Wednesday, April 11, 2007

An open letter to myself

Dear Liesl,

If, someday in the future (either near or distant) you ever get the (harebrained) idea that you would like to paper piece a quilt (in other words, sew that puppy entirely by hand), please pause for just a moment. Then you can start to tear the apartment apart for several days looking for the letter you vaguely recall writing yourself way back in 2007.

And when you finally remember that this letter does not, in fact, exist in hard copy but can easily be found on the blog, you can stop the fruitless search and pause again long enough to re-read it carefully.

You'll find yourself right here. So, welcome!

Let's think about paper piecing. Consider, first of all, this doll quilt, which you finished just the other day. It was completely handsewn using a method called Quilt Patis, which is a clever way to create the Grandmother's Flower Garden pattern and is apparently faster than the usual paper piecing method. It is also a relatively entertaining way (at first) to sew all those little slips of fabric to the 1 1/2" hexagons (I created my own Patis using template plastic and leftover yogurt lids--hurrah for recycling!). Wasn't it enjoyable? You could just stitch away mindlessly while participating in coversations, watching television (remember that old invention?), or just killing time. Mindless. Stitching. Over and over again. After a while it became a bit tedious, didn't it?

Ok, so you mostly enjoyed your first foray into the world of hand piecing. Now let's think about the finished product. It's small. Really small. Just 8 1/2" x 11 1/2" small. And although it's size is diminutive, the work involved in producing said itsy-bitsy quilt, was much greater than it may appear. In fact, let's think back and remember that it took approximately nine days of obsessive cutting and stitching to complete the little piece. Very obsessive. As in, waiting for the kiddo to finish her breakfast, riding in your sister's car, waiting for the kiddo to finish her bath, hanging out in the evenings, waiting for the kiddo to let you change her diaper, dragging the project everywhere you went kind of obsessive. You get the picture. Little Patis at your elbow at every turn for nine straight days. Stitching every unclaimed moment, no matter how brief. Plus hours spent in the evenings, cutting and stitching.

Now, granted, a portion of that nine days was spent cutting out the templates. And then cutting more templates when the first batch(es) were all in use. And another portion of the time was spent patiently snipping and tucking the backing in order to achieve the sharp(ish) points at the ends without using a binding. And of course there was the hand quilting. But, hey, let's face it: most of the time was simply spent piecing and hand sewing.

So let's review. Finished size: less than a foot long and just over a half foot wide. Not nearly large enough for a table placemat. Not big enough to cover most of Tsia's dolls in their bed. (And dolls will not be touching this quilt, let's make that clear from the start. This one is for the wall only.) If we were to apply the work-versus-finished-size ratio to, say, a queen-sized quilt (just for the sake of discussion), how much time do we think it might take to finish that quilt? How many years of obsessive, unceasing hand stitching?

On the other hand, perhaps we shouldn't consider that possibility. The conclusions are overwhelming, bleak, and thoroughly depressing.

Stick with the machine, kid. And don't say I didn't warn you.

Now let's go find some chocolate instead.

Yours, etc.,


  1. p.s. it sure is pretty though...

  2. Anonymous4:06 PM

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!! Now, why couldn't you have written this BEFORE I started my hexagon torment, I mean quilt??

  3. with a little time you will see what we see... a gorgeous little work of art. it's beautiful. i especially like the little striped flower.

  4. Anonymous4:41 PM

    Hee, I just saw those quilt pattis on Simply Quilts! Thank you for writing this letter, now I know better too!!
    Your little quilt sure is beautiful though!

  5. Anonymous5:06 PM

    Today I finish the last two feet of hand stiching on a queen size log cabin started in 1996. Yup, and I didn't even hand piece it, just hand quilted....with three children raised in between. So I'd say at least a decade...
    But your mini quilt is beautiful and art for the walls is a valuable use of time. Leslie

  6. Oh, but it's SO pretty! Wouldn't you just love a queen size quilt out of those colors AND that pattern?

  7. Your message is quite clear, but oh my goodnes, it's soooooooo pretty!!!! I love it!

  8. in a few short years you won't remember the pain, and you'll still have this lovely thing to look at!a

  9. Anonymous6:00 PM

    It's extremely gorgeous.
    Make that...
    VERY extremely gorgeous.
    I would never in a million years, have the patience to do anything like that.
    It's lovely.

  10. It's beautiful, like a little treasure.

  11. Anonymous7:17 PM

    I hear you! I am currently hand stitching, hand quilting my own little doll's quilt - what madness.
    But yours is just so beautiful, and those edges make me swoon with envy.

  12. It's beautiful! I'm purely a machine girl, so I'm very impressed by your handiwork. PS, I just finished reading through ALL of your archives. You crack me up, and as a new blogger it's nice to see where some of the accomplished bloggers started!

  13. My flower garden quilt sits in a box somewhere unfinshed. You had the right idea to make it into a doll quilt!
    I did recently buy a hexagon quilt at an auction...its old and not in the flower shape, but it more than covers my desire to have one!
    Keep an eye peeled - maybe you can find an old, COMPLETE one...

  14. Very very pretty. I mystified by how you sew and then pop the things out, but I think it will remain a mystery unless I decide to make a 4"x6" version. What do you figure...5 hours.

  15. Anonymous8:21 PM

    You'll see there's a lot of time in a decade to eat chocolate AND make that quilt... so curious which one it will be!
    This Grandmother might have a small garden but it is a very beautiful one, Liesl, well done!

  16. I have considered it and done it my most ambitious piece has over 5500 pieces in it and the hexs are only 1/4 an inch to a side. So that note would never work onme I am already to crazy plus I have made three other tops and have more stared. I have made tutorial on this subject that have even been published in a little mag. I am just a little crazy. If you want to check out how crazy I am go here

    take care and please add your photos to the flickr group all about English paper piecing

    take care sunshine

  17. Anonymous9:21 PM

    This post made me LOL. :)

  18. really really lovely though.

  19. this letter is too funny :)
    but the little quilt... it is beautiful! obsessive but lovely... the colors and the handwork... i can't imagine it queen-sized, though. that is a whole 'nother world.

  20. I hope that after you read your letter, you'll look at the beauty you created and feel proud that you put in that time. Not only is it absolutely gorgeous but it's important. Your little doll quilt, with all it's tucks and stitches, is like one of those languages in danger of extinction. I am so glad that people still take on that challenge and pour their all-to-short periods of 'free' time in one single beautiful thing.

  21. Anonymous7:47 PM

    oh it is SO lovely.

  22. The quilt is GORGEOUS though. Love the colors. Does eveyone paper piece hexagon quilts? The method I've read about and always used involved no paper and machine piecing, and it works well, so long as you're very careful. Anyway, beautiful work.

  23. Great post, I was seriously thinking of giving this a go but I think I need to really take on board what you have written and decide to hang on to my sanity instead.

    Very beautiful quilt though, you are so right to keep those dolls away.

  24. Anonymous10:10 AM

    It's so beautiful though. And thanks for the warning. I will simply admire yours and not attempt to duplicate it.

  25. I love it, so I'd say it was all worth it. It's just so pretty!

  26. I have been reading your blog for almost a year now and am always inspired. Glad you did this by hand. It is beautiful. I quilted an 18" x 18" Hawaiian Pillow Square that took almost 3 months. It was my first quilting experience and I loved it. I am now onto my second. And this Quilt Patis is actually my next scheduled project. Thanks for the push to get on it. Quilting by hand is the best way to quilt in my book. The finished product is so much more beautiful. I am always sewing by hand - in fact making everything by hand.. knitting, crocheting, screen printing. It is a much more artisan approach and I hope to see more.

  27. Anonymous9:57 PM

    It's beautiful -- looks antique. Great placement of lights/darks and colors. The quilting after the piecing created a wonderful character to it: a work of art.

    Now -- go look at some bad quilts and feel better.

  28. Despite the pain it produced it made you write a very, very funny entry. I laughed and laughed!

  29. this quilt takes my breath away
    out of all the little quilts i've been seeing this is my favorite as i like the style and the antique quality it emanates
    the fabric choices and work is amazing and all the time you put into it---you deserve the chocolate!

  30. Anonymous5:20 AM

    It's very very pretty , and I am so glad you wrote this before I started one! At least I had my crochet rug to keep me from starting one!

  31. Wow, that is gorgeous! *swoon* I love how you choose colors that work so beautifully together, like a painter mixing a palette.
    I have 500+ paper pieced hexagons that I stitched up last year, and I still haven't even started piecing them together. At first I thought I would make a queen-sized flower garden quilt. Then reality set in. Now, I am considering just making a few doll quilts. My left elbow twitches at the very thought of that even.

  32. I hope with a little bit of time to "forget the pain" you will add a postscript saying it was worth every minute. That piece is gorgeous!

  33. Anonymous8:54 PM

    But its so beautiful......

  34. wow, what a lovely little quilt! awesome job

  35. Anonymous12:11 AM

    Say what you will, it's SO beautiful!

    The colors are perfect.

  36. Anonymous4:40 AM

    I mean, I can see the madness... but the result surely makes up for it? no?

  37. Anonymous1:32 AM

    Its beatuiful the colors the design the material.

  38. This is incredible! The colour combination is gorgeous!

  39. This is sooo pretty!

    So how did you back this without a binding? I am trying to figure out for my own mini and have no idea how to start...

  40. That quilt is amazing, no matter how small. Those colors pretty much give you a mind's eye for SweetPea's room - Karen has always called it (insert SweetPea's real name)-Pink.

    Kate Greenaway was my inspiration for her room with olive green and subtle pink hues. I just love it. OH, how I adore Grandma's Flower Garden quilts.

  41. Janice7:29 PM

    Your letter made me laugh! I'm making a hex quilt now and, yes, it *is* mega-time-consuming. But I love the way it's turning out.

    Your little quilt is gorgeous. Great choice of colors and fabrics!