It started with a piece of fabric. While shopping with quilting friends in Missouri, I found this amazing rooster toile by Alexander Henry. I fell in love, and loved it enough to add it to the single tote of "keep" fabric when I moved back to California.
A year or two later, an online quilt group held a block round robin where we started with 9 fabric charms to send around to four friends, each of whom added a border as directed. I had only one request of my group, to steer away from red. Although I had purchased a red toile, I am not found of true reds, although the bluer shades are okay.
I was delighted with how my robin blocks turned out! I knew I wanted to pick up the deeper reds in the toile, so choosing sashing fabric was easy, especially when I found a feathery-looking leaf print. There was enough of the toile left for an 8" border, for a final quilt size of 86"x86".
The decision to quilt it with a feather design was a natural choice. The problem was I have not learned to do proper feathers. My aim in life right now is to do everything mindfully, living consciously in the moment. To apply that to quilting, I want to enjoy the process and experience the improvement as I grow as a quilter.
That was a big step to take in a project that people may see in person. Do I make this my practice piece? Do I rip out my mistakes and keep trying until I get it right?
After spending a good chunk of my day at Road to California, the largest Southern California quilt show, I loaded my New Joy quilt frame with the project and threaded my Juki TL98Q. I took out my manual of the moment, The Art of Feather Quilting by Judy Allen. I practiced drawing feathers until I felt I had the rhythm.
Going to my quilt frame, I pulled up my chair and began. Horribly. I did not have the rhythm, I had a mess. In frustration I just did some free-motion loops and curlicues down the rest of the row, turned off the machine and watched TV for the night.
The next morning, I found an online video demonstrating feather quilting and saw my mistake. I remembered learning once before to make each loop from the bottom, not from the top. I went back to the quilt and made a decision. I was going to learn to do feathers by practicing, and this would be a practice quilt.
I did row after undulating row of feathers, paying attention to the process, not the result. I thought about what the quilt needed just ahead of where I was stitching. Where was the spine curving? How much space is there between the spine and the previous row or the edge of my quilting "window", right in this spot? Are there any imperfections in the quilt top that need to be worked in?
The finished project is not perfect, but my only goal was to show improvement between the first and last rows. That is does.
After machine sewing on the first edge of the binding, I sat on my bed to hand stitch the other side. Spreading my new quilt over my lap I had a sudden splash of delight wash over me. I had a new quilt, just for me! A rooster quilt, with a fabric I loved, backed with a field of chickens that no one will see but I will know are there. A quilt made with friends, who will forever be with me when I curl up under the weight of their fabrics.
Years from now when I look at the imperfections in this project I can smile, knowing they do not show my inability to make proper feathers. They show I am capable of letting go of the need for perfection and allowing myself to grow.