The problem with this itinerant lifestyle I am currently leading is that it plays havoc with my best intentions for getting quilts to their deserving owners. (This problem is compounded because, as anyone who has known me for 20 minutes can tell you, I am 99% good intentions.) This quilt, for instance, was started last Thanksgiving nearly, and has been riding in my car and gone back and forth to Texas (twice) and several times Michigan, among lesser travels (like to the Joann and the liquor store and such). But it is finally done and mailed, and high time too, as its new owner has long been hosting quite a number of us, for going on 30 years now, and could probably do with a loud and public THANK YOU instead of the usual 6-pack-of-beer-and-Boursin-cheese-offerings, which is kind of my standard.
|The finished flimsy top, in which you can already see I'm going to have trouble with excessive fabric wiggliness.|
|This is the back. I'm not sure what possessed me to use pink binding, but it worked out okay.|
The earliest recollections of my college chum Gramsy involved, I think, the Cap'n's birthday party which I crashed with some of my scruffy Clark House roommates. Or maybe it was the "90210" parties she and her roomies hosted at her house, but surely, if not those, it was the half-a-million rock shows our greater community of rock aficionados went to at our local rock pub. Whatever it was, I am glad we were cemented together casually down at school, because it was when we all moved back up to the city that I began to know her in earnest, and love her for her droll wit and hilariously exasperated take on what was, at that time, our fresh adulthood. Even down at school, though, one could recognize a fabulous hostess when she offered you a potato-based casserole.
|WELCOME TO DINNER WOULD YOU LIKE A CRUDITE OR A PIG IN A BLANKET?|
And speaking of adulthood, our Gramsy was always a pioneer there - while still in school she and her roomies were among the first to decorate their abode like an actual human would (instead of, say, a Clark House resident). I recall gingham curtains, and strategically hung contact paper that looked *just* like wallpaper, and dinner parties. Dinner parties! How classy! (Even if they *might* have been parties dedicated to our suburban casserole-and-pimento-loaf-eating roots, wherein lady fingers made with Wonder Bread and ham salad *might* have figured prominently.) Later, back in the city, she would be one of the first people I knew with a comfy couch that was not inherited from parents; the first I knew to use honest-to-god movers; and among the first of us ladies to buy property, in the form of a super kickass converted bakery that became the site of some very vigorous baking-and-drinking sessions, and rock-show pre-gaming.
And of course, at that point, there was still rock n roll. This photo booth gem of Nikita, Gramsy and me was taken at the long-lamented, dearly departed Lounge Ax, immediately before the Old 97s took to the stage in probably their "Too Far to Care" era (so, like 1997.) Gramsy's husband was not a fan, but we were!
|"What's so great / About the barrier reef? / What's so fine / About Art?"|
And let us not forget Prom Party, a few years later, which Gramsy (as an authentic, actual, honest-to-god former high school Homecoming Queen) was responsible for handing her tiara off to the newly crowned winner. Though I do not think she relinquished her crown, and nor should she have! I mean, look at this beauty and her stellar court (via POLAROID).
|The Cap'n, Nikita and me, and Gramsy (seated as is her royal prerogative.) If the sign didn't tell you this was the 90s, the shoes surely would have.|
And I forget when this even happened, but it was somewhere in that era too: the Cap'n' and Gramsy as....Siegfried and Roy. Replete with sequins, self-tanner, and furry chest hair. The sort of halloween costume which is still spoken of in hushed, reverent tones, all these years later:
|the Cap'n n Gramsy as Siegfried and Roy. SIEGFRIED AND ROY. (And that's Bean as the Swedish Chef.)|
But all good things must end.....or, at least, be shuffled around a bit, when Gramsy and family moved two hours south to the birthplace of our friendship: our college town. While this has resulted in fewer rock shows attended together (and, let us not kid each other - the couch is a much stronger lure these days anyway) and a lot less furry costume chest hair (I PRESUME), it has not entirely impeded our desire or ability to gather round in Gramsy's kitchen, sending her pre-teen son scuttling for his bedroom, mowing through her crudites like a plague of drunk locusts; or lounging in a hungover sort of way on comfy couches, watching HGTV with Gramsy's hubby; or hanging on her patio in clement weather, shooting the shit endlessly and cackling like the scraggly old stew hens we are now. And all this despite the fact that she is a full-on University professor who is advancing towards becoming Dr. Gramsy, and does not technically have time for our shenanigans, yet always seems to have time, anyway. As long as you don't bring up the horrifying spectre of (whispered) [[[animatronics]]], which will get you banished forevermore from Gramdrews' Home for Wayward Girls. (Ask her about her trip to Disneyworld. As long as you have someplace else to stay).
|Gramsy and I- oops! -wearing the same jacket. You can tell we're adults at this point because there's food on the table.|
About that nickname: her current place was dubbed The Gramdrews' Home For Wayward Girls, the former part of which title is a combo of Gramsy's and her hubby's names, and the latter part of which I swiped from my sister Lulu's old house, which was also a way station for travelers and those in search of periodic accommodations, only she called it the home for WAYWEIRD girls. Despite being a borrowed sobriquet, this suited Gramsy's place so perfectly well that one of the Wayward Girls in question, the lovely and talented DB, made a logo for one particularly hotly anticipated gathering. As may be expected, t-shirts were also produced.
|Graphic courtesy of DB, who I think had some time on her hand that week.|
So how do you make a quilt that says "I feel more at home at your house than I have at most of my own apartments?" When ruminating about what to make for Gramsy, I knew I would work with the current Home for Wayward Girls color scheme - fortunately, these are very homey indeed: feathery taupe, creamy cappuchino, buttery yellows and carrot cake orange; fireplace grays, frayed denim blue, heavy cream. The sort of color scheme you may want to sink into and never leave.
|A lounge session at the current Home for Wayward Girls - actual footage. Snort! Get it??|
Instead, I was drawn to the classic Granny's Square pattern for a couple of reasons - first, I love the traditional coziness and thought I could modernize it up a bit with some transparency color work (to make the colors look like they were layers of, say, scotch tape on top of each other, progressively darker, or combining a yellow and a blue by using a green to bridge them. Check out more of these here.) Results were a little mixed here, but I had a good time trying to get the color interplay right.
And second, there is a tradition in Log Cabin quilting of using a red square as the very center patch, to represent hearth and home. And I thought, if any quilt should contain a reference to being a center of love and homey-ness, Gramsy's quilt surely should, since she (and her hubby, who also works with itinerants) has always provided that for so many of us fly-by-night passers-through-town. I tried a bunch of different reds, and also a staggered layout, before settling on a deep dotty rust for all of the center patches, and a more spaced out and gridded 4x5 layout for the blocks.
|In progress on the apt floor in Houston, which I left in.... February 2017. And of course, it took me about 3 minutes before I started thinking of this pattern as "Gramsy's Squares."|
I did have a little bit of trouble with the top, which I had sashed together in a way that guaranteed it would be wiggly when I sewed it....and then I doubled down on the dumb by quilting some of the edges before I had done part of the middle, which is like a cardinal sin in quilting, because it leaves you with THIS little nightmare;
|This green and yellow square was all wiggly no matter what I did, but I'd already sewn all around it so it had no place to go.|
And by god, if I was gonna make Gramsy a quilt, it was going to be of the snuggliest couch-lounging variety I could manage, which meant lots of double-gauze for the back. While I love double-gauze with my whole heart, it done me wrong (again) because it multiplied my issues with the wiggly top by ALSO being wiggly, and refusing to be basted into place in straight lines. Which led to this silly looking bit here:
|Forgive me, Gramsy. The lines, they are crooked, though I tried very hard. But I was out-wiggled.|
|The back is all double-gauze of subdued shades. What does this remind me of? Oh yeah....|
|... early 2000s alternative rock, of course.|
In the end, the wiggles were mostly compensated for by the desirable washed-quilt scrunching up....though that yellow and green block draws my eye eternally and will be the death of me, dangit.
|Once resewn and washed, the wiggles subsided somewhat. Transparency attempts in evidence here (I hope.)|
And the label...well, of course, the label could only be one thing, and with apologies to DB for my somewhat fast and loose embroidered interpretation of her careful lettering, I think it nevertheless captures the spirit of what she was going for:
|My homage to DB's original brilliance. Was gonna add a "EST. 1990" at the bottom but that made me feel too OLD.|
|And speaking of old: tiny infant children at Christmas at the original Home for Wayweird Girls, Urbana, maybe like 1993. That's the Cap'n in green, me in back, Gramsy at 3:00, and Chella at beer-thirty.|
|The Gramsy Squares quilt takes its final ride in the car, where it had lived for the better part of a year.|
It seems kinda relieved to be going home, no?
So big stupid hugs and potato-based casseroles to you, Dr. Gramsy, and many many thanks to you for your willingness to open your home up to all sorts of itinerants, and also feed them a lot of the time, and also for generally being awesome and hilarious and sensible to a refreshing and amazing degree for all of these years. I promise I will try my best to never bring up [[[animatronics]]] ever again, even though your reaction to them is so, so funny, if you will promise to forgive me my wiggly fabrics and my silly lines, and also the tardiness of this humble offering. Consider this my contribution to the clean bedding stash for the next lucky passers-through.....hope I am among them soon!
|If you squint, you can't even see that yellow and green block up there,|
which is very wiggly to this day but it doesn't bother me.
I'll bring the beer & Boursin - save me a seat on the patio!