Friday, June 12, 2015

The White Quilt: And the story of why it took nearly 20 years to complete

Our son, Aaron, and daughter-in-law, Christa, celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary on Wednesday.
You know how you look at your babies and then toddlers and wonder why each phase is passing so quickly, and how you wish you could just tell them to stop growing for a little bit? I look at this picture and wonder how it is possible that now they have their own children, including one who just completed third grade!

So a long time ago, in a galaxy far away....

Just kidding. I think it was in the late 1990s, maybe before Aaron had even graduated from high school and I had not been quilting all that long, I found a pattern for a "white on white heirloom quilt."
It was a booklet of sixteen 18" blocks, all hand quilted. So I purchased the pattern and some solid white fabric, and got to work.

A few years later, probably 1998-ish, Aaron had fallen in love with the beautiful Christa, and in my head I thought this could be an engagement quilt. Not quite finished. Maybe a wedding quilt. Still not finished. Maybe a first anniversary quilt. Nope, not done. Five-year anniversary? It came and went.

I worked on the blocks sporadically, and they were all quilted on this hoop.

When they were finally completed (I have no idea what year that would have been), they were folded and put away. I always meant to just power through and put the blocks together. But then "life" happened and I was busy with other projects. Every once in awhile, Christa would kind of quietly mention, "So about that white quilt...." and I would respond with, "yes, I haven't forgotten...." and then I would forget and go on to something else. Mark would try to nudge me along with reminders like "you know, you really should just get that white quilt DONE." Yeah, yeah, someday....

And then I realized this was the year of a big anniversary for them--15 years. I have already been on a mission to complete quilts that have been long languishing on a shelf. So I got out all those blocks and tried to figure out how to put the top together.

Since quilt-as-you-go has gained popularity, I'm sure there are other ways I could have approached this, but I followed the instructions in the booklet.

Step 1 was to sew the blocks together, top layer only, right sides together, after first pinning the batting and backing out of the way, and then iron the seam open. This skinny pressing bar was really helpful.

Step 2 involved trimming 1/4" of the batting from each block to get it out of the seam allowance, and then whip stitching the raw edges together.
Step 3 involved pressing the edge of one side of the backing seam under by 1/4" and then hand sewing it on top of the other edge.

That took a couple of days. Those long horizontal seams were pretty slow going.

As I was working on it, it was kind of like looking at a quilt that someone else had completed. I have to admit to being kind of impressed with my tiny and precise stitches. I'm not sure I could duplicate them at this point.

There are some funny little quirks--while I tried to trim the blocks as evenly as possible, and keep everything nice and straight when sewing the front layers and the back layers together, there was still a bit of shifting.

On the back I found this random piece of blue thread quilted into a place where I could not retrieve it, and also  few places where I had managed to quilt a pleat into the back! Oh, and even a spot of blood (you will be happy to know that I did not photograph that one). 
 It was pretty thrilling when it was finally time for photographs of a completed quilt!
Choosing a favorite block was kind of like choosing a favorite child, but I really like these:
As I was trying to figure out how to wrap it, I kept getting an image of it simply folded and tied with a blue satin ribbon. My dear friend, Dotty, did the most beautiful job, adding some white lacy ribbon and a white rose. It was extra special to have Dotty do this--she is the one who taught me how to hand quilt.
Isn't it beautiful?
Aaron and Christa stopped by on their way to dinner. I can't even begin to tell you how thrilling it was to hand over something that has spanned so many years, so many hours, so many yards of white quilting thread, made for two people I love so very VERY much.
Quilt stats:
Size: 72" x 72"
Pattern by: Maud von Bergh-Arnoldus
Completely hand quilted and pieced by: me (the sewing machine was only used to sew the top layers together and attach the binding to the front--otherwise everything was done by hand).

Things I would change (if I could): Back when I started, I had no clue about solid quilting cotton. For all I know, this is just white muslin. I'm not even sure it's 100 percent cotton. I hope it holds up over the years--it seems fine when I compare it to the quality solid cottons I work with now, but still, it's a bit of a mystery. Also, I could definitely use white batting--I'm not even sure white batting was available when I started this project. It probably was, but quilting was new to me so it didn't even occur to me to check on that. I didn't think it would make much of a difference, but when I put on the binding, it looks so much more white than the body of the quilt. Oh, well...

The most important thing is that it is done and has been passed on to two very special people. And I can tell you for certain that Mark played a big part in its completion--if it were not for his gentle nudging and encouragement, it would still not be done.

I think they are happy with it.
Oh, and the label.
And now I think I'll link it to as many places as possible: crazy mom quilts  TGIFF and
Confessions of a Fabric Addict.


05 08
dutchcomfort said... #

Such a precious gift, a gorgeous handmade quilt and a great explanation of how to assemble handquilted blocks with the QAYG technique. Visitors of my blog often asked how I assembled my Camelot quilt blocks which are also hand-QAYG, so now I can refer to your blogpost! Thanks!

Kaelyn Angelfoot said... #

Its beautiful!

Mary on Lake Pulaski said... #

How beautiful and inspiring Cindy!

Juliet @ Tartankiwi said... #

This is stunning! I love that you finally finished it.

Susan said... #

What a beautiful story about a beautiful quilt! This beauty will surely be handed down through the generations spreading the love around!

Grandma G said... #

That is an amazing quilt, Cindy! I can't even begin to imagine making all those tiny hand stitches! What a great feeling it must be to have finally COMPLETED it! Yay for you!!

pennydog said... #

What an amazing finish!!

Mark said... #

I had the privilege to watch this project from the start it is truly an heirloom. The hours we sat and watched ESPN and sports together while she quilted, well I should say I watched and the TV was just white noise to her. It was like a game every time one block was finished it was a celebration and she would lay it on floor with the other completed blocks. The big delay was how to put the blocks together, sashing no sashing, machine or hand sew. Finally it was decided and I can tell you the patience and time was amazing to watch you put it all together. Cindy I have seen every quilt and the story behind each one, this white quilt has no words to describe it other than a work of love it is truly amazing! Proud of you and glad to have been your "nudger"

Amy Friend said... #

Oh, your husband's comment is so wonderful...Marks are clearly the best :) This is quite the impressive finish and a generous gift that I am sure will be cherished!

Jayne said... #

What a story! I admire how you stuck with it through all those years. I don't think I would have! The quilting is just amazing. Each tiny stitch, by hand....the time! I love that Mark stuck with you too! He seems to know and appreciate quilting and the blood, sweat & tears that go in to each and every one...especially this one! Way to go Cindy!!

Terri said... #

Beautiful quilt! What a thrill to make it, finish it and gift it! It turned out so amazing - well done!

Needled Mom said... #

I am so glad that you did not let this one stay on the shelf. It is just stunning and I am sure it will be treasured for years and years to come.

Heide said... #

Stunning work! What a beautiful gift, a wonderful family heirloom.

Rene' said... #

This is spectacular Cindy!!! Your hand quilting is truly beautiful! What a labor of love for two very special people! I so enjoyed reading this post and the journey of your white quilt. Well done you!

Jodi said... #

Kudos!!! Wonderful that it does not join so many other unfinished quilts that end up in yard sales or second-hand shops with no info. It will be loved and enjoyed. After washing and drying, it will be even more beautiful!

LJ said... #

Oh it's Just Lovely!!! A treasure forever =))
(And what a beautiful bow!)

Ann said... #

What a wonderful story, a lovely quilt and a beautiful couple. Congratulations to all of you, including Mark.

Carla said... #

Bravo Cindy!! What a treasure they have now. They both looked very pleased

Dora, the Quilter said... #

What a wonderful achievement!
(I've had good luck removing stray threads with a tiny size 14 crochet hook.)

Joan said... #

Gorgeous quilt and a wonderful gift! Thank you for your excellent tutorial on the QAYG method.

Cathy said... #

It is gorgeous!!! I've got projects like that too. Doesn't it feel good to have it done!!

Unknown said... #

So beautiful and a lovely story--I think it's almost nicer to receive such a gift later in your marriage :-) Congratulations!

felicity said... #

You *should* be linking this up all over the darn place. It's so beautiful and I absolutely love the story. That Dotty helped wrap it is just icing on the already-wonderful cake.

Archie The Wonder Dog said... #

It's beautiful and well worth the wait!

P.S. If it bothers you, you can remove that blue thread - use a fine needle/pin to poke through the top layer and 'hook' it out with the tip. It may take a few goes but it can be done!

Charlotte said... #

that label is the best! What a wonderful story and a beautiful quilt - sure to be treasured

Marla said... #

It is beautiful, and a testament to your love and perseverance. I quilted a whole cloth that took me over 10 years, but I can't imagine getting all the blocks finished and still have the block assembly stage still ahead of you!

Christals Creations said... #

What a beautiful gift. :)

Leanne Parsons said... #

That is absolutely gorgeous! And it must feel wonderful to have that off your to-finish list :)

Diane Kelsey said... #

A wonderful heirloom and precious gift to treasure. So pleased you finally finished it, such a sense of achievement.

Doris said... #

The label is CLASSIC! Lovely! and DONE!

Diane E W said... #

This a such a beautiful quilt and story. 15 years is not such a long time, I bet it means more to them now than it would have 15 years ago. Seems like I still need to finish the cross stitch quilt, it is the Wizard of Oz, that I started right after I had my first son. It was going to go in his nursery. That was 40 years ago, geez, wonder if the thread is still good. See your not the only one.

Karen @ Pieces of Contentment said... #

Wonderful quilt, story and label! It must feel amazing to have finally completed it and be able to look at all your work.

OPQuilt said... #

Stunningly beautiful quilt and such a lovely story to go with it. I, too, feel like quilting has been involved with some of the best milestones of my life. And now Aaron and Christa will have an heirloom forever. That quilt label is the best--you are amazing. Now go soak your fingers.

Sandra W said... #

It's a beautiful quilt. Bravo.
You can remove the blue thread by using a "knit fixer." The is in the notions department and is quite small. It is used for fixing pulls in sweaters but it is very small with a fine hook and you can nudge it through cotton. Quilt as you go, does shift, if you do it one a backing. I think the quilt as you go style works best when it is just d sewn to batting. This allows you to square up the work and is generally more successful. I find that when the back is also included that the reslts are always slight off and frankly a little messy. said... #

Wow, there's a lot of love in that quilt. What an amazing job you've done. I think the tag is cute; "This Quilt Took Forever."

Karen said... #

That is just so beautiful! Your hand quilting is lovely. I know exactly how you feel as I too just finished a quilt top for a family member that has been hanging around waiting for its time to shine. Next stop for me is off to the long armer as it is huge.

JanineMarie said... #

Such a beautiful quilt, and such a beautiful story to go with it! Congratulations on a wonderful finish and gift! And I cracked up when I read the label.

Vicki said... #

The kids look adorable on the floor!! This is just beautiful. Yaaaaaay YOU!!

Debbie said... #

oh isn't this gorgeous! Just beautiful - what an awesome accomplished and a precious story...

Jenny said... #

What a lovely story - and a wonderful quilt!! You can be very pleased with your precious gift.

Jenny from New Zealand

Sally said... #

Very beautiful! I love the story, especially since I'm not so good at getting things done in a timely fashion, especially when they take longer than I think or I hit a roadblock. Your son and daughter-in-law will treasure this for the rest of their lives and their children will treasure it after that.

Beth said... #

Love the quilt and the story! What an heirloom that is sure to be treasured.

Daytona Damsel said... #

Amazing Quilt

Katy McCoy said... #

Gosh, that is just a beautiful quilt and a great story. I enjoy your blog so much. Now, I'm not feeling so bad about my son's high school graduation quilt, which still needs to be bound. It's only two years late!

Gretchen Wylegala said... #

So beautiful!

M-R Charbonneau said... #

Woo hoo! Way to go, Cindy! It's so gorgeous -- what an heirloom piece. Love, love, love that label! Congrats on the finish!

Wendy @ Wendysquiltsandmore said... #

That's beautiful, and the fact that Christa kept inquiring about it means that she will look after it. It represents so much work - what a fantastic gift.

Snowcatcher said... #

WOW!!! I'm looking at this with my husband looking over my shoulder, and both of us are in total awe! Magnificent!

Anne / Springleaf Studios said... #

This is soooo special and beautiful. Well done. I love that label too.

wish2stitch said... #

What a stunning beautiful quilt. One that Aaron and Christa will treasure forever. So wonderful that you finished it. Visiting from FIUF.

Dani said... #

Cindy it is stunning! What an incredible heirloom that will be treasured for generations

Val's Quilting Studio said... #

Oh my...I'm speechless. What a wonderful story and the ending pics made me smile!! LOVE IT!

Rochelle aka Bella Quilts said... #

Thank you for such a wonderful story about your quilt gift. It is inspiring and will be something to remember when I think of a project that needs to be finished and is a bit challenging. Great pictures and the label was delightful!!

FlourishingPalms said... #

This is so darned special, Cindy! I can truly comprehend how much time you spent on this, and it's admirable! Intermittently diligent... just the way I like to work too! Love this story and your great photos. All of it is memory-making. Well done!

Kym said... #

Love this quilt and the story behind it so much! Was teary reading it, then Mark's comment tipped me over the edge. LOL! Truly an heirloom treasure for your family to enjoy. So special!

Joanie's Trendy Quilts said... #

A beautiful finish and sweet story!

Southern Gal said... #

That's a gorgeous quilt and a great story to go along with it. I know you are so happy to be done with it, but I think they are even more happy to have it in their possession!

Quiltgal said... #

Absolutely Beautiful. Well worth the wait. said... #

I am in awe. You have truly created a family heirloom.

Tiina said... #

Wonderful quilt! Good thing it is now finished. Label is great, too :-)

Camille Mendel said... #

What a stunning, impressive quilt. A service of love for sure. You have inspired me! Can you share what method you used to mark the quilting lines of each block? I hope you haven't addressed this somewhere and I missed it. Truly amazing work!

greg @ grey dogwood studio said... #

I love this story! And I love that you never gave up. Your son and DIL must be sooo happy. And that label just makes me laugh, in a good way :-)

Cheryl said... #

Wow. Just wow. Your patience and skills are amazing. Wow.

Joy said... #

Forever was so worth the wait. it is a beautiful quilt, and so precious .

Unknown said... #

what can I say what an extraordinary stunning piece. Fabulous workmanship so stunning. A quilt ro be passed down to generations to come. Beautiful.