Tuesday, March 5, 2013

I guess I am a quilt snob . . . or maybe just a purist.

I was raised by a family of women who quilted.  It was how we celebrated - - new babies, new marriages, new beginnings.  When I was no older than about 6 or 7, I remember sitting on a step stool at an orange patterned quilt that was for my older sister and proudly adding my own stitches to the pattern.  Funny I didn't notice that the next day they looked much smaller and neater than when I first did them.  (Apparently, either my Mom or Grandma had redone them after I was safely tucked into bed.)

Over the years, my technique improved.  We did a lot of quilts.  Every new baby received a baby quilt . . . most quilted on a fabric we call tricot, which was a slick and finely knitted polyester of some sort popular in the 1970s.  These quilts did not involve patchwork, but instead had large designs of animals or flowers drawn on them, generally with fabric paint -- oh yes,  Artex Paints .  We quilted deer, bunnies, baby chicks, lambs . . . in fact, the Pumpkin's 'lovey' is the same lamb pattern that we used back then. 

At some point, my mom became enamoured with patchwork.  Not just any patchwork, but patchwork made from polyester double knit.  She made quilts for each of her grandchildren, mostly in the log cabin pattern.  She made me one of bright yellow and purple . . . my favourite colour combination when I was a teen.  Some she tied with contrasting wool and some she quilted in a crows' feet stitch

Handmade quilts were part of my life since forever.  They were pretty much all I had ever known.  My paternal grandmother made a raft of 'crazy quilts' and I recall using them to pitch tents along the picket fence that surrounded our house. 

I knew that other types of quilts and blankets existed.  One of my friends had Ibex blanket sheets on her bed.  These were thick, heavy warm sheets.  Other friends had what were called thermal blankets which had a strange waffle like weave.  But to me, none of these were what belonged on a bed.  Perhaps the only exception in my family was the use of chenille bedspreads over quilts.

It has been many years since I quilted beside my Mom.  The very last quilt she made before her hands became too sore and her eyesight too dim is one for my daughter. 

My sister PA and I carry on the quilting tradition.  She makes quilts for babies and new couples.  The Pumpkin's 'lambie' blanket was made by PA and is what my baby arrived home from the hospital wrapped in.  I am not quite as prolific as my sister, but I have made many quilts for myself and for friends over the years.  Baby quilts are made using the same wooden 'frames' that were used by my grandmother and perhaps by her mother before her.  They are plain 1x2x4s that are some wood that is both strong enough not to sag under the weight of the quilt and soft enough to easily thumbtack the quilt in place.  For larger quilts, I have several times purchased pine 1x3x8s, but they always end up getting cut up for projects after the quilt is finished.  Eight food lengths of wood are not easily stored.

My sister uses frames made from PVC pipe that look like this:

I had a set many years ago, but I do not recall what happened to them.  Undoubtedly they were lost or given away during one of my many moves. 

Since I am planning to make some larger-than-baby-size quilts, I went in search of a set of these frames.  Now, keep in mind I live in a large city in Canada, where generally there are several suppliers of any item you could imagine needing.  I had priced them out at the chain fabric store, but thought that I might find them at a better price at one of the boutique quilt stores (where amazingly most quilt-related items are priced lower than at the chain).  A couple of weeks ago I went in and as I wandered the aisles looking for where quilt frames were kept, I became slightly confused.  Upon reaching the back of the store and not seeing anything resembling quilting frames of any kind, I trundled back to the front to do another search.  Finally I asked one of the clerks where they kept the 'quilt frames'.

She took me over to look at something like this:

I said, "No, I want QUILTING frames.  You know for actually 'quilting'?"  I mimed the action of quilting up and down by hand.

She called to one of the more senior clerks who advised:  "Oh, we don't carry those."

I'm sure the look on my face was something to behold.  I crinkled my forehead and said:  "But I thought you were a QUILTING store?"

When she pointed back to the machine set up, I said, "I'm sorry but that is SEWING.  Sewing is done with machines.  Quilting is done by hand."  I left the store shaking my head. 

So I have accepted I am a quilt snob.  If it is done by machine, it is sewing.  I confess I did ONCE sew a small quilt on my machine. . .it was a handprint patchwork for my daughter's preschool class to raffle for a fundraiser -- I was sure I could feel my grandmother standing behind me shaking her head the entire time. 

When I conferred with my sister, she too said she had tried to make a quilt using a machine for the stitching.  But she JUST.COULDN'T.DO.IT.  We agreed that it just was wrong - - for us.  And that quilting by definition means using our hands.  It is putting something of US into the project.  Time.  Energy.  Blood. Not to mention the heritage of women sitting around a quilt in communal work.  Machine sewing is just so. . . so . . . individual.  And, even when I work alone on a quilt, I feel the presence of not only my mother but my aunts, my grandmothers and many generations before.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Maximum Fun

I am a dog person . . . and to a somewhat lesser extent a cat person.  In addition to the two bipeds who currently live at my house, we have a total of four quadrapeds -- two canine and two feline.  At one point we also had two snake-type (i.e. no-peds) but they both slithered off to the Rainbow Bridge.  This post is about the most junior member of the household.

Max turned five in November and he is very much like most 5 year old boy creatures.  He enjoys junk food (whenever he can lay his paws on it), sleeping in on the weekends, harassing his sisters (mostly the feline one, who I will admit seems to egg him on) and he will cuddle up if he thinks there is something in it for him.  He is cute and he knows how to use it to his advantage.

Now, Max came to our family when he was already almost two years old.  My cousin had rescued him from an owner who was unhappy that he was not a the 5-pound 'Yorkie' she believed she had bought.  She was planning to have him 'put down'.  There is a very special place in Hell for someone who would consider doing that.  Seriously, I do not care what his "papers" (not CKC variety) say, he is NOT a Yorkie.  He weighs a healthy 15 pounds and no matter how long we go between trips to the puppy parlour, his hair never gets long and silky.  He has a double-coat with a water-proof outer layer, like a Cairn or Westie.  My personal opinion (and that of my vet and her techs) is that he is an Australian Terrier -- pretty much breed standard in fact. 

Max was rehomed with me when my dear cousin's first grandbaby was born and she found her house overfull with 2 teens, a baby and 3 dogs.  Max fit into our household quite well, making friends with the senior canine (Scully, who was 13 at the time) and working out the pecking order with the two kitties. 

The first hint of Max's issues began when one of the Pumpkin's friends came for a sleepover. S is yet another of the Pumpkin's beautiful and creative friends.  The fact she arrived at our house wearing kitten ears and a tail (and no, it wasn't Hallowe'en) tells much.  However, for a girl who lives in a house of critters (dogs, cats and the occasional bird or other beastie she rescues when it is in need of TLC), she did not react well to Max's barking at the door.  For the record, the best way to 'react' when a dog barks and jumps at the front door (especially one where the owner is standing next to it and is clearly trying to work with it) is to stand still and let the dog be 'introduced' to you.  S, did not do this.  She RAN, which to Max meant "chase me and bring me down".  He nipped her ankle.  No skin was broken or blood drawn, thankfully. 

The next 'incident' was when we were walking around the local lake in our old neighbourhood.  Scully has always been good at meeting the proverbial 'puppies in your neighbourhood'.  Max, not so much.  He would bark and lunge.  One evening on our after supper walk, we met up with an adorable Golden Retriever Pup.  At first, I thought Max was just being 'dog' and greeting the baby (who was Max's size already).  The baby 'nipped' at Max (as babies are prone to do) and Max nipped back.  I was mortified.  The poor little pup's nose was scratched.  I apologized and got the owner's phone number.  When I called her back after we had gotten home, she said the pup was fine.   I suggested a rematch in about 8 months when said puppy would be 4 or 5 times Max's size.

Flash forward to last year after we had moved to Calgary.  Puppy walks through the neighbourhood were getting painful . . . with Max essentially 'going off' everytime he saw any other creature in the vicinity.  It did not matter if it was a squirrel, a bunny, another dog or one of the free-range neighbourhood cats.  He was also getting worse, not better at the door.  Finally, in an act of desperation we signed up for a class called "Goodbye Growl" and spent 10 weeks working on Max being able to be in the same space with another on-leash dog.  OY.  He wasn't the worst in the class, but he wasn't the star either.  I resigned myself to trying to work with him (reward him for staying calm when we would see other creatures on our walks) and accepting that this was just how his temperament was.

Recently I started dating a fellow who also has critters.  He has two adorable Bichon/Cocker Spaniel crosses who love, love, love the off leash parks that dot our city.  A couple of weeks ago we decided it was time to introduce the dogs.  I brought Max (Scully is getting too old for long walks, especially on chilly days) to the off leash park with the understanding that it might be a very, very, very short stay.  I pretty much figured Max would go completely psycho, I would scoop him up and toss him back in the car and that would be that.

Guess I underestimated the little dude.  Once off leash he was in his element.  He frolicked, he played, he made friends -- not just with my friend's dogs but with any number of assorted canines.  I spent most of the time we were there shaking my head in wonder and amazement. 

Max is a completely different critter when he can run free . . . He is happier when he gets some quality play time and I am a happier owner.

Now, if he could just stop wanting to kill visitors.....