By Patricia Belyea
WAUCONDA WA Early in my quilting journey, I learned to free motion quilt with my home sewing machine. Although I had no regulator, with practice, I fared pretty well.
All the same, I always felt like my machine was getting away from me. It was nerve-wracking.
So I switched to hand stitching my quilts. Although this choice is slow, I enjoy the calm, meditative quality of the needle-in, needle-out motion.
I just finished a quilt made out of my nephew Ben’s shirts and a curtain used in his room. To secure the quilt sandwich, I stitched in the ditch. But I really wanted to add something more to this quilt honoring Ben’s short life.
In my Kids Art file, I found a pen drawing that Ben had made when he was eight. The art was charming with a MALE ROBOT labelled with all his parts—from nose and nails to laser and TV.
I scanned the artwork and printed it out 65" wide. I taped all the tiled pages together and then cut the huge piece of paper into 12" squares.
Working section by section, I visually transferred the line work from the paper to the quilt top with a blue water-erasable pen.
Then came the fun part. Giving myself complete permission to be messy, I free motion stitched the drawing onto the quilt.
Each line started with some stitching in place, creating a little blob of thread. Then I continued with almost out-of-control free motion stitching.
My goal was to create a naive look. This approach gifted me a carefree, happy time as I zoomed forward to complete my project.
Four things helped me get back into my free-motion groove: Maurine Noble’s ground-breaking book Machine Quilting Made Easy!, the darning foot on my vintage Bernina, my ratty longarm gloves by Dritz, and my polyester Grid Glider by Sew Steady.
To tell the truth, my ease with free motion quilting really improved by the time I finished this 55" x 65" quilt. I had to consciously add wiggles to my stitch lines by the end of the project.
I presented both the artwork and quilt to Ben’s sister Sarah on what should have been his 26th birthday.
Although quilts can’t fill the immense holes left in lives by big losses, they can bring comfort and warmth. And memory quilts, in particular, can challenge us makers to create something full of spirit and meaning.
To close, who knew that eyes had the word YES in them?