Spot the problem

Hmmm. I think I may have a problem here:

I promised Baby Duck a “bugs in bottles” quilt about two years ago. I made the blocks and then they just sat there, unloved. A few weeks ago I decided I’d better pull the finger out and get on with it, so I laid the blocks out on the floor, settled on an arrangement and started sewing the rows together.

I thought I remembered having made an extra block with a mainly white bottle to use as the quilt label on the back. Apparently my memory was playing tricks on me, since there was no sign of it. It had been so long.

And then, what do you know – I lay the last row back down on the floor and it’s suddenly sprouted an extra bottle. The missing white bottle must have been lurking under another block all the time. No wonder I’d seemed to be short one black strip.

My trusty unpicker soon had the culprit out of there and the row resewn. I’m now nearly done with the quilting and should have a completed quilt to show you any day now. Just as well. The kid’s not getting any younger, and this quilt has a definite use-by date. Some day soon my baby’s not going to be a baby any more, and bugs in bottles will be daggy beyond belief.

We’ll have to come up with another pseudonym for him when that day comes. I’m not sure I can still call him Baby Duck when he’s a hulking creature with facial hair and a baritone growl. He thinks it should start with a “D”, like the girls’. Darling Duck? Ditzy Duck?

His sisters have been known to get out the dictionary in search of annoying adjectives, Demon Duck in particular. (Why am I not surprised?) Some of her suggestions include Desexed Duck (inaccurate but satisfyingly insulting, apparently), Dopey Duck, or Demented Duck.

Actually, that last one could work …


Don’t get excited – I haven’t had a complete personality change and actually finished my crochet blanket already. Although I am still rippling away industriously, so yay me. No, today I thought I’d show you one of my (many) works in progress and talk a little about how long it takes sometimes to get to the finish line, and how much a project can change along the way.

Take this block for example:

Waaaaay back in late 1994 I decided to enrol in a class at the local evening college to learn to quilt. This was one of the first blocks I made, hand-drafted and handpieced, though originally it was bigger and centred. Ugly, isn’t it? File it under “What Was I Thinking?”. In my defence I can only say that the range of fabrics that were available back then were very different from the options we have today. Country style was all the rage, and quilt shops were a sea of mustard yellow, brick red, dark blues and olive greens.

I managed to find a few brighter fabrics, as in this Dresden plate block, another block we learned in class:

But after a couple of blocks I had a problem. Everyone else was using a limited number of fabrics, all carefully co-ordinated, and constructing a traditional sampler quilt out of their class blocks. But I was going wild buying fabrics and trying different combinations in my blocks, so none of them matched. Even then I had the whole “if three colours are good, then thirty must be better” thing going on.

Besides, I’ve never liked sampler quilts. So some of my blocks got turned into cushions, and some of them just sat in the cupboard. For 17 years.

After about a year of lessons I went off into the world, armed with my newfound knowledge, and began to branch out. I started projects I saw in magazines:

This was but one of many blocks in a large country-style quilt. It was a lovely quilt, but I never got much further than this. Country can be beautiful, and I often admire it in other people’s houses, but it’s not really my thing.

The strip of yellow rectangles down the left-hand side in this picture is an off-cut from another UFO (UnFinished Object) I started in a workshop.

Other workshops produced finished quilt tops (though not, you will note, finished quilts):

and more off-cuts that I bundled into the bag with my lonely orphan blocks. The bag got bigger, with more off-cuts and left-over background blocks, such as the tumbler blocks that make up the background of this quilt I made for Drama Duck when she was born:

Hey, look at that! A rare sighting of an Actual Finished Quilt on this blog. Designed it myself, too. Mind you, I say I made it for her “when she was born”: that was certainly the intention, but I think she was three or four by the time it was finished.

And sometimes I made a few blocks just to try an idea, or for a project I then abandoned:

I know, you’re shocked. Me, abandoning a project.

So they went into the bag too.

Every so often I’d pull out the bag and fiddle with the bits and pieces inside. Everything was different sizes, different colours and styles. Nothing went together. I’d move things around then shake my head and stuff it all back into the cupboard.

Then late last year, inspired by the mad riot of clashing colours I saw every time I did a class with

It’s changed a lot along the way as I learned new skills, and started (and sometimes abandoned) new projects. There are pieces in there from quilts I love, pieces that mean something to me, as well as pieces I don’t really like. A lot of history.

So sometimes finishing has to take a long time. You have to allow time to learn the skills you need, time for your tastes (and even the materials available to you) to change, time to change direction half a dozen times. And then you can cobble together a Frankenquilt out of left-overs, experiments and memories.

I can’t call it finished yet, since the quilting’s not done, but the top is complete so, creatively speaking, it’s finished. A new creation out of spare parts. I’m really quite fond of my Frankenquilt, though opinions are divided among the rest of the household. Demon Duck thinks it’s really ugly. Baby Duck just thinks there’s too much quilting and crochet on my blog lately and not enough about important things.

Like him.