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Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Standard Shift

One of the things I like about quilting is that it is, when all is said and done, a spectrum disorder! It is not just one thing, or one skill, but a synthesis of many, which acts both as a boredom preventive, and a serious barrier to mastery. To quilt well and happily, and I think unless you are able to turn out a relatively accomplished end product, you are not going to quilt happily, you have to master a wide range of skills. And like learning to drive a standard shift, until you master the basics, you won't be able to move on to the fun part, which is flying along a country road, preferably one with lots of dips and corners, playing Rally Driver.

Quilting basics are: cutting accurately, sewing a consistent 1/4" seam (or watch this) and being able to quilt the top creditably with at least one method.

I was not born with pretty hands. Mine are large and plain looking; you would call them "man hands". Evidently, people notice that! While in my thirties, living in Winnipeg, MB, I was working with an elderly man, an retired wheat farmer. We were chatting away when he did a literal double-take at my hands, blurting out "Whoa! With hands like those, why did your Dad EVER let you off the farm?!" I smiled at him and replied "Because he was a dentist?". I have always been grateful for my manly hands: they are strong and coordinated, deeply useful, satisfying tools. But looming arthritis in my 51 year old body is changing my approach to everything in my life. Most of what I love to do involves a huge manual component, and if I want to keep doing those things, I have to guard against over-use of my hands. These days, if I push my use envelope, I can expect numbness and stiffness. So I take good care of my hands (by the way, massage therapy really helps) and ration hard use.

Most quilting tasks are pretty easy on the hands, but one that I am no longer up for is pin basting. I can do it, but it is just the kind of activity that will get me into trouble. So it was with great joy I found the Sharon Schamber two part video on hand basting quilts, which is available on YouTube:
Part One
Part Two

I like the method, which eliminates the need to crawl around the floor, or lean over a big bed or table. But I do not like removing the threads as I quilt, so I am going to try basting with a strong water soluble thread. That way I can just move right on to machine quilting, without pesky pins and threads in my way.

Meanwhile, I get to fly down that country road a little while longer.


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