Monday, April 9, 2012

Amputating A Quilt

They say that when one begins to machine quilt, to be patient, since it takes time to get good at it. They also say to start small, and master the basics first. I'm not patient. I'm working on it, but my usual speed is a steady plow ahead. After taking 1 class in machine quilting, and watching 1 hour of Leah Day YouTube videos, I thought I was ready to try anything.  So I grabbed my Chaos Theory quilt, and starting in the lower left corner, I proceeded to quilt a very elaborate pattern that made no sense at all and did terrible things to the design of the quilt. It was a mistake from every angle.

 After 3 hours of very intense quilting, I stopped, pulled that thing out of my sewing machine and gasped.  What have I done!?  I ruined my Chaos Theory Quilt! My stitches were so close together, even after an evening spent watching "We Bought A Zoo" a glass of red, and a seam ripper, all I could take apart was a 1x3 inch corner.  My son had plans to go to a shooting range with a friend the next day, so I asked him to take this piece with him.  It was so tightly quilted, I was convinced it was stronger than Kevlar and bullets would bounce off of it. I wanted him to test my theory, but he said no, he wouldn't do that.  

I went to bed that night thinking about that quilt, and dreamed of field surgeries at Gettysburg. When I woke up the next morning, I decided to amputate my quilt. As I took the bus into work, I thought about what the surgeons used for anesthesia during the Civil War and wondered, should I pour whiskey on my quilt before I operate? Maybe Magic Sizing? How would one anesthetize a quilt? When I came home that evening, I chopped off the corner of that quilt, and set about designing a prosthesis.

I went to my lab, and chose instead to build a quilt corner using stem cell research with the leftovers from the original quilt.  I knew how to do this, because I watched Grey's Anatomy that day, and Sandra Oh was growing all these hearts in petri dishes. I saw it on TV, so why not at home?

I grew one, but it didn't work out.

I grew another, and decided it would be a good fit. I configured a stump attachment system out of some broken jewelry I had lying about, then surgically attached the prosthetic quilt to its original body.

Since this quilt was destined to be a wall hanging from the onset, having the prosthetic quilt semi detached worked well with the final design.

As for the quilting design, I stuck with stitch in the ditch for this one.  It was tough. I used rubber gloves from the kitchen to get good traction, and decided that I would really need to look into either chopping a hole in my table to submerge my machine so that the sewing surface would be flush with the table, or shelling out some money to buy a sewing machine table. I'm already looking at the power tools. First I'll buy some health insurance.


  1. Oh boy! That is some saga you had there. Glad it all worked out in the end. And the new piece works well. I wouldn't know it wasn't original to the quilt it you hadn't told me.

    I guess now that you'll try to be a lot more patient next time. You probably don't want to have to do surgery like that ever again.

    1. I always try to be patient, and it lasts for a while. But machine quilting, that requires a the patience of a Zen Master.

  2. Ann...this is the greatest post ever!!!! Just love how you chose to tell the story. The end result is fabulous! The whole thing showed courage and ingenuity...I'm totally impressed!