Sunday, June 20, 2010

Nana Gets The Last Word

About an hour after finishing that baby basket I last posted here, I found out that yet another cousin of mine is pregnant with a baby girl. According to Wikipedia, she's actually a second cousin...although I would have considered her a third cousin until I consulted that chart, or at least a second cousin once removed. She's a lot younger than me, and I haven't seen her since she was like 4, so the idea of her having a baby is nothing short of ridiculous to me. Such is the way of the world, I suppose... I mean, I still have a hard time believing I am old enough to have kids if I so desired, and I'm on the brink of being too old to have them.

But you know as well as I do what happened next: I dove into the fabric stash and whipped up a little baby quilt to go with the basket (into which went some baby lotion stuff and some baby washcloths). I didn't have quiiite enough fabric to make what I wanted, so I cut up 5" squares of what I did have and "made do" (something that very much appeals to my Yankee roots). I faced a big time crunch, though, as my parents were down this weekend and I wanted to send the gift back home to Maine with them (thereby saving if not an arm then several fingers in shipping costs). Normally, I either hand-quilt or I tie knots using embroidery floss, but since this was such a small quilt and I found some very low-loft batting, I figured, well, it's now or never, and I machine quilted it.
(Apologies for the worse-than-usual photos, but I took these with my Blackberry.)

I will say this: machine quilting has speed on its side. However, I can see it would take oodles and oodles of time and practice to really get it down right. I had to contend with some puckering - one major mess that required a lengthy session with a seam ripper, and two or three small puckers that I left in, mostly because I was on the verge of losing all patience whatsoever and setting the thing on fire in my bathtub. Also, the upper left corner came out quite weirdly, but I think that had less to do with the quilting and more to do with some wonky border piecing. I also totally dorked up the binding, but that was just me being stupid. I was really on the fence about whether this was even gift material; after hand-stitching the binding, I turned to my mother and said, "Please tell me this is Good Enough". She gave it the thumbs up, which given my mother's complete and utter lack of any crafting skills means that I probably should have junked the thing, but I did not. And here's why:

As I was sewing this together, I thought a lot about my great-grandmother, who would have been this baby's great-great grandmother. I thought about how there's a little bit of Nana in all of us running through our veins, down through all these generations of strong and bold Irish women. And I thought about all those times all of us kids would descend on her little house with wild abandon and the shenanigans we would get up to, and she never once got cross. And this was after raising seven kids of her own, and after burying two others that died very young, plus putting up with shenanigans from my mother and her cousins who used to do things like put kittens at the bottom of Nana's bedcovers so she would think there was a mouse in the bed. You'd think that by the time us great-grandkids came around she'd have completely lost her sense of humour, but that was not the case. A few times she gathered us up and gently lectured us about the after-life*, but mostly she'd just throw up her hands and laugh along with us.

*She converted from the Episcopal church to the Jehovah's Witnesses back in the 1960s, so you can just imagine what these talks were like.

So when I surveyed the finished - if wonky- quilt I made, it occurred to me that were Nana still alive, she would have taken one look at this quilt through her cataract-ridden eyes, run her gnarled hands over the top, and proclaimed it "Just Grand". And I decided, who was I to argue? I rolled it up, tied it with ribbon and tissue paper, and it's off to Maine in the morning.

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