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Friday, December 2, 2011

Just call me Betsy

While we've been on strike (day job) a couple of interesting quilt opportunities have come my way.

The first was our guild's quilt show, which was well-attended and fun. This is the first year I wasn't racing in with my quilts at the last second, and I must say, it was a welcome change. I still had to take way too much time off from strike duty to finish in time, but at least I WAS in time for once!

Boyfriend and I have agreed that I should do more quilting between shows and less just before shows. Sound medical advice!

This year I stayed at the show both days. Till the last dog was hung, so to speak. I visited with members of the guild and visitors to the show. I ate way too many of the treats set out with the coffee and tea. I took the time to really look at the show itself.

Participation is fun. I felt relaxed for a change, not all strung out like when I would only drop by for my shift working this table or that one. So I've made a mental note, it's easier to be there for the entire show, beginning to end, than it is to run back and forth frantically trying to fit in a couple of hours here and there.

The other experience had to do with the strike. I kept musing how on earth I could create a quilt that would benefit the members of the union. I thought, what about a quilt with all 1700 of our names on it? Where would such a thing hang, and how would it benefit anyone? I thought of making a quilt that could be raffled off, proceeds going to the union. Of course, quilts are not made in a day, and nobody wanted the strike to go on that long...

I finally spoke up and asked around at strike HQ, and the captain asked me if I could make a flag. The only flags we owned were for the umbrella organization, PSAC (Public Service Alliance of Canada). There weren't any for our union. And 'bing!' I immediately set to work.

The project used every scrap (no pun intended) of knowledge I possessed, and not only with fabric. In my day job, I'm theoretically a graphic designer. I get to play with lovely high-end software like Illustrator and Photoshop on a daily basis. And to do this project required all my know-how.

The union logo is complex, full of curves, and unfortunately also full of areas that are less than 1/4 inch wide, even at maximum size for a flag that one person could conceivably carry.

This was problematic because I needed some way to align the pieces with each other once I had had cut out the pattern. So I devised an alignment grid which I superimposed on the logo, then subsequently painstakingly cut apart each of the grid's lines and grouped them with the pattern piece.

Here you see the pattern with the grid.

Then I moved all the pattern pieces around so I could print them out without having pieces split over separate sheets of paper. Which looked like this....

See all those teensy little lines? Yes, they very nearly DID drive me absolutely crazy!

(By the way, those of you with particularly sharp eyes will notice that there are pieces missing from the pattern, which I only noticed myself when I was trying to put it all together. Yes, I missed some.)

Once I'd accomplished the technical feat of getting the pattern printed complete with alignment grid, I began the process of adding the seam allowance, spray-basting the pattern to the fabric (polyester - it had to be lightweight and dry quickly), and adding stablilizer, in this case a tear-away paper, before finally cutting out the pieces. Yay!

That's when I realized some of the pieces didn't have 1/4 inch to tuck a seam allowance underneath. Oh. Okay, I guess it's raw-edge appliqué for those bits.

My raw-edge method is to use a 1mm stitch around the outer edges of the piece, and go around 2 or 3 times. Then I satin-stitch down afterwards, and hope for the best.

The raw-edge technique is also how I did the lettering, since none of the serifs had 1/4" for a seam allowance. (Serifs are the little ornamental bits of the letters, little feet that stick out from the edges.) Since we're dealing with a logo, it's sort of like a trademark, you have to make it look exactly like the printed version, no changing the letters to a simpler font without serifs.

Oh, and by the way, I couldn't make an exact match with said font while I was setting it up in Illustrator, so I had to trace the letters. This is pretty tedious, and in order to get smooth curves it took all my skill. The trick is to use as few points as possible along a curve, but that is a topic for a technical blog, not a quilting one!

Okay. I got the pieces cut, then removed pattern and seam allowance of the stabilizer in order to press the seam allowances of the fabric to the back. Then replace the pattern on the piece, because the pattern had all the little lines on it telling me where the piece went in relation to the other pieces.

Then hand-baste everything in place, because for sure I would need to see it all together and make adjustments so that the circles stayed circular, etc. We are talking about flimsy pieces of fabric here - no matter how much stabilizer you use, it's going to bend, curves will flatten out with handling, etc.

I had to reposition about five of the pieces before I was satisfied with the arrangement. Then I satin-stitched around everything.

It was while doing this satin stitching that I had my humorous thought. All through the week that I'd been working on this project I'd been saying things like "Just call me Betsy," after Betsy Ross, the lady who made the first American flag. I was muttering under my breath as I was slowly getting round the edges of the pattern, her famous line, "Shoot if you must this old, grey head, but spare your country's flag!" when my humorous thought hit me.

It was probably a lot more like this:

"Well, you're gonna have to shoot me, punk! Because the only way you're getting your filthy mitts on my flag is OVER MY DEAD BODY!"

I convulsed around my sewing room laughing out loud to myself for a while, then had to phone my friend L, who is an American and a quilter, and who would understand exactly how that was much more likely to have been the sentiment expressed by the old, grey head! Forget the noble-sounding line! Anyone who has put so much into a quilt would probably stand in the way of a musket ball to prevent damage to it!

We're a passionate lot!

Oh, and here's a pic from the picket line.

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