Monday, July 5, 2010

The Zack-and-Sara Wedding Quilt of Burning Love

So in August of 2009, Robb and I started making a quilt. In June of 2010, we finished it. And quite happily, packaged it up and sent it to dear friends Zack and Sara, who got married last August. A little late, but when it comes to things that you hope people will have and enjoy for the rest of their lives, I think ten months is about the right gestation period. You don't want to just crank out something like this willy nilly!

The idea to make Zack and Sara a quilt came on their wedding day.

(Here's a photo of Sara from the front, cuz I know everyone is more interested in seeing the bride than the groom! Also, this is a favorite photo that captured the housekeeper, who was trying to help out with the train but just kept on walking down the aisle with all of the her jeans. Oops! Sorry...I couldn't resist!)

While that day was in all likelihood one of the best of their lives, it didn't start out so well for me and Robb. We had woken up in the hotel in the morning, all set to go scope out some Mexican food, when I realized that I couldn't find my engagement ring. It wasn't on the nightstand where I'd left it (and for those who are wondering, I don't sleep with it on...the ring gets too tight and it freaks me out!!). We looked everywhere in that room for three straight hours. We called in the maid service to help us look, I cried openly at the registration was a real barrel of laughs. We kept looking for the ring until it was absolutely time to take a shower and get to the ceremony. And it was at that moment that Robb found the ring in his suitcase, mysteriously buried beneath a pile of clothes. With HUGE relief, we quickly got ready for the wedding, but in our furious hours-long search for the ring, we never got a chance to wrap their gift--which was a mortar and pestle off the registry along with some plastic veggie keepers (you know, like the plastic thing that looks like an onion and you twist it open and put a cut onion in it?). I'm sure Zack and Sara are very sad not to have received that AMAZING gift. We wound up lugging this gift around SoCal and then brought it back to New York, whereupon I declared the gift to be so utterly lame that I couldn't stand to mail it. And then we decided to make them a quilt.

From the beginning, the deal was that this would not be something that I made and Robb signed the card. We would make it together--as in we would BOTH cut the fabric and I would teach him how to sew. And so we picked out a pattern (the Four-Patch Comfort in Quilting for Peace--a book that I had edited, in fact!), bought our fabric (in blues and whites, which were their wedding colors), and got to cutting.

And cutting. And cutting. The quilt had 224 four-inch squares that needed to be cut out one by one before being pieced together one row at a time.

Here's me after the first row of squares had been chain-pieced together, getting ready to trim the thread between each square. (Can you tell I was excited about this part?)

Once we finished piecing together all of the squares, I embroidered their initials in the corner. We then put together a piece of blue fabric for the backing, sandwiched some batting between the front and back, and then tied a knot at every single intersecting point of the quilt with blue perle cotton. I recognize that this sounds like a pain in the butt and that it would have been easier and faster to buy a walking foot for the sewing machine and quilt the blanket mechanically, but there is something so un-intimidating about tying knot after knot after knot. Anyone can tie a knot (or 100 knots), you know? And it keeps the blanket nice and airy--I never like quilts that feel all stiff with stitches.

The quilt then sat in this state for quite some time as I pondered how one actually binds a quilt. The directions in the book were good, but quite frankly I was scared. They kept mentioning things about "mitered corners" and traditional bindings versus mock bindings, and it was all very intimidating. Then a few weeks ago, my mind somehow finally ready for the challenge, I just sat down and did it in one night. Robb was at work and got a text from me that said something along the lines of "I'm finishing it! And I'm doing it alone." It all felt very dramatic. As it should when you've spent ten months working on something and the end is finally in sight.

And here is me mitering my first ever corner. Folding up the binding at a 45-degree angle.
Then folding it down, pinning it in place and backstitching at the corner.

And then continuing to stitch the binding in place 1/4" from the edge until I got to the next corner. (And trying not to let the maracas get in the way...yup, still haven't moved them.)

And when it was done, it was prettier than I could have imagined. I still laugh when I look at it, seeing how the pattern suddenly switches at one end from perfect diagonal lines of brown, white and blue to sort of a V-shape--that's where we sewed a row to the quilt the wrong way and decided it was too annoying to take it out. I look at that and think how happy I am that we made something pretty and imperfect for Zack and Sara. I love that the mistakes in the quilt make it more interesting, even better. And that there is a story behind this quilt. All of which, of course, makes for a simple and potent metaphor and meditation on love. I hope that the quilt brings them peace and happy moments and that every time they look at it, they feel support from friends and good wishes.

I also wanted to include this last photo because the wind blew the quilt up and revealed our ghost-town-esque Knott's Berry Farm falling apart fossil of a table. Now THAT'S pretty.

What? I couldn't leave it on too sappy of a note!