Finally, Fusion Finished!

Have you ever wanted something real bad and then, when you get it, all you can do is sit and grin at it?

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I’ve been grinning at my finished fusion quilt for a couple of weeks now and I figure it’s time to share it with you. I know some of you will be happy to celebrate with me!

A brief re-cap of the project:

I started this quilt in autumn of 2017. As you may remember, I sell vintage linens on Etsy and, in handling my treasures, I often come across pieces that are too damaged to sell.

And, yet, these damaged items still have patches of perfection. A pillowcase may have a big hole in the middle but lovely crochet along the edge. Bugs may have chewed a hole in an embroidered and starched tablecloth but left other areas pristine.

I have never been able to throw these pieces in the trash. Over the years, I’ve piled up a ton of “pretties”—the perfect sections from otherwise useless linens. I always thought I’d find a project for them.

And then I read a post by Tialys, about an approach called a “fusion quilt,” which uses squares of fabric, sewn with batting, edged with blanket stitch embroidery, and crocheted together.

A quick trip to Pinterest gave me more inspiration and I knew I’d found the perfect vehicle for my precious bits of vintage linens, my pretties.

The quilt ended up with 108 5-inch blocks. I included bits from hankies, napkins, towels, tablecloths, and pillowcases. Most of the fabrics came from my special drawer, although friends started bringing me bits they found, too. My favorite square of all is the pink kitty from a decrepit crib sheet, given to me by a dear friend in my sewing group.

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In some cases, with sturdy pieces, I was able to layer the pretty piece with backing and batting, and just sew them and turn them inside out.

With very delicate hankies and such, I ironed the pretty into lightweight fusible web, to give it substance.

When my pretty had lacy or embellished edges I wanted to show, I layered in another piece of off-white fabric as a backing, stitching as much, or little, as I thought necessary.

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I sewed blanket stitch around each square, to serve as a foundation for the crochet.

For the crochet, I used 3/2-weight mercerized cotton from my weaving stash. It is a nice weight, has a pretty sheen, and doesn’t stretch. I did only double crochet, nothing fancy, because double crochet is really the only stitch I know how to do.

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I could have obsessed endlessly about the placement or the squares in the final quilt but I find I get bored with that easily. I did come up with a minimal plan, though, and then my cat rearranged everything for me. So, I ended up placing all the all-white blocks in the middle and then making a transition to borders of brighter-colored blocks at the edges.

After I had crocheted everything together (which didn’t take nearly as long as I feared), I did a row of single crochet around the whole outside edge and then went around again with good-old, reliable double crochet. (Truth be told, I used up hours of my life that I’ll never get back again, figuring out how to do a shell border that would fit tidily within the length of each square, then hated the way it looked.) I used a different cone of off-white cotton for that last border and it turned out to be slightly darker than what I had used for the rest of the quilt and I kind of like the look!

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If ever there were a project that would benefit from being done over again, right now, with the lessons learned fresh in mind, it is this one. I could point out a zillion little mistakes, from bad planning, from inexperience, from winging it.

But I won’t!

All those years, when I taught public speaking to college kids, I told them that Rule One was never to draw attention to any problems or negatives in their speeches. They were NOT to tell us their hands were shaking or that they had forgotten their note cards. Why? Because if the speaker didn’t draw attention to the negatives, the chances were excellent no one else would ever notice. But, if the speaker drew attention to the problem, no one would ever be able to look away . . .

And so, I will follow my own advice and not draw attention to the flaws in my quilt.

I will admit, instead, that I am very pleased with it and have even peeked into that drawer that holds the pretty pieces and thought that maybe, someday, I would start another fusion quilt.

Heaven knows, I have the pretties. And the quilt fits perfectly on a twin-size bed . . . and I have two of those.

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This Is for You. I Made It Myself.

“This is for you. I made it myself.”

You make something for a friend or for a family member.

You think of them, with every stitch and brush stroke and creative impulse.

You consider their likes and dislikes, their favorite colors, their lifestyle. You pour yourself into the making.

You want it to be perfect, to express your love, your affection, the extent to which you value their presence in your life.

You value their presence but . . . do they value your present?

A couple of times lately, I have come face to face with what I consider a bit of a betrayal. I’ve found, at garage sales, beautiful handmade gifts being sold for a pittance.

It’s given me pause and made me wonder about the extent to which handmade gifts can ever be truly appreciated by people who are not, themselves, hand makers.

One of the items I came across is this beautiful hand crocheted afghan, in wild and wonderful shades of green.

 

It was hanging on a clothesline at a yard sale and I idly asked if it was for sale. Yes, it was. How much? Two dollars. Two dollars?! I’ll take it.

I asked, Did you make it? The answer was, No, my best friend made it for me.

Um.

Okay.

Your best friend spent hours making you this gift and you are selling it to a stranger for two dollars.

I knew not what to say. But what I thought was “pearls before swine.” What I thought was your friend deserves a better friend than you. And I became the crocheting friend’s friend, in absentia, and will give her afghan the good home it deserves.

And then I came across this fabulous hand knit sweater.

This sweater has it all. It is big and burly and well made. It has cool colors and a terrific retro design. It has a proud tag, added by the maker, “From the knitting needles of Eleanor E. Heffner.”

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Oh, Eleanor. I am so sorry that your sweater ended up at a garage sale, being carelessly sold for three dollars. For whom did you knit it? I hope that first recipient cherished it, even though the sweater came to this sad end.

But, of course, it isn’t the end for the sweater. I’ll offer it for sale and the perfect owner will present themselves, someone who understands what Eleanor was communicating when she stitched this great old cardigan.

I know that, in theory, a gift is supposed to be given freely, with no strings attached. That the joy is supposedly in the giving and, once given, we can’t determine how the gift will be used and maybe we should try not to care.

But I can’t help but be sad for these makers whose work was underappreciated, for any one of us who makes a gift for someone who just doesn’t get it.

I think it may happen more than I knew. I mentioned the topic to my group of sewing ladies, we who meet weekly to stitch, and knit, and crochet, and quilt. To make things that often become gifts. And, I should note, these women are excellent makers, who take great care in their work—no sloppy, amateurish rags coming from this group!

And I heard their horror stories of quilts that took days, weeks, months to make and that were immediately re-purposed as dog beds. Of handmade gifts that were never acknowledged or were given away. Of faint praise and insincere thanks, or no thanks at all.

Is there an abyss, a huge disconnect between those who make and those who don’t? Am I trying to communicate in a language foreign to others, those who receive a handwoven kitchen towel and think, “Oh . . . a towel. Big deal.”

What do think? Are you happy with the simple act of giving, in a selfless, loving way, the things that you labor over? Or do you consider the recipient and, perhaps, reserve your handwrought work for those you know can appreciate it?

And how about those of you who aren’t makers? Are you thrilled or made uncomfortable by a handmade gift? Are those of us who craft expecting too much? Do you cringe or cheer when you hear the words, “This is for you. I made it myself”?

Afghan: A Blanket By Any Other Name . . .

For me, it doesn’t get much better than finding a treasure that is both handmade AND vintage. The idea that an item is a tangible expression of affection, made by someone who is no longer living, gives that item a special resonance. Of course, those makers DO still live on because they created something beautiful that is still cherished by the living.

I think it’s especially neat to find handmade afghans. An afghan is a crocheted or knitted throw or blanket, made by hand, often as a gift. Think about the symbolism of receiving such a gift, made by someone who loves you, and sort of wrapping yourself up in that love!

Not everyone appreciates these beautiful objects—I find a LOT of vintage knit and crocheted blankets at garage sales and estate sales. It seemed sort of sad to me at first, as if here were these items, made with love, full of love, but floating around without anyone to bestow that love upon.

But then I realized that I wasn’t the only one who appreciates the old-school charm of these throws—I’ve found “forever” homes for a great many of them.

These are some of the beautiful vintage afghans I’ve had the pleasure to know, all handmade, all special.

I have afghans made by my grandmothers and even made one myself, in my only real attempt at crocheting. Do you have any in your home?