Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Chemistry and Quilting

Mr. Cavins' Perspective

My high school chemistry teacher, Mr. Cavins, was wonderful!  I LOVED chemistry!  He had lots of little quips to help us think about the "pieces" of chemistry -- electrons, atoms, molecules -- and as I worked on this quilt, I realized that his quips applied to quilts as well.  One of his favorites was:

"The scale of observation creates the phenomenon."

This means that things look different depending on how close or far away your perspective.  If you look at a table, do you see atoms?  molecules?  wood fibers?  a piece of furniture?  Well, this applies to a quilt as well.

My main project while I've been in Florida has been the log cabin Christmas quilt for my friend.  As I said in a previous post, sewing those tiny (1/2" finished) logs resulted in some rather wonky blocks. 

When I looked at my wonky blocks, I saw all the mistakes -- trapezoids where there should be squares, angles that were more or less than 90 degrees:

But when I stepped away and looked at the entire quilt top, it looked nice!  Everything seems to work together, and the odd shapes and lines feel kind of homey.  At the atomic scale (each unit) the pieces were OK, if not perfect.  At the molecular scale, the blocks looked pretty weird.  But somehow, when you stand back, the entire quilt top seems to work.  Maybe not as a quilt-show ribbon-winner, but as a gift of love.

Arghh!  Knots!

One big problem has appeared.  I decided to quilt the white areas rather densely with 1/2" cross-hatching.  That means LOTS of rows of stitching.  On other quilts I've just left the threads at the ends of the rows and then knotted and tucked them into the batting by hand later.  This time I wanted to save time and effort, so I took 2-3 stitches at 0 length at the beginning and end of each row of quilting.  Arghh!  I'd used thin batting, and the knots at each end just poked through the batting and onto the back of the quilt!

Believe me, these knots are huge!  And VISIBLE!

I am just appalled!  I posted my problem on a wonderful web site that I subscribe to, The Quilting Board.  I got several good ideas:  wash it (the knots often disappear), paint the knots with a permanent marker (well, maybe), applique over the knotted areas using vines and heart-shaped leaves (I like that idea!).

The good news is that I've only quilted the three white triangular areas at the top of the heart.  The rest (the center and the two big corners at the bottom), I'll do what I should have done all along -- leave the ends loose and then hand-knot and bury the ends when I'm done.

I'm not sure yet what I'll do about the knots.  Guess I'll go ahead and quilt the other areas and then re-assess.  Maybe the scale of observation will improve the phenomenon

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