Over the past year I’ve been noticing that my fingers are clumsier with hand sewing, my hands ache after free motion quilting, and I can pretty much forget about sewing on dark fabrics at night even with all the lights on. I suspect this is my body’s way of saying that I better get ready to make some accommodations in my quilting.
I had already stopped making large quilts as it was just too hard to maneuver the bulk around the sewing machine and ironing board and sandwich the quilt layers. Besides, how many bed quilts do I (or my family members) need?
So, here’s some work-arounds I tried with a recent small piece called 12 Carat Diamond.
The blocks are extremely simple and done with freezer paper piecing – no lengthy cutting sessions. I wanted the fabric to do the work. I used fusible batting so I didn’t need to use safety pins. Even with that helper gadget I find closing and opening the pins to be hard. I used my walking foot for much of the quilting and kept the free motion work to a minimum. That way my arthritic hands got a break.
For the binding I used Sharon Shaumber’s starch and glue technique to stiffen and then hold the binding in place while I stitched it down. I’ve settled on cutting my binding strips at 2 and 3/8 inches for “normal” bindings. That gives me enough leeway to machine stitch down the folded over edge. I do nothing fancy. I just stitch in the ditch on the right side and make sure I catch the binding on the wrong side.
One thing I tried this time was to wash the quilt after it was quilted but before it was bound. I wanted a crinkly finish but didn’t want that on the binding. Here’s what the edges looked like after washing but before binding.
Of course, I could try to persuade my husband that living in a warm climate would help my aches, but then a friend and I wouldn’t have gotten the idea for a guild program on methods and tools for quilting with an aging body.
As I was photographing this quilt I realized that its color palette was a good match for my hair color, or lack of it. I guess my unconscious was sending me a message.