My Party Quilt Scrapbook
Here are some of my favorite
party quilt memories.
Proper attire is so
important for social occasions. So, party quilters, I suggest
you choose a
dark-colored dress which will not show accidental markings from permanent
pens (Black is ideal). Wear well-aged shoes with rubber soles, for comfort and speed
when chasing down the other guests. Carry a dainty, yet humongous, satchel, packed with
permanent pens, thread snippers plus, of course, an actual bed-sized
quilt, rolled and stuffed into a designer pillowcase,
de rigueur for
keeping dog hairs off the quilt during the car ride.
Thus attired, I arrived
at the big event a half hour early. My friend's father, who I
haven't seen in about two decades, greeted me at the door with a big hug,
followed by obviously amused scrutiny. "So, Cathy," he
arching his eyebrows at the lumpy vintage Calvin Klein pillowcase tastefully
peeping from my carryall, "Were you planning to sleep here?"
Let the wiseacres
jest. I had 3,000 miles for this mission - a quilting mission, the best
kind. The event
honored the bat mitzvah (a Jewish coming-of-age religious ceremony) of my friend's 13-year-old-daughter. But my oversized party purse is not exactly
the norm for bat mitzvah guests, any more than it would be for a guest at a
baby shower, wedding or anniversary or birthday party. Several months
before, this darling girl had told me, long distance, that she very much
wanted a signature quilt for her party, please please please.
The kid begged. She's
darling, I'm a pushover, so there I was, like Frodo, far from home. Instead of a
sinister ring, I
am shlepping a cozy, nearly-finished quilt. The center said something about
this girl's unique personality. She reads fiction voraciously, ('Lord of
the Rings' is her favorite), also devours anthropology, and every the National Geographic. She's wild about horses ("especially, cuuuute
horses," her older brother had chortled. ) Her
favorite colors are yellow, lavender, forest green, and sky blue. Her mom
reported that she selects clothing with solid colors; stripes are rare, and
florals, never. She's an avid traveller, and loved Paris and London.
All those references and more, gleaned during some really fun phone
conversations and emails that never would have happened if I weren't a
quilter, are reflected on the quilt.
The quilt is batted,
backed, bound, and completely quilted. But it's not quite done yet.
The borders feature blank-looking oversized
rectangles---they're supposed to be books---- that look like they need
a little something more . My job today: To persuade the other guests to
finish this quilt.
Bringing a party
quilt makes attending a party a lot more fun and exciting than
attending a party the ordinary way. OK, and perhaps, as Frodo would
tell you, un frisson more stressful …
The manager of the
small restaurant had promised us an empty table for the quilt. Well, that
table turned out to be in a remote corner, behind a high counter. I steered a bunch of them over to the quilt before
started, but there were many more to go when
everyone sat down .
During the short,
informal toasts, my friends forgot to mention the quilt . That's my
fault---I didn't suggest it. I was shyly hoping that rumours of the quilt
would just magically spread .
Midway through desert, I
noticed people who hadn't signed the quilt leaving the restaurant. I
could not procrastinate one more moment.
OK, maybe one more .
Taking one more
bite of the luscious chocolate desert, I lept decisively to my feet. Bracing myself to converse with many more
strangers than I had hoped, I dashed to the far corner, seized my quilt
and pens, and was immediately waylaid by cousin Abigail.
Abigail was a
brilliant, charismatic 5-year-old. She wanted my pens, so I gave her one.
That wasn't enough. Her little hand went back up in the air, pointing at the
rest of them. She clarified her position: She was not going to budge until I
delivered them all. First I laughed. Then I frowned. For several
seconds, I mistook her for an obstacle. At last, I recognized her as my
heaven-sent angel. I gave her all my pens, and informed her that we were a team.
I explained the system. I carried the quilt. She
did most of the talking, plus uncapping and handing pens to guests. (Yikes!).
People signed the twin-size quilt on the back of chairs, or even on hastily
cleared tables, perilously close to desert and coffees, but miraculously,
there were no spills.
Our coordination was awesome,
right up until the very moment that Abigail suddenly slipped all the pens
into her pink patent-leather purse, and vanished. I found myself blockaded
between chairs, dangling a twin-sized quilt, no pens, with several more
tables to go, desperately scanning the horizon for a low-lying adorable
blonde head. (I did track her down and cajole her into returning most of
the pens, in time to snag the rest of the guests).
Sarah took that quilt home
with her. She sleeps under it every night. Despite the burden of
haute couture and wrestling with angels, this story has a happy ending.
For 'Ben's Quilt,' another
Bar Mitzvah quilt, the
center included a large exploding science fiction star. Around it, I set
pencil sketches this talented young man had made, (of his favorite Japanese
computer game characters) transferred to fabric. The signable borders are a lightly patterned white,
intermittently rubber stamped images, with a few photo-transfers in
the corners. The sun at the center of the star was also
drawn by Ben.
Linda's Significant Birthday
My friend Linda
was celebrating her X0th birthday with a big bash. (The invitations were to a
"Highly Significant Birthday Party.") I decided to
surprise her with a signature quilt for party guests to sign. The
centerpiece is gold lame, which I backed with fusible interfacing. From
that, I cut out
the words, "Happy (Significant) Birthday, Linda."
Linda had told me
that her party colors were pearlized gold, silver, and pastels, so I used a
metallic batik in those shades for the border surrounding the gold central
panel. The third border is a shiny gold cotton/nylon blend. For the final,
wide signable border, I used a regal African glazed cotton in
gold and white. The fabric LOOKS like it's appliqued and pieced, but
are great for party quilts. Many feature large signable blank areas,
vivid graphics, and best of all, extraordinary symbolism. This particular design,
according to African fabric expert Lisa Shepard Stewart, is an Adrinka
symbol, meaning "It's Okay to Learn from Your Mistakes." You can
learn more about African fabrics on Lisa Shepard Stewart's website,at
http://www.culturedexpressions.com/, and from her 1999 book, 'African Accents'.
If the African fabric you love doesn't have signable fabrics, consider
interspersing pieces of it with blank fabric).
I brought the
quilt to the party, not knowing whether Linda would also have a guest book
or sign-in board. As it turned out, she had planned to have a sign-in
board---but it was never delivered! Perfect! So, with her permission, I
set out this quilt on a table right by the door, along with the gold
and silver metallic Uniball pens you can see in lying on the quilt in the
first picture. People signed the white squares, and it all
worked out beautifully! (No mistakes to learn from - this time!).
The Four-Hour Party Quilt
Wednesday, 9:05 pm. Kids
finally in bed. Lie down. Realize that my aunt’s 80th birthday champagne
brunch is Sunday, in Arizona. I'm in California, and I forgot to
make the party quilt, which must be mailed!. Slap forehead,
leap to feet, run to playroom (it’s also sewing room,) scramble through
cabinet for fabric that reminds me of aunt. Long ago, aunt was a fabulous
modern art painter. Find modern arty blue fabric with colorful wiggles that
actually look like the number 80! Serendipity rocks!
9:20 p.m. Realize I
don’t know what else aunt is into. Telephone cousin. What does aunt like?
Answer: Sweets. What about favorite colors? Cousin puts her husband, an
artist and keen observer, on the phone. Ask him about aunt’s favorite color.
His answer: Sweets.
Cousin gets back on and
informs me that one of her presents to her mom will be 80 chocolate kisses.
I happen to HAVE chocolate kiss fabric! Serendipity ROCKS!
Double-check to make
sure cousin thinks aunt wouldn’t be embarrassed by public exposure of sweet
tooth. “Nah, she’ll get a big kick out of it!” cousin promises. She better
be right, because I’m running with it.
Scramble through fabric to find chocolate kiss and other sweets -
related fabric. Playroom cleaned just this afternoon now looks like
post-hurricane trailer park. Fabric making me hungry, but no time to eat.
10:08-10:52 p.m. Cut
central fabric into a square, cut chocolate kiss and ice cream fabrics into
strips, sew those around the central square. Find interesting signable
fabric that looks like modern art (the grey zig zag) for wide borders. Not
too wide, only 22 guests coming.
10:53-12:13 a.m. Strew
around contents of 3 shoe boxes of fusible-web backed fabrics, seeking elusive
brightly-colored solids ready to cut and fuse. Find them and cut several
freehand to spell “HAPPY” and “RUTHIE”. The 80 is provided by
the central fabric, and I’m writing a “th” next to it with a permanent
white gel pen, so it reads “Happy 80th Ruthie,” but only if
you look very hard. Hey, modern art is supposed to be elusive!
(See photo below for the “th”.)
12:14-12:29 a.m. Sew
front of quilt to back right sides together, with batting underneath, then
turn everything right side out. Voila! Edges finished!
12:30-1:03 a.m. Stitch
in the ditch over all seamlines, around the letters, and around the outer
edge of quilt, in colorful variegated thread.
1:04 a.m. Crash. It’s
only 4 hours past my bedtime. Not too shabby!
6 a.m. Leap
out of bed and race to the sewing room, now indistinguishable from town
dump. Add fabric champagne bottle cut from red lipstick fabric-- aunt always covers me with juicy red
lipstick kisses. Cut realistic label from champagne bottle
fabric, and applique it to kissy bottle. Calculate aunt's birth year, hope
I'm right, and
write it on label with
gold metallic permanent gel pen.
7:30 am At breakfast,
don’t make food - make husband and kids sign the quilt. Take a
picture, wrap it up, add a new pack of colorful permanent pens (just
happened to have them lying around the house), and a long piece of the grey zig zag fabric, backed with batting, for guests to practice.
Tape it all up in
big envelope and
address to cousin.
Bring package to post office and send it, Express. Wa-Hoo!!! This sucker will be two days
Two days later, while
writing this: Big Mistake. I just realized, I forgot one thing: I forgot to sign it.
Three months later:
Visit aunt in Arizona. Quilt hangs in place of honor in her kitchen. Guests
signed it beautifully. One, an artist, drew an intricate landscape in the
border. I love it. She loves it. I finally sign it. Another happy ending.