Love Letters to Friends, As Well As Very Important Musings on Earth Shattering Matters:
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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Blackhawks, Furballs, and Irish Chains: The Wedding of E and J

…another foray into traditional patterns for wedded friends, with sporty colors and concern for cat hair.

Back in November, friends Erica and Josh tied the knot, but before that I had asked what kind of colors I ought to consider when making their present, and E informed me that red, white and black were her colors: the colors for her wedding, the colors of her beloved Chicago Blackhawks, and also partly the colors of her alma mater, where she met her future husband, though she didn't know that last part at the time - though it sounds like maybe Josh knew!  - and also where he also proposed to her.  Aw!

A pile of preliminary fabric pulls, with E and J's invitation for guidance.

I know E from our mutual obsession with the weightlifting part of Crossfit - in the past, we eschewed the WODs in favor of hiding out on the Oly Lifting side of the gym.  But last year we successfully completed, like what? 3 whole months of mostly WODs? Which for us is amazing!  And we should start doing that again soon, and certainly after the number of cookies I've been enjoying this holiday season, which are shortly to number in the billions, right after I finish this batch of Tollhouse Chocolate Chips I whipped up today.  Crossfit does not figure into this quilt story: that was just a reminder to E that she needs to call me and/or start coming to the 11:00 Saturday Oly class on Belmont.  I promise I won't even talk about doing the morning class ever again!

(As an indication of what an excellent person E is, let me just tell you that this past year she used to get up at 6 a.m. in the MORNING to go to the early WOD with me, AND pick me up on the way, in the worst, darkest, coldest, crappiest winter we ever had, even though she works from home and could totally have gone to the noon class every day instead.  E's work involves in-home visits with kids on the autism spectrum, which I find humbling and fascinating because it requires so much patience, which I so totally don't have.  She took in a stray cat who I found on my back porch, who was kind of an asshole, and made him into the purringest, most content, tolerant, fattest fat bastard around.  AND she introduced me to the lusciously delicious fudgey tamale dessert at the incredibly great El Maya restaurant, for which kindness she will forever have my gratitude.  So basically she's just about the nicest person ever, and she is lucky to have found J, who realizes she is the nicest person ever and feels lucky to have found her as well.  Symmetry!)
6:00 am during the Polar Vortex! Rise and Shine!

(picture by Nam Y Huh/APWire, published in The Guardian 6 Jan 2014)

Side-note: at the wedding I was sitting in the cocktail area before dinner, and a kindly older couple asked if they could share my table.  These turned out to be J's grandparents up from Florida, and after some chatter it turned out that his grandma was ALSO a quilter! Hooray, a live person to talk with about this stuff! And she is clearly something of an expert, too, since she mentioned that she had given Cathedral Window quilts to like all of her grandchildren, and I can't even imagine the time it takes to finish ONE of those, much less one for everyone in the family.  Amazing.  And later J's aunt also sat down with us, and she inherited her mother's quilting gene as well, so all in all I had a lovely cocktail hour talking enthusiastically about my fledgling efforts to join their ranks, and peppering them with questions, and they were very nice to me about it even though I totally blanked like a newb on the name of the pattern I was making for E and J.  That could have been the gin blanking, and not me, though.  In any event, Josh's grandma, call me!

Example of a Cathedral Window quilt from here. Not even on my radar yet.

Speaking of which, I went through a few patterns that are very of-the-moment, involving arrows or the appearance of feathers, thinking this would be on point for a Blackhawks-colored quilt.  Then I thought that might be a little TOO on point, and besides, this was a quilt for both of them, right?  And a wedding! As with Jeannie's Arkansas Traveler quilt, I felt somehow like wedding quilts should be a traditional pattern, and with the bold graphic qualities of these colors, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what the pattern should be:  an Irish Chain.  Named after an old surveying tool, as described by the inimitable quilt historian Barbara Brackman here and here, this is one of the oldest quilts around, and has stayed consistently popular over the decades.  (There is speculation it was actually created first in America and then exported back to Ireland in the 18th century, interestingly.) As usual, there are dozens of variations and interpretations of the Irish Chain, but in general it is a series of linked blocks set in a crossing diagonal pattern.  Like so.  Or here's a double Irish Chain.  Here's one where the diagonals are scrappy different colors.

Here's what I ended up with:

My version, finished top.

There was an inspiration behind this color layout: a quilt kit called City Blocks on Etsy.  While I liked this, I didn't necessarily want to give a kitted quilt - I'd rather to give something unique to my friends, especially on such an auspicious occasion.  Also, I have a half-billion red and black prints that were going to work out nicely.  And finally, the fabrics in the kit looked like they maybe used an off-white or an ivory for the base, and I believe the whiter white looks better with this color scheme.  I actually tried this with gray diagonal blocks also, but preferred the white (though the gray is kind of cool too.  Maybe will do a companion quilt that way someday.)

A preliminary layout of gray instead of white diagonal squares.

And something else I tried the first time this time - the oft-suggesting Taking A Picture In Black And White to See Values.  In that exercise, I discovered that even though something is red, it might read as darker to the eye.  To whit: take a look at these two pictures, and specifically the red block which is second from right in the row of 5 across that is third from bottom.  In the black and white, that looks black, which was surprising to me, and good food for thought.  I left it that way, because I liked the groupings of the darker-valued fabrics, but I think I'll incorporate this B&W look into all my future fabric placements.

In any event, I created a version of Irish Chain/City Blocks that used bigger central blocks and a pure white…. and I went through a comical number of different red swatches before settling on the red that acts as the ground color and inside border, which was Kona Cardinal. The quilting was on the diagonal through the "chains" and also as a big X through the central squares of the colored parts, and I dusted off the free-motion wiggle that I had employed in Bean's Autumn quilt for the red border.  I also used double bamboo/cotton batting, to give this some cush factor for cozy polar vortex snuggling.  The darker border is a cool dotted chambray fabric from Robert Kaufman, with a great hand, that I quite like - I expect you'll be seeing this in something again at some point.

A salubrious placement of the diagonals on this lacy gray fabric, and the cross-diagonal quilting.
The Return of the Wiggle Quilting, and a pleasant black and white dotty chambray border.

 For the back, I indulged a bit in the 'Hawks mania that sweeps my city for half the year - the red half with stripes is the color scheme and embellishment from the away jerseys.  And the black half was in deference to the fact that E's cat Sharpie - rescued from my back porch two years ago now, and grown sleek, contented, and big as a panther under her care (and named after Blackhawk scorer and resident hottie Patrick Sharp) - is black and sheds like a mo-fo.  I know this because after the two months he was housed in my apartment two years ago, I STILL encounter stray black hairs in my quilting fabric, a testament both to their ubiquity and staying power, and also to my lamentable house-keeping abilities.  J's cat Chloe, who has become a boon companion to Sharpie in the past year, is tiny and a beautiful calico, but I had a hard time coming up with something that could hide calico hair AND black hair, and still adhere to the color scheme.  And of course there is no hiding a hairball, regardless of color.  But if you can just keep Sharpie on the black side….

Here Come the Hawks!

The adorable Patrick Sharp, just the fellow to cozy up through a polar vortex with….
…and his adorable furry namesake, Sharpie, who will do in a pinch. (Note Hawks bobble head behind him.)

The label on this one took some doing and looks pretty shaky, because I was trying to do something more complicated than the rubber ducky (I swear it was a rubber ducky) on Bobby's equilateral triangle baby quilt.  I wanted to represent for J as well, and based on the Star Trek comms worn as boutonnieres at the wedding, I think I hit upon a pretty good image for them both.  If I were more artistic, I would have tried to meld the pictures together somehow, but I knew that way madness lay and stuck to simple images I could thieve online.  My stem stitch is still the only thing I know how to do embroidery-wise, but it is a reliable and relatively easy stitch to use for outlines; as before, my tracing skills are a little sketchy (ha! see what I did there?) but this felt a little less awkward than the ducky.  Progress!

A little skittery, but the sentiment is there.  Blanket stitch needs some work, too.  

For the record, this quilt was indeed a late wedding present, but only technically 1 week late, as I was furiously working to make the wedding date but missed it by a whisker…..but then it took me another 2 months, almost to actually get it to the happy couple, on account of I am distractible and they were also enjoying a fabulous honeymoon, and then the holidays started happening.  But the package is delivered, the Hawks are first in the Central Division at 23-10-2, and E and J are now boldly going into their future together, trailing feline companions, a much expanded family of well-wishers for each, and a universe of best wishes from me for their continuing and growing happiness.  Mazel tov, you beautiful people, you!  Let's get some fudgey tamales soon.

Still on my fridge.



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