Monday, April 18, 2005

Tiger, tiger, burning bright....

We're finally up to one of those major moments in my quilting life...one that probably stands right up there with my first quilt and the "Uncle Rick, do you notice how worn this is getting"? moment that got me quilting again. Back in May, when my friends and I took our first quilt class at the Henry Farm Inn, we had asked our instructor (Deb Tucker) for recommendations for a class in the fall schedule. Of the classes available, Deb recommended we try the class taught by Anne Gallo and Susan Raban. Deb thought we might enjoy this class because Anne and Susan have a pretty relaxed teaching style. The instructor in the other class had a reputation for being quite the stickler for accuracy, which probably wouldn't be as much fun for us. So, Anne and Susan it was!

The other major change for this class was the discovery of Quilt-a-Way fabrics on the first trip. We had learned about them at the class, and had tried to stop in when we left on Sunday, but the shop was closed that day :-( We took no chances this time, and had called ahead to make sure they'd still be open by the time we got there on Friday. It was not a pretty sight! We were wheeling around office chairs (the Quilt-a-Way version of a shopping cart) piled with stacks of fabrics. The prices were very good, and while I didn't realize it at the time, I was planting the seeds of my love affair with batik fabrics. I picked up a number of nice batiks here from their very large selection.

The plan for this class was a little bigger than the last class. This time, Azureen was signed up for the class too. The last time we came up, Emerald was the exhausted teenager, and slept most of the trip. We were sort of expecting a repeat performance this weekend, but Ken and Cindy did bring along an extra sewing machine in case she got inspired.

When we arrived at the Inn, several people were already there, so we sat around and chatted for a bit. At the first Henry Farm class I took, I had missed the bit about bringing along some quilts for a first night show-and-tell session. This time I was a bit more prepared, bringing along a number of quilts. Among those I showed was Magic Tiles, Rainbow Illusion, and Fade to Black.
I was a bit eager to jump the gun, so I showed off the quilts I'd brought along a little early. I didn't realize it at the time, but one of the people I was showing my stuff to was Anne Gallo, one of the instructors.

Before dinner, Anne and Susan gave us a little lecture about the project we were going to be working on this weekend. Anne started out by saying that there were a few "over achievers" in the class...and demonstrated that fact by grabbing my quilts and showing them to the rest. I'll never forget the little smirk on her face when she described my Rainbow Illusion quilt as my "first paper piecing project". I knew already I was going to get along with this woman! At dinner that night I discovered Anne's maiden name was the same as my last name, and Anne has been referring to me as her "long lost cousin" ever since. I also discovered she and I share a very compatible sense of humor!

The project for this class was a pattern called The Christmas Star. Not a very difficult block, but one that looks very nice set on point. I decided this quilt was going to be a Christmas present for Emerald, so found some nice tiger fabric to use as a focus fabric (Em is nuts about tigers). Oh yeah, around the same time, I'd started taping Simply Quilts on my Tivo box. On one of the episodes, Alex Anderson had mentioned that many quilters had a fear of working with orange. I couldn't think of a single reason why orange would be intimidating...but I also can't resist a challenge. Orange it would be! And hand-dyes, of course. I'd really developed a taste for hand dyed fabrics by that time. This was going to be interesting, and since I already had a plan for who it would end up with, I was fairly certain to finish this one too.

When we started sewing, Em decided she wanted to work on something too, and started asking me questions about how to do the Magic Tiles style quilt. Susan and Anne picked up on her questions, and started helping her with a project. Azureen, meanwhile, whipped right through putting together a couple of Christmas star blocks, and Anne started pulling out additional project for her to work on too. Anne and Susan appeared to have the best time working with those two, and the small quilts they produced came out beautifully. I was so proud of those two girls that day...despite their tendency to raid Uncle Rick's fabric supply :-)

On my quilt, I jumped right to it. I worked until midnight that night, with a lot of help from Anne. By midnight, all of the blocks were assembled, and laid out on a bed ready to be sewn together, but I was pretty exhausted at that point, and headed off to bed. I am very much a morning person, so I was back up a 5 to sew it all up. Anne is also an early riser, so she was up with me helping. With the two of use furiously working together, we managed to get the top assembled by 11, when we needed to have everything wrapped up. I was beat, but had a nice quilt top all ready for finishing. It didn't really come out exactly the way I'd designed it on Electric Quilt. The different colored hand-dyed stars were intended to be more of a focal point of the quilt, but the orange accent parts sort of "took over". Even with that, I was still pleased with the result, and Em loved getting it. And Az managed to con me out of my Around the Twist quilt I'd done back in May.

After I finished this, I discovered that Anne and Susan tended to run these classes at a pace where the students would just piece together a couple of blocks of the project, since the intent was just to teach certain sewing skills. I was the first person who'd ever done a complete top in the single weekend (groan!).

Afterwards, Anne graciously offered me a ride home, since she lives in the Boston area. We had a nice chat on drive back, and we met for lunch out at Quilter's Way after New Years (the day after Ohio State won the national championship!).

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