Monday, February 4, 2008

Free quilt and chit chatting at the airport

I'm working on an article about a  quilt I am making. It's a Grandmother's Flower Garden design and I'm using recycled denim and some fabric with strawberries on it. No photos yet, but they're coming.  How I came to make this quilt is simple and two-fold.
First, I travel to Phoenix from Virginia twice a year (frugal flying = getting the best rate possible and making reservations in advance) and I always take hand sewing to pass the time in the airport (frugal flying also = layovers). For the past couple of years, I've been traveling with my Cathedral Window quilt that I've discussed before. I've taken small components and worked on them by hand, but now it has grown so much that it's too big to travel with. As I sew, after walking around and window shopping for future sewing project inspiration, people often take a stolen glance. From time to time, someone asks me what I'm making and I gladly share with them what I'm doing. If it leads to more talking about the sewing, that's fine by me. I get to learn about someone's mother who made a quilt "like that" or someone who wishes they could sew, and more often than not, we just talk. It starts with their question and usually ends when we board the plane. One time, I had a reason to go to the ER for a check on something, but knew I was going to be there for hours. Who doesn't go to the ER and wait!?! I took the Cathedral Window pieces with me to work on there. At one point, a doctor came in and said "I can't believe you're in here for X and you're sewing!" I explained that I knew it would take a while and why not enjoy my time in the bed on the IV. He smiled and said he agreed. It's not just traveling and sewing that gets the conversation started!
Second, my nephew recently had a baby girl. She's gorgeous and we're real proud to welcome her to her new extended family. She's got a lot of aunts, uncles, and cousins! But I digress.
I needed something a) to give the baby and b) to travel with. So, I went back to the first English Piecing design I learned over 25 years ago from a woman who was probably the age I am now, but at the time I thought she was old. Anyway, I had joined a quilt guild and learned that the members of the guild were way too persnickety. I liked to piece my way. I didn't follow rules; I made up my own. I was fortunate, though, to attend a course on English Piecing and thought that looked like fun. I made my now 23-year-old daughter a Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt and curtains to match for her bedroom. It took a long time cutting out all those hexagons out of paper and of fabric, basting them, and putting them together one by one by hand, but I remembered that it was a great project to travel with!
While I was working on my daughter's quilt, I took a train to New York. I took quilt pieces in a basket and worked on it on the train and learned that hand sewing interests people, especially today. Is it such an oddity that people don't see it anywhere else? Or does it genuinely bring out the reminiscence of times gone by for the interested party? It seems to make older women smile, that's for sure.
This quilt is with me now, in Arizona, but on the way, it was a conversation starter in Richmond and Houston at the airports. People watched and the brave ones asked about it. I got to show them the process because I was sewing right then and there, finishing some blocks as I went along, and I got to meet a few interesting people. We ended up not just talking about this quilt I am making for a family member, but I got to learn about them too. One couple was coming back from a vacation in Cancun, another woman was on her way to visit her daughter.
My sewing is usually for me as much as for the person I give the finished product to. It's my time to do my thing in my way without guild rules, with my recycled fabrics, with quiet things running through my head, but I sure don't mind sharing with folks I meet along the way.
Take hand sewing with you the next time you have to wait somewhere - airport, doctor's office, wherever.  You never know who you're going to meet or the stories you'll hear, and who knows, maybe someone will be interested enough to try something like that on their own.
P.S. Though I am in Phoenix, I did not go to the Superbowl, but man, this town has the fever!

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