Thursday, 10 April 2014

The Quilt Under the Bed


While this post has a working title of 'The Quilt Under the Bed', you should know that its actual title is something more akin to the 'The Red Devil Under the Bed that Causes Much Hand-Wringing and the Kittens with a Strong Sense of Irony', but I decided that it may seem a little dark and so decided to offer up a palatable, succinct alternative. This quilt, which lives, unfinished, beneath our bed, has become a source of shame for me. A few summers ago I worked on it feverishly, hand piecing together hexagons at every opportunity…it went on car journeys, days out, trips to the park, parts of it even came along to Italy with me. By Christmas time I'd finished the English paper pieced section and I'd begun chain piecing half-square triangles to go around its borders.


Eventually, I hand-quilted the large central section and then, for one reason or another, I put it away for a while. I had really, really loved this fabric at the time; whenever I looked at it, it gave me such delight. But when I got it out again it had lost a little of its magic for me, so when I came to machine quilt the outer borders, rather than fussing over my stitches being perfectly hidden in the ditches where seams join, I hastily dragged it around beneath the foot of the machine, letting tiny puckers sit, where they would usually be unpicked. It felt like I was wielding an elephant; nothing has ever felt more like sewing through treacle than this quilt did. I put it away again hoping it would disappear, but every time I went to get something out from under the bed I'd see that, curses, the damn thing was still there.


It has gone on festering beneath our bed, gathering resentment whenever I've thought of it, for a further year. Occasionally, I've pulled it out and thought: gosh, I really must finish it, it's just the binding to go now…but then I've thought what a horrific waste of time that would be and put it away again as I can't bring myself to spend the time binding something which I know I won't want to use. I've thought about giving it to a charity shop if I could finish it, but I feel too embarrassed by the puckers in the quilting to let it go out alone in public (they are not big puckers, but I'm a perfectionist and so they actually make my skin crawl). And so I thought I'd ask what you do when you've spent hundreds of hours working on something only to find that your taste has changed and its shine has gone dull?* I'm considering the community textile recycling bins under cover of darkness…


As if to confirm its horror, today when I decided to photograph it for this post, my cats appeared from nowhere and sat looking stately in front of the quilt as though attempting to add to its fusty appearance. When I showed these photos to my daughter this afternoon, she couldn't stop laughing. You may have to know the personalities of our cats a little to find this funny, but view these with the knowledge that: they never choose to spend time in the same room as one another; they rarely willingly come near anyone other than my daughter; if someone moves they usually run away; they are not cats that like to work the camera; they have only ventured into the room where this quilt was temporarily hanging a handful of times in the seven years since they came to live with us. I am delighted by the belief that they collaborated for one time only with the express purpose of providing an ironic foreground for my quilt. There is no other explanation as to why else they would suddenly flock around me and my quilt, confidently jumping on and off the chair (which had only been placed there so I could hang the quilt up from the picture rails), swapping places with one another, and doing their best impersonation of serious show-cats from the 1800s in order to make my quilt look even more fusty whenever I pressed the camera's shutter. I love them for it - they played it perfectly. They have now gone back to their separate beds and recovered their impish spirits with jumpy rescue cat expressions.


So anyway, I'd love to hear if you have any similar things hiding beneath your own bed and how you deal with them. The lesson that I'm taking from this is not one which I can imagine actually learning from (because I love labour-intensive projects), but it's an awareness that the longer something takes to complete, the more time there is for you to fall out of love with it before you've even had the chance to use it. However, again, it's also brought home to me that most of the enjoyment comes from the process rather than the completion, because joking aside, I'm not actually at all devastated by how many hours I've lost to this quilt, more just the waste of fabric involved.

Florence x

Ps. If you want to read any of the posts written when I still loved this fabric, the English paper piecing post is here; more EPP here; The nine million hours I spent over getting the quilt wadding for this just right can be found here; making the half-square triangles using Thangles has been documented here.

* You may tell me that has never happened to you and that this now unloved quilt has arisen from a fundamental personality flaw, namely being a changeling, flibbertigibbet in need of some constancy, but please attempt to do so while sitting on a Shetland Pony, rather than astride a high horse, or I may be forced to crawl under the bed with the retched quilt! (And yes, 'high horse' - it's an expression that makes me think of the delectable Gilbert Blythe too) x

40 comments:

  1. O my I love this quilt, I do so remember you blogging about it. Sorry you have fallen out of love with it. Please, please don't recycle it, I would willingly buy it from you to help decorate my shop. I have walls that SOoooo need colour. Anyways I also have a quilt sitting in my sewing room from xmas that I was supposed to bind ready for the shop….maybe this xmas instead.

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  2. Oh but it's a beauty! It's hard sometimes to keep hold of a thing when you've just fallen out of love with it, but if you can't love it maybe someone else will? Siblings Together or a group like that? I'll be scouting all the charity shops in Sunny Tunny for the next few weeks on the lookout - just in case!
    There need to be quilting therapists, you know that can sit you down with abandoned WIPS and try and help you remember what drew you together in the first place, where did all the love go? How can we recapture some of that initial excitement etc etc.
    Your pictures (and the style of the quilt) make me think of a Lesley Ann Ivory calendar I used to have as a teenager!

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  3. Well I think you must have lost your mind Florence this quilt is absolutely gorgeous. Surely it's worth finishing just to give it to someone who you know would treasure it? A friend or family member? All that beautiful workmanship and to be honest most people would never notice any puckers! Please please don't throw it out!

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  4. I can only comment that I feel your pain. I have the same problem in that I too am a perfectionist. Regardless of how many times others say things like: "But it looks fine!" or "I can't see what's wrong with it"... If I make something for my Etsy shop and I can see it is going pear-shaped I try and finish it and if it is just a small fault that I can see, but others can't I donate it to charity. My reasoning is a baby hat with a small flaw will still keep a baby's head warm somewhere. :-) Why don't you finish it and donate it?

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  5. It really is beautiful though, Florence! The cats have clearly collaborated to show you how very seriously they are taking the situation. Don't get rid, that would be a travesty!

    My scrap vomit is still unfinished, largely because of a couple of puckers, which would probably not even show when washed and dried, but which are annoying me irrationally. Having spent umpteen hours handstitching through all those bulky seams on 2.5" squares though, I can't quite bear to start again, so I've reached something of an impasse.

    Hope you fall for your quilt again. It really is a beauty!
    x

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  6. I'm not a quilter, but I've definitely had this experience with garment sewing. I try to force myself to power through projects before starting new ones or they tend to sit and sit and sit. I have an unfinished dress lurking in my sewing space that I planned to wear for Christmas... 2011! I had a slip of the scissors and rather than fix it, I just keep shuffling it around. But yes, I think it's so much better to finish something or get it out of the house one way or another than to allow it to mock you! At the same time, though, one of my most treasured possessions is a quilt that my husband's grandmother pieced, but never got around to quilting. She gave it to my mom years ago, before my husband and I were dating (our families are friends) in the hopes that my mom would finish it, and she had it quilted about a decade later as a wedding gift to us. All that to say that there's probably someone out there who would treasure this. :)

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  7. I honestly think it is very, very beautiful, as are your cats. We have a very naughty cat living with us and she is so jealous of the time I spend sewing she photobombs as many pictures as she can. They are so contrary, but today yours played along with you beautifully. They must agree with those of us who think your quilt is absolutely worthy of praise x

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  8. I can totally relate, Florence. Especially to your closing paragraph...


    The lesson that I'm taking from this is not one which I can imagine actually learning from (because I love labour-intensive projects), but it's an awareness that the longer something takes to complete, the more time there is for you to fall out of love with it before you've even had the chance to use it. However, again, it's also brought home to me that most of the enjoyment comes from the process rather than the completion, because joking aside, I'm not actually at all devastated by how many hours I've lost to this quilt, more just the waste of fabric involved.

    I had just such a quilt myself and finally came to the conclusion that I would just pass it on. I loved the lessons from my project, but had fallen so far out of love with it that I resented the very thought of spending time finishing it (as that time would be spent away from working on things that I do love). I tell you, a huge burden lifted from my shoulders when I finally admitted that it would be okay for me to pass it on - that it didn't mean that I had failed by not finishing it. (I considered that huge as I am also a perfectionist ;o).

    Thanks so much for sharing this and bringing me several smiles as I nodded my head while reading your post.

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  9. Similar has happened to me, falling out of love with the fabric or the pattern design or both...and not wanting to invest any more time in the project. It becomes a permanent UFO until I can bear to throw it away.

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  10. Yes. Truly disgusting quilt. Perhaps you had better send it to me to er....dispose of for you!

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  11. I entered that last comment as a joke and now wish hadn't! Your work is always truly beautiful, I really admire the delicacy of it and your colour choice shows a real gift. My work is so clumsy by comparison!

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  12. Finish it. Its like a garden half planted. A house half cleaned. A cake not iced. Bind it. Wash it. And let the magic of completion put the love back in this quilt for you.

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  13. I have an unfinished quilt that I spent hours working on but hated my machine quilting. I think as soon as it goes off the rails you hate it. My quilt has been banished under the bed too

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  14. I have the opposite problem...I am not a perfectionist. I have made some really bad quilts. In fact, I just finished one last night and as I was sewing the binding (badly) I thought to myself....I really should learn to take my time and do things right!!! I don't know what to tell you, except put it back under the bed for awhile...Sleep on it!!

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  15. I have had this experience many times! Finish it, so it will no longer bother you - then my trick is to put it on one of the kid's beds (upside down if needed) and let wear and tear add its own charm :)

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  16. Dear Florence,
    Your work is amazingly impeccable so even a "puckered" quilting job will look fine. But as you know yourself so well, you will not utilize it to its quilty fullest as is. I ruined a very large and lovely quilt by washing it incorrectly after forgetting it had a beautiful, thick 100% wool batting in it. The fabric is too pretty and parts of it too wonderfully textured that I can not dispose of it. I am making it into as many teddy bears and scottie dogs as I can. I have been using leftover quilt scraps and batting to make pincushions and these. They are good-sized and with seasonal fabric, can be switched out occasionally. Hugging one of the bears or dogs on the couch instead of a pillow is a nice treat. Or how about a table topper, potholders, or oven mitt? Cheers.

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  17. OMG, I have just finished a crochet blanket and I am ashamed to say that I think I hate it, but it makes me feel sad to hate it!!?? we're weird creatures aren't we?

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  18. Imagine how delighted some poor, young, new quilter would be to find this - almost finished - in a thrift shop!! Donate it as is, and be done with it. She will be walking on air for days from her good find, and you will feel nothing but relief.
    That's my 2 cents :-)
    ~ Tracy

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  19. My first sampler quilt is still in blocks with about half to be hand quilted ... The colours were great at the time but I can't stand it now!!!!! The guilt lives on.

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  20. This is so funny! I have a rescue cat who is very similar! I'm not sure what to suggest, perhaps the offer from the lady in no.1 would work! Unlike you, I do not have anything near the quality of this quilt lurking. I did make a quilt that was terribly puckered before I realised I was using the wrong walking foot for the model of my machine and couldn't face the unpicking. I gave it to friend's little boy and he loves it! I'm just glad that someone does!

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  21. I have never made a quilt but love the ones you make!! Have had experience with other Projects both sewing and nonsewing that have been disheartening, I can also be a perfectionist but only in certain areas. As somebody Before me said I would love to have this quilt and we (myself and 3 daughters) would certainly all love using it! Alas we live in sweden otherwise I may just have tried to pursuade you to let us have it :)
    Finishing it and giving it to a Charity or maybe a hospice or similar could be one route to take??

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  22. P.S. One of your cats is remarcably similar to one we had, named Spock because of his ears ;)

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  23. I'd happily try and rehabilitate it, it's gorgeous. Could buy it off you and you donate to charity if you don't want the money? Maybe an auction for a quilter to give it a new home? Don't let it languish!

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  24. As everybody else has already said - it's beautiful and, once it's been bound and washed it will be even more beautiful. However, I completely understand where you're coming from. I have a half hand quilted throw already thrown over a chair in my workshop and it has been there so long in its unfinished state that it has become part of the décor so I keep forgetting it needs finishing. If you really can't love your quilt, I think your cats are trying to tell you they'd like it for their bed. It might even make them spend more time together.

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  25. A really beautiful quilt and such a shame that you have fallen out of love with it. I too can be a perfectionist and in the past it has ruined projects for me. Now, however, I have have slowly learned to fix what I can and then look past the little errors at the beauty of the greater whole. If you really cannot love this quilt then do pass it on as there are plenty who would love and appreciate it..

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  26. Now Florence, I'm going to have to be stern... I'm not of the view that perfectionism is entirely bad, but you do have to try and keep it in check! Under no circumstances must you put this in a recycling bin. Like someone else said, you could donate it to a charity shop right now without even finishing it - or send it to one of the commenters who want it! Or, if you can bear to work on it any more, bind it and give it to a local women's refuge where they always need things to give a warm, comforting feel to the rooms (what does that better than a handmade quilt?). I dare you to give us a close-up shot of the alleged puckers!! [end of telling off] xx

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  27. Personally I love this quilt! If I were you, I'd finish it - just to see if you do not end up loving it after all. And if not - give it away or maybe raffle / auction it for charity? Then at least all those many hours / yards of fabric have done good in the world. Or just send it to my house where it would be cherished!

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  28. I have a hand appliquéd top that I finished (mostly) in 2010 that calls my name each time I begin to cut into a fresh stack of fabric to begin a new project…..I loved it then. Now? Meh.
    (hanging head in shame….)
    Why do we do this to ourselves?
    (I would finish yours. It's gorgeous.)

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  29. My suggestions:

    1-undo all of the less-than-perfect quilting you hate, and complete it to your usual particular standards so that even if you dislike it, you'll no longer hate it with the same vehemence!

    2- sell it on to a willing person to finish and donate the proceeds to charity so that your efforts have blessed a good cause.

    3-finish it as it is and donate it to a charity shop as that would be such an amazing find!

    I do have to say that I love it (sorry!) But hope you make your peace with what to do with it!

    Caroline x

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  30. This is beautiful. I love EPP and have an unfinished quilt lingering because I just need to get on with the EPP but have run out of steam. I would finish it and auction it off for charity, or maybe redo all of the wonky sewing and see how you feel then. You probably have many friends and relatives that would love it too. xx

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  31. I think it's beautiful. Your cats made me laugh too :) I think you should donate it to an old people's home or something like that or sell/raffle for charity maybe?

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  32. well i thinlk you are C-r-a-z-y.. The quilt is lovely, but if you don't love it anymore make a gift of it to someone who does. ( hands waving in the air here :-) ) I have a box full of Rouennieries French General fabrics and have been considering doing something similar with them , they were purchased for a "sampler" quilt and i fell out of love with that but i still love the fabrics. I guess it comes down to personal taste.

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  33. Raffle it to the readers in aid of a charity? I am sorry you have fallen out of love with it as it is truly beautiful but maybe you will have a feeling of achievement if a good cause benefits.

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  34. Oh yes , I know this feeling too.
    It is truly beautiful.Someone will be sure to want it & love it. You'll probably find them somewhere in the comments above .

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  35. I started smiling at "I put it away again hoping it would disappear" and was laughing by the time the cats were onstage. Confession: in a much-worn ziplock bag, in the very bottom of my knitting basket, live one and a half rather complicated handknit socks made with a quite expensive (by my standards) and lovely yarn. This was my holiday project about four years ago, and when I was having a somewhat dismal time trapped for days on an uncomfortable boat in the rain, I made some kind of error in the second sock. By the time I noticed it and (of course) ripped back hours and hours of tiny stitches, I could not get the live stitches back on the needles. More ripping, more struggling, more...well, swearing, to be honest. About once a year I decide to unravel both socks completely, wash the fabulous yarn, and use it for another project. I dig the bag out, look at the socks, think, "Well, this isn't so bad! I should just fix the problem and finish the second sock! But not today." And back to the bottom of the basket.
    Bring on the ironic cats!

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  37. This quilt is stunning! It really is, I do however understand your predicament and know what it is to feel the buzz of new fabric you adore and the start of a project and then for that project to 'fight you all the way' as the making of a bag did with me, then the fabric is not quite so beautiful. My bag was eventually finished until I went to use it and realised a large part of the bias binding didn't catch in the machine, that was 3 months ago and it is still sitting there waiting for repair, mocking me every time I look at it. I don't understand why this happens either but I doubt I'm going to use the bag I was originally so excited about. I think you could sell on the quilt or give the quilt to someone or really likes it. Or if your perfectionism won't let it out of the door the way it is, un do the puckered quilting and let someone who has fallen in love with it finish it off. Let us know what happens to this quilt. I would be so proud if I could make something like this, I am just thinking about starting a quilt and couldn't imagine doing something so complicated as this beauty. The fabric colours are divine.

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  38. I have a rag rug which I started to make to go in a summer house we brought for my eldest girls, it still isn't finished and the girls no longer play in the summer house, I would happily give your quilt a home it matches my living room perfectly, I decorated it primarily for showcasing my christmas tree x

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  39. Oh how funny - you've just described exactly my feeling about several 'quilts of shame' that I hide in a blanket box in the kids playroom! There's just something so uncomfortable about knowing that you loved it so, way back when - but just not feeling the love anymore - but somehow feeling that you SHOULD finish it! I'd just put it back under the bed and wait another few years before you get it out as it has been known that I have re-loved old quilts!

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  40. This is such a yummy quilt!!!! I also love piecing hexagons and also have monster hexagon project under way - all in liberty fabrics. Love your use of the reds, grays, whites. Is this the Moda French General collection?
    Keep it up!

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Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x