Several years ago my sister and I made a long-distance quilt. She bought seven fabrics that went well together, kept three and sent three to me. The seventh was the "theme fabric," and she used it to make 30 block centers and 30 block elements. The block centers each consisted of a trapezoid, cut three inches tall and four or five inches wide, at different angles. The block elements consisted of striped panels made up of the theme fabric plus some of the other fabrics.
She then sewed some of her fabrics to the block centers in log cabin fashion, and sent the blocks to me. I sewed some of my fabrics to the growing blocks, and sent them back to her. At some point the striped elements got added to the blocks. After a couple more back-and-forths each of the 30 blocks was about the right size, and I squared them up and sewed them together into a quilt top.
At which point I said to her, what are you going to do with this quilt? And she said, I don't want it, I hate these colors.
But you bought the fabric! I know, she said, but the devil made me do it -- I loved the theme fabric and got carried away.
Well, I was totally on the same page -- loved the theme fabric, but didn't like the colors very much. It seemed way too babyish and pastelly, and neither of us had any pastel babies who needed quilts. So I layered it, quilted a very rudimentary in-the-ditch grid around the edges of the blocks, and stuck it on the bottom of the pile of quilts on the guest bed for a long time.
I acquired a granddaughter, but she was too old for a pastelly babyish quilt. My sister acquired two grandsons, but the quilt seemed too pastelly for either of them (they were tough guys from birth). The quilt stayed at the bottom of the pile on the guest bed. Finally my sister acquired a baby granddaughter, and it seemed as though the time was right to haul the quilt out, finish it and give it away already.
When I surveyed the quilt I realized how much I've learned about technique in the last fifteen years. The quilting had not been as careful as I would be today, but there was enough of it in place, and it wasn't that bad, so that it seemed really silly to rip it all out. The batt was a puffy polyester rather than the flat cotton I would use now. So puffy, in fact, that when I added more quilting lines there were lots of tiny pleats in the backing. But it's a beautiful, babyish, pastelly quilt that Kate is going to be able to drag all over creation without fear of offending its makers. Sorry, dear, it isn't a masterpiece quilt, but feel free to take it out in the yard any time you want.
Since my artistic theme for 2011 is collaboration, and since the quilt was finished this year, I decided to call this one of my collaborative projects. Hey, it's my project and I can define it as loosely as I want!
I am still intrigued by the concept of a long-distance quilt. I still love the log cabin method, and I find it particularly conducive to this type of multiple-artist construction. As we made the quilt, it was fun to see how we each worked in different styles. For instance, when my sister worked on the blocks, they tended to become non-rectangular, echoing the angular shapes of the central trapezoids. When I got them, I tended to make them rectangular again. The finished blocks ended up reflecting both styles -- the perfect ending to a collaboration.
Here's Baby Kate with her new quilt.