Tuesday, 4 February 2014

A long time ago, in a faraway land...

Let me tell you a story.... A long time ago, in a faraway land, I started a quilt.

The year was 2000, and I was about to leave Oregon and return to the UK permanently, having spent three years working as a post-doc at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology. That's right, I was moonlighting as a marine biologist! I'd been quilting for a few years, and thought that as fabric prices in the States were so much more reasonable than the UK, I could buy all the fabrics I needed for a large bed quilt that would remind me of my time on the Oregon coast.

So one weekend, I headed south to Quilter's Corner in Port Orford. It was one of my favourite stores, with a huge selection of pretty florals perfect for colourwash and watercolour style quilts. I was armed with my copy of the Colorwash Irish Chain pattern by Heatherworks, and the idea that I wanted fabrics that would remind me of Oregon. After an hour or so of deliberation, I picked out the perfect range of watery blues and greens, many with a Japanese type vibe.

Fast forward a couple of months, and the finished quilt top was pinned on the wall of my living room in Edinburgh, where I was working on a second post-doc. It had an ephemeral beauty that I thought would be perfect on my bed. But then I stalled. I just couldn't decide how to quilt it, and although I had successfully quilted a number of king sized quilts on my domestic sewing machine, I was really worried that I would ruin it. I came up with quilting plan after quilting plan. I even considered hand quilting it, and made a cushion cover to develop my ideas.

hand quilted rose and trellis in a north country quilting style

As I'd contemplated the quilt top over the years, my mind had often drifted to a haiku by Basho: "Spring rain - under the trees a crystal stream" and I realised that I wanted a natural watery or leafy design for the quilting. Last month, I finally overcame my nerves and quilted it in a freehand large leafy vine pattern, and thankfully I am pretty happy with how it turned out.

And at the weekend, on the first rainless day for weeks, Mr Q and I headed out to the park to take some photos.

The twist in the tale is that while I still love this quilt, the colours I want in my house have changed, and I know that this quilt won't be used very much by us. So, I've decided to pass it on to my PhD student who successfully defended her thesis last month. I hope she will enjoy it.

Fresh Poppy Design

Linking up to Fabric Tuesday at Quilt Story


Sara said...

isn't it really neat when words from a poem or haiku can transform our thoughts toward something into something beautiful!!?? Thank you for the wonderful story behind the quilt!

The PhD student is blessed to have such a meaningful,gorgeous quilt!

Cristina @ Pretty Little Quilts said...

Beautiful job...I love how you got your inspiration.

Kathy Niklewicz said...

I'm still amazed you can quilt such a large piece with your sewing machine! What a lovely gift, and a fascinating story. I didn't realize you spent a few years in the States. I am quite fascinated with the attractive building in the background.

Kathy Niklewicz said...

I just remembered you have a long arm machine! Very handy to have! I do admire your hand quilting, too!

Anonymous said...

I like that your lovely quilt started in my beautiful state. And like that you're so generous in gifting it to someone who has worked hard to get where they are today. Karen in OR

Renee said...

Beautiful quilt! I love the first photo of it, it almost looks like a blanket of snow.

Maureen said...

Your student will love it! - and you've had all the pleasure of making it, so it's enjoyment for you both.