Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The Babushka Quilt

This project was definitely not made in an hour. It's been months in the making. So while I'm not suggesting you try it while your children nap, I wanted to document it anyway.

My grandmother died last September, on my 31st birthday. There was no funeral; instead, we are getting together next month for an interment of her ashes. This quilt, in a way, was my grieving. I started planning it in October, when my mother gave me two of Nana's scarves. They had been well chewed by the moths, and the cream one in particular was almost paper thin. But I decided it could be salvaged for a quilt, if I could bring myself to cut it up.

So I started mulling this over. At first, I thought the quilt would have a colour theme, just reds and greys. But then I decided I wanted it to reflect different aspects of my grandmother. She was a musician - a violinist. She loved birds, and I remember watching cardinals from her Long Island home. She was crafty, and she was Russian*. She loved cats, and bright and bold things.

I set out to find fabrics that reflected this, and eBay was a godsend for quickly finding various themed fat quarters. Russian FQ. Violin FQ. Cardinal FQ. Cat FQ. Moscow FQ, and so on! Over a few months, I collected about 18 different fabrics that I thought would work - and then I had to decide what to do with them.

The original idea had been a Log Cabin quilt, as Nana had always said she wanted to live in a little log cabin surrounded by cats. But I soon realised that most of my patterns were too large to work in narrow strips, and so I wavered between two or three other patterns before finally deciding on a Moda one which now seems to have disappeared from the website - sorry no link! (The site is fantastic, though, for free quilting patterns.)

So I cut out the fabrics, carefully deciding which parts of the patterns to use. I got up the nerve to cut one shawl; the other stayed intact. I also had to learn how to darn, and fix the tiny holes in the shawl (which I then backed with cotton to give it a bit of strength). I ran into endless nightmares with running out of fabric, cutting pieces the wrong size, and so on. Only once I had cut everything out and laid it out on the floor to start sewing did I realise I should have cut all my pieces as diamonds rather than squares to avoid the squint look that the quilt now has... But after two weeks of dithering I decided to forget about it and sew on.

I backed it in dark red flannel, and did my usual terrible quilting job. But I am happy with it. It is as I wanted it to be.

Last week I finished it and posted it, recorded delivery, mistakes and all, to my mum for her Mother's Day present (Canadian Mother's Day is in May - I'm not just really late here!). She got it today, and so I can now show the photos:

Here it is, pieced, before I started quilting it (aka messing it up)

Close up

Backed with red flannel. And unfortunately, I decided to take this photo just where my worse quilting mistake was! Oops.

My grandmother's shawl as the corner piece

*or so she thought. Turns out her family came from an area of what is now Belarus, but has been Russian, Polish, and Lithuanian as well.

1 comment:

  1. Just beautiful, what a gorgeous tribute to your grandmother. I'm sure making your quilt gave you some quality time to sit and reflect on your Nana's life. I bet your Mom (and Nana!) loves it to bits too.