Island Lily

Did I say I’d write again “tomorrow?” Ha. Don’t you know tomorrow never comes?

I find I’ve been ridiculously (wonderfully and deliciously) busy this winter. I’m not working, the shop and restaurant are closed until March/April, but I’ve been visiting with friends, taking crafting classes here on the island, walking, and generally doing the things I love while trying my best to keep from feeling guilty about indulging myself so.

Maybe it would assuage the guilt if I bothered to share what I’ve been doing here… Alright then.

Every winter there is a course offered in a traditional handcraft, called the Heritage Workshop; the cost is minimal, because the Arts Guild of North Carolina helps fund the program.  I see it as an opportunity to learn something I might otherwise never get the chance to do. Last year the class offered basketry, and turns out I loved that, so I decided that I would sign up for the class each year regardless of the topic. This year the course was in quilting, taught by a local-ish (from Beaufort) instructor named Pepper Cory. She decided to focus her three-day class on piecing a traditional quilt block called the North Carolina Lily, and added a twist by asking us to incorporate plaid fabrics in the block because textile mills in NC were famous for their plaids.

Interesting enough historically, I supposed, but flowers? Kitch-y, old-lady flower blocks, and plaid??!? I’ve been sewing since I was a little girl, though mostly garments. The quilts that have interested me lately were more geometric in design, and definitely have a modern look to them. I went to class the first day willingly, but not feeling too enthused about the project. Ah well, it’s only three days, and I might learn something, and if nothing else I will have a present to give away when I finish my piece…

Pepper began class by talking about the history of quilts, specifically in eastern North Carolina, and showing us a number of vintage and antique quilts. It was fascinating to see the pieces, especially to consider the ingenuity of women making these beautiful useful objects from scraps and leftovers of their daily lives – feedsacks and worn clothing and old rags.

The prize of Pepper’s collection was an antique quilt (beautifully cleaned and restored) done in a version of the block we were to study. The quilt top was elaborately appliqued, rather than pieced from scraps, and the quilting stitches were minuscule and perfect. This was definitely a quilt from a wealthy home.

We discussed the block we would be working on, talked about fabric and color choices, and started rummaging through the fabric stash donated by the local Needle and Thread club. Some of the plaids started to look pretty appealing to me, and I liked the idea of using “what was on hand” to create something beautiful. Hmmm….

We selected fabrics and began cutting: painstakingly precise angles and straight lines, quarter-inch seam allowances (not much room for fudging!) and repeated trips back to the stash table to change out fabrics.

I chose to use plaids as the petals of my flowers, and soon had manages the tricky seaming to make the corners meet properly. I found I even liked my block (you can tell I look pretty miserable, huh?)

It was truly amazing to see the wide range of interpretations on the block from each member of the class. Every person made a block that was uniquely her own.

That’s my block, second from the left

The whole class (and a few visitors,) posing with finished blocks

By the end of the second day, I had decided that not only did I really enjoy the challenge of the project, I really liked the way my block had turned out – decidedly Spring-themed – and had cut out pieces for three more blocks (in Summer, Autumn, and Winter colors.) Meaning I would take my project home and work on it. I planned to make a wall-hanging sized piece (each finished block measures 15 inches square.)

I finished piecing together the top a few days ago, and even made a (more modern) back using scraps from the same fabrics:

I’m in the process of hand-quilting the piece, which is a slow and meditative process I am enjoying more than I expected. And I won’t be giving this thing away when I’m finished. I already have a prominent space to display it on the wall.

Huh. Who knew I could be converted so easily?

All for now.