Sunday, July 15, 2007


On the other end of the frustration spectrum (the first end being detailed in the previous post), I got a call recently from a former quilter who has lived in Costa Rica for several years now. She has made dozens of quilts in her time, but has moved on to other pursuits and has no intention of returning to the quilting habit. She got my name and number from a newspaper article about the quilt guild (of which I'm the president) and wanted to donate her books and supplies to other quilters.

Rita and I went out to her house on Friday to pick up the things. In addition to quite a lot of fabric, she had probably a dozen or more patterns, a large stack of quilting magazines and a larger stack of quilt books. She also had some special ruler sets and a sewing machine.

The books, magazines and patterns will make perfect door prizes for the guild party next week, and will be gratefully received and enthusiastically used. We like to have enough prizes that everyone goes home with something, and these will go a long way toward making that happen.

The fabric was quite musty and will require a great deal of attention in the form of washing, drying and ironing to render it usable. Rita and I decided to divide most of it up between us, rather than giving musty fabric away as prizes, or investing the hours and energy it would take to clean it and then divide it into appropriate packets in time for the party.

The sewing machine is a mystery, but a tantalizing one. It is a Janome Memory Craft 8000 sewing and embroidery machine. It is approximately 20 years old and, in its day, was a $4000 machine. A little Googling indicates that used ones are going for a couple hundred dollars nowadays. (My current "good" sewing machine is a Memory Craft 6000).

It is reportedly not in working order, but the lady who gave it to us was told by at least one sewing machine shop here in Costa Rica that it could be repaired. It comes with buckets of attachments and presser feet and manuals and doodads and gizmos and things.

And now (with the stipulation that it will go to Rita if something happens to me), it's mine.

After picking up the things, I had to drive my father in law to a couple of hardware stores, so I pulled out one of the new books and looked through it while I waited for him. One of the designs caught my eye - surprisingly, it was a relatively traditional design, and the sample was made up in colors and (especially) fabrics that don't reflect my usual taste either. But I liked the end result.

When I went to my weekly quilting group the next day, I brought a few of the new books to look through, since I need to choose a design for my next quilt.

At the group, one of the members showed us a table full of fabric that was donated to her quite a while ago with the stipulation that it be used for charity quilts. We quickly agreed to take on the project, and I turned once again to the book I had looked at in the car the day before.

That same quilt kept jumping out at me, so I decided to go ahead with it. What are donation quilts for anyway, if not for trying out new things? Most of the donated fabric was in decent-sized pieces, but there was also a box of scraps that some well-meaning quilter had sent along. Scraps often get donated because we hate to throw them out, but unless someone wants to make a string quilt, their usefulness is really pretty limited.

Interestingly, the patten I had my eye on was, in fact, a string quilt. "Strings" are long, skinny fabric strips that are sewn together side by side more or less randomly, making a length of new, striped fabric. They need to be at least an inch wide and long enough to be usable, but they don't all have to be the same width.

I've never been attracted to string quilts, and never had any inclination to make one, until I saw that particular pattern in the donated book. And was faced with a donated box of scraps the very next day. Once I began to sort and iron them, I found that the scraps were absolutely ideal for a string quilt. Instead of a bunch of odd shapes and sizes, as scraps so often are, they consisted almost entirely of pre-cut strips with straight, even sides, plenty long and in a wide variety of bright, attractive and, get this, coordinating prints.

So, thanks to two generous donors who have never heard of each other, but who came (indirectly) to me at almost exactly the same time, I have inspiration, materials and the desire to make a lovely quilt that will, eventually, be donated to a disadvantaged Costa Rican child - probably in a rural indigenous community.

Plus, if it goes together as quickly as I think it will, and if I like the way it looks, I can use the same pattern for the quilt I was originally thinking about when I opened that book on Friday - a baby quilt for Erin who, speaking of generosity, read my post about using a friend's Electric Quilt software earlier this year and immediately offered to give me her own copy, which she had never used. I, of course, accepted immediately, proposing a baby quilt as a suitable form of payment.

Generosity, yo. What goes around comes around.


Love Bears All Things July 17, 2007 8:03 AM  

What wonderful gifts came your way! And you will pass the gift on in the form of a quilt.
When J and I went to Little Rock for a get away back in May, we went to see a quilt exhibit. It was made up of items of historic value only. some of these quilts were the type you mentioned. They were made for bedding and not beauty. In those days, patterns were not always used. Stips of fabric were just sewn together to form a quilt top.
I would be interested in seeing your project when it is completed.
Mama Bear

Laylabean July 20, 2007 10:13 AM  

That's inspiring. It's nice get a reminder sometimes that there are many very kind people out there. Good luck with the new projects and the new machine. Yay - a toy!

juliloquy July 30, 2007 10:33 AM  

Ooh, can't wait to see the visuals, as words like "string quilt" call up nothing in my mental archives. I hope it's a fun project!

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