by Laura Hutson
My quest to become a quilter continues, and in this post I'll let you in on how Alexia Abegg helped me turn a pile of fabric into the beginnings of a quilt. This is part of the series of posts I'm compiling in conjunction with her new book Liberty Love.
I met Alexia for our first session at Stitch, the sewing studio she runs upstairs from Local Honey, with a paper bag full of the fabric I'd picked out during our previous meeting at Textile. I had washed the fabric to make it softer and less pristine, but was still feeling trepidatious about actually starting the process and cutting into the material. Alexia put me at ease immediately. I will try to replicate her instructions here.
First, I cut out a square of fabric. (I'm using the word “square” pretty loosely here, because perfect is boring in my book — I want my quilt to have some rough edges and interesting angles.) From there, Alexia instructed me to start adding material piece by piece in a clockwise direction. Measure the fabric by holding a long strip of it next to the piece you want it to border, then cut the strip to match the length of that piece.
So in this first square, I started with the gray shirting material, cut at a slanted angle at the top. I held a strip of the ankh fabric against the top edge and cut away any excess that went past the right and left edges of the gray square. Then, I took the white and gold fabric and made a strip that matched the length of the gray/ankh piece I'd made. I sewed the pieces together in the same order, clockwise in a sort of spiral that builds out from that first original square. I used one of the sewing machines at Stitch, which gave me a lot of room for error — every time I made a seam that was crooked, I could sew another directly on top of it that was straighter, and all was forgiven.
Stitch has a wall that's covered in this padded material that sticks to your fabric like those felt boards I used to play with at Sunday School, and you can organize your patterns easily and spontaneously that way.
Here's my first completed square. I borrowed that great wavy/scalloped material from scraps left behind at Stitch — I think they were used for one of Sarah Gavigan's Otaku South dinners. The contrasting patterns of witchy ankhs and gold masks was my favorite part, but Alexia urged me to incorporate a little of the persimmon material in future squares.
At home, I tried and failed to replicate Stitch's workspace on the floor of my office. Still, I came up with about ten or so more squares over the course of the week, feeling like an alchemist with piles of different colored fabrics all around me. The floor was (who am I kidding — still is) covered with scraps and stray threads. I sewed them together with my own machine in the same order that I pieced them, ironing each piece flat after every seam. I tried to come up with a similar setting to the one Alexia showed me at Stitch, and quickly decided to invest in a higher quality machine for my next project.
In my next quilting post, I'll show you how my finished squares turned out, and begin the process of piecing them all together into something that will (hopefully) look vaguely quilt-like.