The Rose Quilt

Remember I promised I’d tell you the tale of how the Rose Quilt gargoyle came to be? Well, here it is. Pop some corn, brew a cuppa, and settle down.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

Many years ago, when when the world was young and so was I, before wrinkles began to appear upon my face (i.e. about twelve or thirteen years ago), I went to a charity quiz day. It was a great deal of fun. I wasn’t on the winning team, but I did win the prize for Youngest Person Present; and I won some LPs in the auction of donated items which formed part of the day’s entertainment.

Where does the quilt come into it, I hear you ask? Bear with…
You see, it occurred to me, idealistic young creature that I was, that I could make something to donate to the auction at the next year’s charity quiz. But what?

It was then that the Murky Fog of Great Foolishness settled about my head. I saw in a book a paint-by-numbers image of a spray of roses, intended to be applied to plates for an elegant dinner set.

Paint By NumberGosh, thought I, my mental processes already under the dizzying effect of aforementioned Murky Fog. Wouldn’t this look good if it was an appliqué quilt – and a metre and a half across? (That’s about five feet, for the imperialists.)

Sadly, being a student at a university possessed of large copying machines, it was all too easy to produce an enlarged paper version of my mad vision, and then…

And then everything slowed down.

There are about two hundred pieces to this thing, and each one needed to be cut in paper, clearly numbered, laid out (the other way up) on the right colour of cloth (two packs of fat quarters), cut, and tacked. And then I could start on the piecing.

By mid 2008, it looked like this:

Those of you who are good at estimating may have noticed that there are fewer than two hundred pieces shown. That is because only the background parts of each leaf are shown. (You didn’t think I would leave it this simple, did you?)

Those of you who are good at observing may have noticed that these pieces are not actually sewn together, just laid out on newsprint, and that some of the pieces still have tacking stitches.

Fast-forward a few years, to about 2010, and… I’m an unemployed graduate, still sewing little patches on to leaves.

Fast-forward… oh, say, another five years, and I’m married, living in another city, and trying to downsize. I’m living in a house with a spare room, and so I lay the whole thing out and think about chucking it.

Seamstress, Whitsunday morning, by Wenzel Tornoe
But I don’t. I keep going. I sew the elements together into one enormous unwieldy motif (for those of you who are thinking of doing this: don’t), and I pad it. And then I lay out the backing and I pin and re-pin and eventually decide that it’s going to look munted anyway and so I might as well just get it done.

So I sew on the bud and the leaves around it… and then I shovel it all back into the bag for another year or two. Until at last I learned prudence and now it’s coming along. In fact, I was feeling downright chirpy about it until I realized that I have got almost all the way through the step that I started a couple or three years ago. Woo…

Once that’s done, I only need to mark the quilting patterns, make the sandwich (front, batting, back), tack the sandwich together, quilt it, bind the edges, and then get rid of the plaguey thing.
If you’re in the market for a munted circular quilt of extremely variable workmanship, let me know. I’ll try to have it finished before old age overtakes me completely.

Walter Langley - The Old Quilt
So there you have it, my friends. Learn from my mistakes: put the crazy idea down and step away from the enlarging photocopier.

Making it Happen

Ten years ago I had a dream: a dream of making a beautiful quilt for a friend. Something warm and cosy; something to curl up under while watching classic movies and sipping cocoa on a winter afternoon.

Crazy Quilt, 1884

I went for it.
Did I make a perfect little lap quilt? I did not. Did I make a comfortably-sized one-person wrap quilt? I did not. Did I make a freakishly over-ambitious monster crazy quilt with emphasis on the crazy?
Well, no. I started one.

I chugged away at it, but it was not long before I realized it was not going to be finished in time for the intended birthday. It’s been bundled in and out of boxes and bags and wardrobes ever since, worked on here and there, added to in fits and starts, but mostly just taking up space and making me feel guilty.

If I’m honest, this one project was a big part of my decision to make 2015 my Year of Finishing Things. Over the years it had become symbolic of my lack of self-discipline, my good intentions never followed through, and my failure to finish anything I started.


Not surprisingly, all the feelings bundled up with this UFO (Unfinished Fabric Object) made me reluctant to go near the thing, let alone commit to the many, many hours it would take to finish it. But it was still there, a big fat purple plug between me and moving on. So this year, I decided, I was going to get it out of the way. I was going to finish it, and thus become a Person Who Finishes Things.

I had the best of intentions, and when those failed, I made a rough plan. That made a bit of progress, which then fizzled out, so I made a more detailed plan. Which I didn’t keep. Then I made an even more detailed plan, which led to more progress, which also fizzled out. I even made a place for it in my schedule.

What I didn’t make was a commitment. If I was already doing something else, if I didn’t feel up to it, if I just didn’t want to, I didn’t. I still wanted it done, I just didn’t want to do it. No – that’s not quite right. I wished it were done – but I didn’t want to do it.

I did do bits here and there, but the small amount of progress I made was swallowed up by the magnitude of the undertaking. The quilt top is 155cm wide and 200cm long (about 5ft by 6 1/2), and has perhaps a hundred pieces, each with multiple edges to sew, embroider and embellish. Not quite big enough for the Great Bed of Ware, but it’s felt like it at times.

Bed of Ware

But the only way out is through, and there were some things I did that helped.

First, I sat down and asked myself what the obstacles were that prevented me working on it. A big one was the amount of time and effort involved just to get it out, spread it out, figure out where to work next, and put it away again at the end – if I could only find half an hour at a time, just handling it would eat most of that.

So I found somewhere where I could leave it folded and rolled, with the active part spread out in the middle. I made it easy for myself to just sit down and do a bit. I worked on one area at a time, so I could see and gauge my progress. I also borrowed and downloaded audiobooks (legally) to listen to as I stitched away.

I haven’t finished it yet – there’s still the centre section to embellish, as well as the attaching of the backing fabric to the front. I may not finish it by the end of the liturgical year (28th November, this year) but I will have it finished by the end of the calendar year.


I don’t know if the intended recipient will even want it – or indeed if she ever wanted it – but I’m not doing it just for her any more, I’m doing it for me. She can use it, regift it, or donate it to the SPCA for dog bedding; I won’t mind.

It will be finished, and I will be a person who finishes things. It has long been a failing of mine to launch straight into an over-ambitious project without working my way up via smaller, more manageable projects.
I think I’m cured now.