In my last post, I mentioned this Project Quilting challenge. I was pretty sure I wanted to do it and pretty sure I wanted to use this as an opportunity to try new techniques this year. So instead of letting the little voice in my head slow me down, I dug in!
"Hope Springs Eternal" here I come!!!
Those of you who have been reading my blog for some time know I am a microbiologist by training. And that I like to put a science geek twist on challenges...remember my "Under" challenge that brought you bacteria, viruses and fungi? Well, why not continue that tradition?
So, being a bit of a nerd, I started researching how hope can me measured or understood scientifically. What I found is that there is little research or anything that talks about how hope (or any version of positivity) affects anything. There is a huge focus on the negative behaviors and emotions (which, if we're being honest, does make sense), but the best I found talked about this imbalance of knowledge. So I had no chemical structures, no leading scientist, no groundbreaking theories to inspire me.
Maybe something that illustrates the imbalance of ideas? But how?
So I kept searching. Many keyword searches on many different platforms and I finally came across this poster:
This came from a website where you can order many graphics like this on shirts, posters, cell phone cases, etc. It spoke to me. Hope is not something scientists talk about. You create a hypothesis and try it out. Sure you hope you're right (or wrong), but it's not like you write up your paper "we hoped this would work"...no, you state that you had an idea and it did or did not pan out. But whether it was right or not, whether it worked or not, you keep on going. Either you revise your original hypothesis to try again, or you take your results and move to the next question.
This is how scientists work. In a very less visceral way, this is how "hope springs eternal" in the scientific community.
Due to the short deadline and questions about copyright issues, I didn't want to waste valuable time waiting for permission to recreate the graphic in my way. (Also, that's a lot of letters there in "experiment"!) So I kept reading and thinking, but this idea just wouldn't go away.
The following morning, in the shower, it hit me...and I made my own mock-up graphic:
Yes, it's not much different. (And I even had to download an app to my phone to make this snazzy thing!) But it embodies both the scientific pursuit, but due to "try" can also be transferred to just about any aspect of human life.
Early on, after seeing the original graphic, I knew I wanted to try free-piecing letters. Something I've never done, but if I'm going to grab this challenge for all its worth, this is a place to start. So again, being a bit of a nerd, I did some research. (Don't you just love smart phones? I can sit on the couch with the hubby and ignore his football game while also spending time with him...kinda...) I found a few websites and felt I was ready to tackle the task.
Off to the sewing room to start. I decided I would tackle my box of strings for the letters. I thought I had more greens, but it turns out my stash of blues was much larger. Much in part to one particular marbled blue that had many 2" strips, of which I have no memory of their origin. That's okay. Blue is good. Background? Into the stash and I found a marbled medium green - another I don't remember acquiring - in the quantity of about a half yard. That should be good, right?
I had no idea how to scale the letters. I expected they'd all end up a bunch of different sizes. I expected to fail and try again multiple times. But I started at the beginning and worked my way through. With a little note in my journal to cross off letters as I'd made them. (That crossing things off a list is something I do enjoy!)
In no time, I had two letter t's!
At this point, I realized that I was deconstructing letters in a way that I hadn't thought about since probably first grade when we were first learning to write them. I have learned to take for granted that my brain and hands work in concert to create letters every time I write without even thinking about them! This was a fun exercise - even realizing that an upside down a is an e! I'm sure at one point in my life I knew this and it was foremost in my mind, but it was a delightful rediscovery.
The letters quickly appeared on my design floor (I am not lucky enough to have a wall, but that's okay because the cats would surely knock everything down anyways...this way at least it's already down there!) and I absolutely fell in love with the a's. They kept me going to get all the letters done before I took a break for lunch. (And I still adore them.)
To my surprise, all the letters are about the same scale. I have absolutely no idea how I managed that. But I took it for a good sign that this project was meant to be.
But then came the next hurdle. I had overcome the letter creation, but now to make them all fit together! Lunch is often a time when I talk myself out of continuing in the sewing room and end up on the couch under a quilt and a pile of cats, with a book or the television remote. I wasn't going to let that happen. I know I still have a few days left, but you never know when true trouble will strike and I learned long ago in my career as a scientist, just do what needs to do be done when you can do it. Tomorrow-Katie will thank you!
Back up to the sewing room. And it hit me as absolutely obvious that they all needed to just be the same height. I'd worry about sewing them into a top after that. Well, that's not very hard is it? Much like letter deconstruction, this was one step at a time and turned out far simpler than I'd imagined.
With minimal ripping (I decided after the fact that the first t should have extra fabric under it, not on top, so that it looked like the tail of the y was hanging down below - something that was terribly obvious once I set it on the floor), I had the letters sewn into rows.
Along the way, though, I giggled a little...
...I love food!
The next decision was how to set the blocks? Left or center justified?
While the centered option called to my sense of organization, I finally decided that in science, it's not about making it pretty, it's about making it clear and factual. That's how the left justified option feels to me, so the decision was made.
The remaining steps were fairly simple. Just a skinny sashing between the rows...
...and some larger pieces to fill in the ends of shorter word rows (I almost ran out of green!)...
...and finally a skinny border around the outside to make sure the words stood out from the (to-be-blue) binding. I had to piece the outer border strips just a little, but nothing tragic. And I didn't run out. And I can now say this mystery green (that I didn't like all that much to start with) is gone from the stash! Yay stash reduction!!!
Now for the back.
I have a decent stash of back fabrics left over from larger quilts, so I went to that pile first. And what did I find? The absolutely perfect fabric. AND a piece large enough for this quilt without piecing it!
The cats were, of course, present to assist. They had been for multiple other steps, but I managed to sneak photos when they weren't mid-project. (No small feat!) But science geek fabric! This is left over from my science geek hexie quilt I did a few years back and even the colors were in the same families (though not quite a perfect match).
I sat on the floor with this for a while. I won't lie, a cat or two may have taken up residence in said lap, keeping me there perhaps longer than I should have been, but sometimes you just gotta do the kitty snuggles! I contemplated how to quilt it. My original idea was straight lines. But seeing the double helices in this fabric, I thought perhaps I could duplicate something along those lines.
After shooing the cats off the quilt a few times, I tried to mark the quilt in an effort to get double helices that looked somewhat uniform. That was not to be. The marking pen was dried up. The hera marker was not going to provide what I needed. So back to straight lines. That's okay, sometimes your first idea is the best one, right?
But do I have the right color thread to quilt this on the longarm? I don't have a ton of colors, but each family is at least singly represented. Guess what color green I don't have? Yep. I have a bright lime and a dark forest. Nothing that would look very good. And anything else I felt would take away from the design, just as too light or too dark would.
I guess I'm going to quilt this on my little machine with my "walking" (push, pull, drag, nearly break your arm) foot. Straight lines should go fast, right?
So I spray basted it, putting a sheet on the floor first so later I don't stick to my floor until enough cat hair covers it to take care of the problem. (Did I mention I broke my vacuum the morning I started this project? No, I didn't, did I? No joke, it's done for.)
Then to audition thread colors. I have a wider selection of greens in regular sewing thread, so out came the (hidden because naughty Gabby who threw all the threads on the floor 3 nights in a row while I was sleeping is still around) thread holder. I had a nice kelly green, but that was too dark. A lime green stood out like a sore thumb (but we'd established that earlier). I ended up with a pea green. Like canned peas pea green. It blended well with the green, so I was happy.
No photos of the quilting process, but I was on a roll. The hubby called when I was about 2/3 done to say he was on his way home from work (2 hours late) and starving. I told him I'd start his dinner as soon as this was quilted. (Still trying to convince him to just take 5 minutes to eat something at work - I've even bought him snacky foods to keep at his new, promotion-provided, desk, but alas...he's too "busy"...) So I pressed on and finished it. Straight lines go fast, but there are So. Many. And if we're still being honest, the idea in my head had them much closer together. But this is good, too.
After dinner, I trimmed and squared the quilt. I used a few more of the blue strips for binding. They were all about 2", so I ventured to try skinnier binding than I usually do and it went fine. I moved my needle over a bit to take a slightly skinnier seam allowance and then, after a few friends have told me they press their binding before turning, I tried that. What a wonderful idea! It helped a TON, I'm sure! Even turning the corners was easier. (But I'm not sure I'd tackle pressing binding on a queen-size quilt...well, maybe...)
The hubby requested my presence with him in the evening, so I couldn't sew down the binding. I suppose, though, it was okay. He does deserve some time with me and since I was gone for 4 days over the past weekend, he claims to have missed me!
This morning, though, I was up and out of bed, ready to get this finished! The cats, though, had other ideas...
I got one pin in place to turn the binding in preparation for hand-sewing it down on the back and this happened. At one point four of the five were all on top of or next to me. The two pictured here are the worst of the thread-chasers. And Lexie (the grey one) being deaf, doesn't even know you're yelling at her to stop. Fun times.
Eventually, they settled down and I managed to get the binding sewn down. It was musical cats, though, during the process and by the time I was done, all five of my fur-babies had visited. They usually help me with this step, but I cringe with how much fur some of them leave behind!
I knew to consider this truly finished, it needed a label. I'm terrible about labeling the quilts I keep for myself, but this being a challenge, I knew it needed to be labelled accordingly.
(I crossed out where I live via technology. Sorry folks, but not terribly important to you.)
And the final quilt?
Laying on the floor of my living room in what looks like it might be sunshine. Well, I guess for January in the northern hemisphere, this qualifies for sunshine!
It measures about 24x26.
It's larger than I imagined, but since I had no idea what I was doing when I started those letters, I'm just happy it didn't turn out queen-sized! (Because sometimes that sort of thing happens to me...)
So there you have it. Science geek Katie's entry into the Project Quilting Season 10, Project 1 competition. If you want to see the others, click on the link at the beginning of this post. There are already a few up and it's fun to see how different folks interpret the well-known saying.
“Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest.
The soul, uneasy, and confin'd from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.”