Saturday, 16 May 2015

Project: Robot Rescue

Don't be alarmed. The Robot is just fine.
Well...except that I'm a little-more-than-intimidated by him.
I know, I know.  I'm a big girl, I can handle myself and I possess enough determination to figure this out. But, have you seen this thing? The Giant Wiggler is a mammoth. And, he's complicated.   (***gulp***)

We had a rough first date and while I let him walk me home, there was no kiss. I can say with certainty that it's going to be a while before I let him put his lint brush next to mine in the medicine cabinet but I'm not going to give up.

I decided the best way to figure him out was to jump in, after all that's how I roll. So I dug out a Christmas gift and got things ready. Now, this gift I speak of...well, that's kinda complicated too. You see...there's this thing we quilters worry about: what happens to our stuff when we die? Who will finish our things? Will anybody care? Unless we make plans there's no way of knowing really. But sometimes, the universe looks after things.

I am a hairstylist by day and at Christmastime it's common to receive gifts from clients. This Christmas  I was gifted 2 vintage quilt tops by a client who works for an auction house. They had been hired to clear the estate of a deceased person. Among the piles of household items were 8 quilt tops, and the auctioneer deemed them trash. My client, an older quilter, was horrified and asked if she could have them. To make a long story short...she's determined to see this woman's work completed. She took them home and washed them, pressed them and shared them.

These tops are precious. They are made in typical make-do fashion. Things are wonky, seams are crooked, there are puckers and stains and frayed edges. To some perhaps they are trash, but to me, they are perfection. They are exactly what quilts were meant to be... a utilitarian object built out of need and love. There are mostly hand stitches and hope is evident, someone made these with the intent of sharing time, talent and warmth.

I decided that a first project for The Robot should be a top that I'm not terribly invested in...something that needs done but could be used at the beach or out by the fire on a cool evening where perfection of any sort wouldn't matter in the least. I rooted thru the pile of flimsies and found this orphaned gem. I am strangely drawn to the weird mix of colours and's funky, it's's "fugly". I like it. I found some chunks of old Jinny Beyer prints that have languished long enough in my stash and made a backing that is as weirdly "colour challenged" as the front.

It took some time to get that old top ready for the frame. I had to press it, repair a few seams, straighten up the borders and lastly trim the snarled and confused mess of tangled threads from the back that probably appeared when my client washed it.

Doing this trimming gave me time to look closely at the construction. Lot's of the blocks were pieced where she clearly ran out of fabric but needed to make do with what bits she had on hand. Some of the stitches were really fine and others were a bit bigger. There are a couple seams that were machine sewn. This leads me to believe that perhaps more than one person worked on the top; who knows, that wasn't at all uncommon back in the day.

At any rate, it's all done and loaded up. The Robot is ready to go. I've decided to float the top so that I can manipulate the fullness as I quilt. I learned a thing or two in my years with the Wee Wiggler, so although I am a total greenhorn with The Robot, this isn't my first time on the quilt-frame-merri-go-round.  The quilting won't be perfect; there will be puckers and pleats because it's not even close to laying flat. But I'm okay with it because somewhere in the heavens a woman is smiling, happy to see that someone valued her work enough to rescue it.

My years of working in dog rescue has taught me many things, not the least of which is this:
Rescue work is more passion than perfection.
The same can be said of quilting.


  1. The same sentiment sort of applies to the sewing machine I currently use. It originally belonged to my husband's great-grandmother. It was passed down through the family and, from what I understand, nobody after her really used it much. My mother-in-law used it to make a set of curtains before putting it in their basement for many years. After expressing an interest in sewing, it was passed along to me before the hubs and I got married. My mother-in-law often says that Mamaw Mack must be smiling down from heaven because her old machine is finally making quilts again. :) I'm excited to see what you and the robot do with this rescue!!

  2. You certainly have a soft spot for orphaned things. Looking forward to seeing the completed quilt. Yes, someone in heaven is doing a happy dance.

  3. What a gloriously wonderful post -- we are kindred spirits when it comes to finishing these older tops! You described this passion SO well.

    You and the Robot will do just fine - I'm certain of it. Thanks for sharing this gem with us.

  4. Great story and I just know the lady or ladies who made this quilt are smiling right now and will smile even more once you put your majic stitches on this quilt top !