of quilts. When I began sewing about four years ago I was quite certain that quilting would never interest me.  When a friend's mother took up quilting and told me how much I would love it I smiled politely and silently thought "never in a million years".  I like quick gratification in my craft and quilting is the opposite of quick.  All those little pieces to measure and cut and sew.....

Archie's quilt

Then one day I had a conversation with my friend who was expecting twins.  It was summer and three or four times I had started knitting baby blankets for those twins and three or four times I had unpicked all my knitting because it didn't look right, or the colours were wrong or the wool scratchy.
My friend told me that her obstetrician had advised that the twins were "running out of room" and that she might go into labour at about 33 weeks.  When she told me this, she must have been about 31 weeks pregnant and, to my shame, instead of concern that she might have reasonably premature babies, my first thought was "there is no way I'll be able to knit two baby blankets in 2 weeks".
So I scrambled for an idea and looked through my stash (that was another thing I promised myself I would never have) and thought that a simple strip quilt for each was doable in the time.

I picked out a group of fabrics that seemed to go together and laid them out and sewed them up and I was so completely pleased with myself and my efforts, and so thoroughly in love with the result, that I could hardly sleep. There was nothing particularly fabulous about those quilts, and indeed looking at them now is slightly painful - so many things I would have done differently...

Abby's quilt
Those twins (who were not born at 33 weeks afterall) are about to turn one.  In the year since I made those first little cot quilts I've made a quilt for each of my girls and one of my nieces.  I've acquired a small collection of quilting books.  I've been to a couple of quilting shows.  I've been given a brand spanking new  "Quilter's Edition" Bernina 440 for my fortieth birthday to replace the 1967 Singer on which I have sewn everything in my life (and which features in the header of this blog  - that's Ruby's quilt I'm quilting on it).  I've bought a rotary cutter and mat. I've got quilting pins, and plastic templates.  I surf the net looking at online fabric stores. 

Free motion quilting Grace's quilt
Does all this make me a quilter?  I hesitate to say yes.  "Real" quilters would look at my wonky seams, my uneven cutting, my, umm, individual quilting style and less-than-perfect mitred corners, and would consider me not of their number.  And, to be honest, at those quilting shows I did not feet one little bit like I'd found my tribe.  I look at many quilts and admire only the technical skill.  I think henious crimes against taste have been committed in the name of quilting.
And yet, I leap into that fray.  The Bernina is too good for me (that's it in the corner of this photo). Far superior sewers have far inferior machines.  This makes me feel like the sort of poseur who dons a 'king of the mountain' bike jersey and rides a custom made $5000 bike to Brunetti's for coffee.  Still,  I'm learning.  In ten years I hope the Bernina will not be too good for me. 

In the meantime, my imperfect efforts give me pleasure, brighten our rooms, warm my children and provide a permanent testament to this "woman's work".
Grace's quilt


  1. I'm not going to be able to quickly forget that image of someone else's snot dripping into your open mouth, Ju. And i agree that heinous crimes have been committed against taste in the name of quilting. That's what I love your quilts. The free-flowing stuff looks great.

  2. I love Archies quilt!Michelle

  3. Oh my, the worms are freaky arnt they???
    Quilting is my new thing also, never was truly against it but just saw so many gross ones it put me off. I too embrace the wonk and just keep going!

  4. I love your quilts, they look pretty amazing to me, all though in saying this I am a complete novice and just starting out in the world of quilt making and sewing! From some one who didn't own a sewing machine, I have my training wheels on and I am learning via trial and error lol! Not up on all the lingo and I am not very good with instructions so I am going by instinct!

    Good on you, I am sure your children adore their quilts and are very proud of all the love and effort their mummy has put into them!

    I happened onto your blog through another blog that I follow, your very talented!

    Kylie (from Australia)

  5. Opps just saw a spelling error, it pays to proof read first lol!

  6. yes who would have thought!!!!
    the quilts are colourful and beautiful. Mimi loves her quilt you made her and i know your girls love theirs .quite a feature of their bedrooms.

  7. This post really warmed my heart, made me almost puke, several times, and had me cracking up. I have had quite a bit of fabric set aside to make my first quilt, and for whatever reason, I've been terrified to begin. The evolution of your skills over the past year are amazing!

  8. I LOVE what you're making Jules.. this Elephant really rocks...caitlin