Friday, January 06, 2006

How I Spent the Martin Luther King Holiday

How I Spent the Martin Luther King Holiday
DATE: 01/16/2006 10:57:08 PM

From the original "Friendster" version of State of the Craft.

Fabric Depot, a grim Portland big-box superstore devoted strictly to fabric -- well, fabric and "notions" -- was advertising a "Martin Luther King Day 30% Off Sale" for today. Who would have thought, 40 years ago, that Dr. King's legacy would include discount fabric for Portland hobbyists? I can't decide whether it represents societal progress, or decline, or what.

This three-day weekend, in any event, has been one of my biggest quilting binges ever. The weather has been absolutely perfect for quilting, and I haven't done much else. Having been out of commission for most of the last month and a half, I have a lot of lost time to make up if I'm going to finish my challenge piece by the late-March deadline. My goal for this weekend was to lay out a "rough draft" of the piece, and happily I completed that last night and got in another seven or eight hours of revision and even a little sewing today.

Now, as I said before, I'm not supposed to reveal what I'm working on for the challenge. Let's just say it is neither a block quilt, where the face is composed of a grid of blocks which can initially be worked on individually, nor a symetrical pattern where bits can be worked on without reference to the whole. Instead, it's an assymetrical pattern in which each single piece -- there are more than 600 -- needs to be individually planned and placed before any sewing can happen.

So, when I say I was "laying out" the quilt, I was literally arranging the pieces on a table cleared for the occasion in my "studio," here. Now that they are laid out, but very little is sewn together, the whole project is extremely vulnerable. Since there's no door on the room, I'm keeping a piece of plywood over the opening at all times, as a cat leaping up onto the table could immediately undo ten hours of work. That would be bad. It's worrying enough that I was trying to think yesterday if there was any way to protect the layout against the possibility of earthquake. But I suppose if the earthquake hits I'll have other things to worry about anyway.

I mentioned in the first entry that this is a "guild challenge." Here's how it works: the American Quilter's Society picked the fabric. Guilds across the U.S. each select a theme; my guild, Northwest Quilters, picked "Show Off Oregon" (which must be a little annoying to members from the 'Couv, but that's not my problem). Individual guild members prepare a quilt on that theme, and submit them by the end of March. At the April meeting, the guild will vote to select the eight best pieces. (The whole thing with the secrecy is to keep the vote honest, rather than having it turn into a popularity contest). Then, at the national convention, the competition is guild vs. guild.

Returning readers will remember that I am a bit insecure about my standing in the quilting world. Now, it so happens that this challenge has been an opportunity for me to try out an idea I've had knocking around for more than ten years. But at the same time, it's also another opportunity to try to establish some cred within the guild. I'm not really expecting my entry will be in the top eight that go to the national conference, but if I can submit an ambitious, original, well-made, and (most importantly) finished piece that gives the winners a run for their money, I'll be happy. It's definitely original and ambitious -- you will have to take my word on that, for now -- but I will have to put in a lot of hours to get it finished, let alone well-made. I might take a extra few days off to work on it.

This challenge project reminds me a little bit of my largest-scale project, one that I've been working on for two years already and estimate I'll finish in 2009. It's called "Labyrinth." It is, well, a labyrinth. It's a big one, executed in 1 1/2 " squares. The photo shows a completed corner of it, about 200 individual squares. The completed quilt will consist of more than 3000 individual squares. Like the challenge quilt, this is another piece that requires laying out, but there are no tables in the house anywhere close to large enough. When I work on layout for this sucker, I take apart our futon and use the entire floor area of our bedroom, and we sleep in the guestroom for a few nights. I think that it will ultimately be a pretty cool thing and prove well worth the years of work and hassle. But, I'll feel stupid if it's a bomb.


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