Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Sad Quilt Story with a Happy Ending

I started planning this quilt while I was finishing up my Aviary quilt. I hadn't anticipated making another one so soon, but the circumstances called for it. My best friend Andrea's older sister, Theresa, was diagnosed with cancer in January. The initial prognosis was hopeful, but I knew she was be going through a few rounds of chemo and I thought a cozy throw quilt would be just the thing to help her keep her spirits up. She could pack it with her on trips to the doctor or just curl up on the couch with it at home while she recovered. I decided on a very basic pattern using pre-cut squares (charm squares) to make it quick and easy, so she could use it right away. Moda had just put out a cute new line of fabric called California Girl, which has lots of flowers and bright colors. It was cheerful and would also match her room, so I bought a charm square pack.

I hadn't yet started the quilt when Theresa took a turn for the worst. The cancer had spread faster than the doctors could treat it, and she passed away on Valentine's Day. It was obviously a very heart-breaking and emotional time, but it was also a blessing that she didn't have to face a long, difficult battle with an unpredictable disease.

Left to right: Drea, Theresa (in back), me, and Lynn at the rehearsal dinner before Drea's wedding in 2009

I was left wondering what to do with the pieces of this quilt that hadn't quite come to fruition. Should I just toss them, since they could never serve their original purpose? It didn't seem right to use them to make something for myself. But then I realized that Theresa and Drea's younger sister, Lynn, had a birthday coming up. I could use the fabric to make her a birthday quilt! It would be a way to remember Theresa, turning something sad into a celebration of something happy. (Anyone who knew Theresa would tell you that she was an exuberant gal who loved life and would hate to see us all moping around at her expense!)

So, I set out to give these pieces a new life. I kept to my original plan of using a simple charm square layout. I agonized over the placement for quite a few hours, trying to evenly distribute the colors and patterns. I ended up swapping out a few squares with some leftover blue Taza stripes from the tea cozy set I made for my mom's birthday.

I used Moda Bella in Snow for the sashing (it has a yellowish-tint to it, which went well with the yellows in the charm squares). I made the quilt a little bigger than I originally planned by adding an extra border of yellow dots from Moda's Strawberry Field line. 

Since backing fabric can get mighty expensive when you need a good 2-3 yards of it, I hunted around for a while to find something on sale that would complement the California Girl squares. It was hard to get the colors just right, but I ended up getting a good deal on Bandana Cream from Riley Blake's Daydream line from fabric.com. I added a couple of strips of the yellow dots to the back and embroidered a message to Lynn on a strip of the sashing fabric. 

I opted to quilt diagonal criss-crossed lines this time, while using straight lines along the borders to make big squares. I used a water-soluble pen to draw the lines so I wouldn't mess up. I wish I could say it went off without a hitch. However, I didn't extend the diagonals all the way to the edges, and due to the limitations of my walking foot (I can't backstitch to secure the thread), some of the lines were already coming undone after the first wash. I had to go back and hand-stitch some areas. Not ideal, but I don't think it's too noticeable; I just hope it doesn't completely fall apart on Lynn one day! I also had some problems with the quilt bunching up under the stitching. I later realized this was more to do with the way I hold the quilt while quilting than my machine or the fabric. I have to make more of an effort to constantly steady the quilt and smooth out the fabric as I go. I'm getting better at it, though!

I used Michael Miller's solid in geranium for the binding. At first, I thought it was a bit too bright and peachy for my taste (I was anticipating more of a coral color), but I think it actually looks good on the finished product. It gives the quilt a little extra oomph. I once again used Amy Smart's tutorial for binding. So helpful!

Lynn seemed to love the quilt. I explained the story behind it -- how I originally bought the fabric to make a quilt for Theresa -- and I tried to convey that this wasn't meant to be a hand-me-down. Instead, I hope that when she uses the quilt, she's reminded that little pieces of Theresa are still in all of our lives. 

It was hard to part with this quilt for a variety of reasons. I may have to go to Lynn's house to visit it on a regular basis.

On a related note, some of Theresa's family and friends are walking in the Relay for Life to raise money for the American Cancer Society. If you can spare a few dollars, you can click on this link to donate. (I know it would mean a lot to her family!) Thanks!

Next time: A baby quilt for an awesome baby!