Adieu, Adieu, parting is such sweet sorrow…
Today marks the completion of my Grandma’s Grandmother’s Fan quilt. Without making you “wait for it”, here is a (kind of wonky) picture.
It has been a long, arduous journey. This journey began, well, I can’t remember exactly when I found these blocks (but now I’m thinking in 2008), in an open cardboard box, amidst the mess upstairs at Dad’s house. (p.s. that wasn’t the box I found them in)
There were no notes, nothing that identified the original owner. The blocks weren’t even in a plastic bag – just sitting in an open box – collecting dust.
I’m not even sure my Grandma did these. The only assurance I have is a similar Grandmother’s Fan quilt that I know she did make in the 30’s or 40’s. I know she did that fan quilt because when Mom died, we found it at the house in a bag with an index card saying Grandma had made it and when.
I wish I could tell you I found matching fabrics in both of these quilts, but I can’t. The pieces are so small, and there are so many of them, and, believe it or not, even though there are some duplicates, there aren’t many. Even though there isn’t 100% certainty, because these blocks are so similar to the quilt that I know she did in fact make, I have always felt as if I were completing a project she had started. This would be the one and only project of my Grandma’s I can finish for her, so it’s no longer an unfinished object (UFO) or, as Mom liked to say, WIP – work in progress.
My friend asked me a couple weeks ago, after I finally had the top finished and ready to quilt, how many hours I’ve put into this quilt. I told her that I didn’t keep track, but probably over 100 hours. I realize I’m guesstimating the time involved because these tasks occurred at various times over 2.5 )or 6.5) years ; however, for posterity’s sake, here’s the breakdown.
2-4 hours – Washing, ironing, counting blocks (and the 420 additional already hand sewn together 6 blade unit fan tops).
40-60 hours – Stitching about 120 undone fan tops to blocks by hand with perle cotton and blanket stitch.
2 hours – Basting about 20-50 fans to blocks by hand
1 hour – Making a few more quarter circles, stitching to fan top and basting to blocks
4-8 hours – Quilt design, calculations to figure out how many squares needed, find design, rework design (when I realized these blocks were 4 1/2″ finished, not 5″ finished as Grandma’s original Fan quilt)
1 hour – Cutting more squares to go between fan blocks
1 hour – Laying out blocks for design and stack for sewing
4-8 hours – Sewing blocks together (includes time to press rows)
2 hours – Cutting 9″ borders, and then reworking design after sewing on one border and realized it didn’t look right.
2-4 hours – More sewing after adding rows all around to make it 18 X 18 squares instead of the original 14 X 16.
2 hours – Obtain pink fabric, batting and backing. Cutting pink and white borders.
2 hours – Washing and ironing pink border fabric, backing and white border, and selecting fabric scraps to make white border.
2 hours – Basting quilt top, batting and backing in sections on kitchen table with safety pins.
~15 hours – Free motion quilting fans and stitch in every ditch
1 hour – Figuring out how to stitch pink and white borders
1-2 hours – Making cardboard feather stencil after deciding not to use paper stencils.
2-3 hours – Drawing with washable marker and stencil feathers, diamonds on pink border, piano keys with ruler on white border.
~8 hours – Free motion feathers, diamonds, piano keys
2 hours – Making paper stencil for one side of scallop border with two or three trial runs.
1 hour – Pin scallop stencil, with quilt on the floor, kneeling or moving around on quilt top, and tracing all around.
1/2 hour – Cut scallop edge.
~2 hours – Make about 500″ continuous bias binding
~3-4 hours – Sew bias binding by machine to back and front of quilt (P.S. Scallops are like 10 times harder than a regular binding.)
~1 hour – Wash quilt by hand and run through washing machine spin cycle, and then dryer.
1 hour – Make label and sew on back of quilt, by machine and hand.
There you have it! If my calculations are correct, and they probably aren’t because I’ve been working hard on it these past few days, I’ve spent from 103.5 to 138.5 hours on all phases of this quilt.
Plus, if my time isn’t enough, consider that my Grandma:
- Cut out all those teeny tiny fan blades (by hand, with scissors – after tracing with a template) [~3720 of them] which finish at 1/2″ at the bottom, 1″ wide at the top, and 2″ long from bottom of blade to the tip
- Cut the quarter circles – probably hand traced from a template.
- Hand sewed over 200 six blade units (`1200 fan blades) to each other and then to the quarter circles. (Actually, hand stitched over 620 six blade units – still have ~420 of those left).
- Cut over 200 5″ white squares with scissors and using part of an old cereal box as a template for tracing (yeah, I found that in the box).
- Basted the fan units to the 200 blocks, again by hand.
- Blanket stitched 115 blocks fully and 60 partly.
I’m not sure exactly how long all that hand work would have taken, but I think it’s safe to say this quilt probably has over 200 hours, maybe even 250, in it.
Let’s imagine someone got paid by Illinois standard minimum wage, and this doesn’t include the cost of the materials – the quilt would be worth about $1650-$2100!
This process has been more of a labor of love for me, rather than expecting to win a quilt show (I wouldn’t – tons of mistakes in this quilt [more on that later], but I still live by the perfection of the quilt is in the finished product), having someone in mind for a gift, or even wanting to have this for myself – well, none of those apply.
For me, this has really been about finishing a project of my Grandma’s – as I have done with some of my Mom’s pieces – not because I needed to or had to, but because I wanted to. I wanted to because, I knew, in the process, I would feel connected to my Grandma in a way I never have before.
So, you see, even though it really has been a labor of love, that took around 2.5 years (or is that 6.5?), there is a sort of sadness that goes along with completing this. For all the boxes and bins of fabric, notions, templates and books, unfinished blocks, partially and totally completed blocks my Mom had (that I now own [inherited in a way])- this was the only makings for a quilt I had from my Grandma. Other than a shoebox full of her fabric scraps (and yes, I know this because it had the Eiffel tower print in it), of all the sewing and quilting she did, this is all I have left to finish for her.
So, now, it’s done, and with a sense of accomplishment, and a certain amount of regret, I can say, I finished the last project she had started and never completed. I somewhat detest maudlin, but in this case, how can anyone feel anything but?