Friday, July 27, 2012

Lightening Strikes Twice

You always hear that lightening never strikes the same spot twice.  I know that this is only a saying, but it does seem that to get a really good thing to happen a second time is harder than getting it to happen once - if only because the psychology of the human mind gets involved the 2nd time.  Humor me & read on...

I have been athletic all of my life.  As a young girl and teenager, I was a competitive gymnast.  I was pretty good, and I really worked hard to be successful.  I took this nearly to the point of being superstitious.  I'd save all the green m&m's (yea, this tradition was started before the connotation we know of came around for green m&m's) from every package.  There would be a baggie in the freezer of all my m&m's, and I'd take this to gymnastics meets for good luck.  Somehow, I struggled with consistency, and the candy supposedly helped.  As a result, I kind of expected that if I'd done really good at one meet, the next one might be a dog meet.

The competitive nature continued throughout high school with musical endeavors, and into my adult life when I decided to try my hand at competitive adult figure skating.  I always tackled things head-on, and with an intention of succeeding.  Or winning.  I'm not one of those people that loses gracefully.  Or happily.  I am a firm believer that I control my own destiny.  If better people beat me, and I did my best, it's one thing.  But if I goofed something up, and could have controlled that, then I get upset.

So how does this relate to anything??  My quilting career has taken off like a rocket.  I purchased my longarm less than 3 years ago.  I quilted client quilts a month later.  A magazine contacted me for quilt photos after 3 months.   I entered my first quilt show after 6 months, and won Rookie of the Year.  At 11 months, I was selected by HandiQuilter to be part of their 2011 advertising.  It was moving and moving fast.  I was surprised, but the roller-coaster was fast, and flying towards success.  I didn't want to slow down long enough to blink for fear I'd see the progress decline.  A year ago, as I had done for the previous couple years, I entered 2 quilts in the Maine Quilt Show.  It's a decent, smaller show.  It lacks a lot of higher end quilting that you'll see at machine quilting shows, but is still generally well represented by hand and machine quilters alike.  When I arrived to the show last year, I stood in shock to see my quilt hanging with the Best of Judged ribbon.  It still strikes me as shocking that I have already received a best of show award.  I haven't put in my decade of dues yet.   It was a strong wake up call that my quilting is good.

It was also a scary thing, because all last fall I wondered how on earth I'd ever make anything that could top that for this year.  Winning once was easy.  I never thought about it, in fact.  It just happened.  But repeating it would be hard.  Nobody wants to go back the following year without a quilt capable of knocking the judge's socks off.  At least, I certainly didn't.

The quilt I had been working on, and intended to enter in this show, was giving me absolute fits.  First off, I had horrendous tension problems with the Glide thread on the batik fabric that I had to rip out a huge section.  I then opted to stitch with a gold Glide because the gold bobbin would blend with the backing fabric, disguising any tension problems.  The problem was that I hated how this looked on the front.  It was not in my "plan".  The general quilting went pretty well.  I found one small pleat on the back because of how I chose to quilt (SID all first, then go back and fill - places on the quilt were hard to keep smooth and taught during quilting).  I conceived a long and skinny label to cover that.  Creative or Ingenious??  You be the judge!  Then it was done quilting and onto the blocking boards.  Then the shit hit the fan.  OMG, there was bleeding.  It was horrible.  Areas of the ivory fabrics looked bruised.  I didn't want to say that the freaking quilt was jinxed, but it sure seemed that way.  I contacted another fellow quilter that helped me with the dye release.  It took about 4 days and 100 Shout color catchers.  But when I was done, I had another problem.  Some of the pins I used to secure the color catchers in the wash cycle had left a rust spot on the quilt.  This was maybe 15-20 1-2mm rust spots onthe front and back -- and not in locations where I'd conveniently place a crystal!  I tried washing it again with a rust detergent.  The problem is that all the washing I did on the quilt, and all the use of detergents, color catchers, etc had taken it's toll on the quilt's brightness and fullness.  It just seemed thin and limp, not having the nice loft it had the day I took it off the frame.  And the bold batiks had visibly faded.  Perhaps nobody else but me would realize it was a shadow of it's former, unwashed self.  But I knew.  And I was heart-broken.

I opted to finish the beast anyways.  I got out the crystals to discover that the ones sent to me were not hot fix!  Another sign, or so it seemed.  I waited a week, and Dreamtime kindly returned the wrong crystals for the type I needed.  I did the hand painting, as planned -- not originally, but after seeing the gold Glide thread on the gray triangles, I decided I'd paint the vinework to better blend it in.  I don't think I really believed that, but at that point I was just going through the motions in a feeble attempt to finish this quilt.  In fact, the picture below is the only thing I can find that shows any of the painting!  
I continued on and added what seemed like an ingenious variagated piped binding.  I did post about that here.  I used about 60-8" segments of graded color around the binding.  It looked pretty cool.  Correction: It looks freaking awesome.  But I still had reservations about sending this quilt to the Maine Show for fear it flopped.  All signs with the multitude of issues I'd had were that it would flop.  I didn't want to go into the show and have egg on my face.  I don't have the Tara Lipinski mindset (remember her as the one-time wonder, who won the olympics in 1998, and then retired before she could ever compete again.  I don't think she wanted to not be able to repeat her performance).  Anyway, I have digressed there.  I don't give up.  I tackle things strongly, and would prefer to go down in a blazing ball of fire than to run the other way.  But, I really don't want to go down in a blaze of fire anyway.  So...

Tentatively, I entered (OK, the real truth...I entered the quilt before it had ever been quilted, and before it had any problems!!)   my new problem quilt, named Rainbow Nouveau, on account of all of it's many colors.  I also entered my Sea Glass quilt.  I think that this will have nice appeal with people considering the show is in Maine.  Very (VERY!!) much to my surprise, my client and friend Kathleen called last night from the show preview.  She said that Rainbow Nouveau had won the Best of Judged.  I was shocked.  More than shocked - I think I had a cardiac moment.  I was starting to think that the judges had a mental lapse, when she told me that the two judges were there with her and wanted to talk to me.  Oh holy freak out on my end, are you kidding?  They were very nice and had fabulous things to say.  If only I had the where with all to ask them a real question or two about what they really thought!  Oh Lordy, thank you for them not having enough time to discover where the garbage tension is, and where the rust spots and remaining dye bleeds are.  My theory seemed to work - With enough to look at, the eye will wander continuously, and it won't be possible to find all the bloopers!  I am elated and surprised that lightening did strike twice.  I have found such tremendous fortune and success and pleasure with quilting.  And the hard work and perseverance is rewarded and recognized sometimes too.  I will indeed take some close-ups of the quilt on Sunday, since I don't have any!  This is the one my friend emailed this morning.  I warned you this was a busy beast!
Oh, and Sea Glass took a 1st place too.

The end.  The show is this weekend at the Augusta Civic Center.

13 comments:

Kati from Kati's Quilting said...

Congratulations Margaret, Your quilt(s) look amazing! No wonder why they won best judged and best of show! You're a true talent!

Esther said...

Huge congratulations. Your quilting and design work is amazing, and I am glad you were recognized for all you did. You deserve an award because you did stick with it, and finished, and you finished with style and artistry. Congrats!

Linda said...

Fabulous ending to the story!!! Congratulations!!!!

♥Duff said...

Honestly, woman, why do you seem so shocked? The rest of the world would give a first-born for 1/10 of your quilting skill.
Amazing. Period.

Joan said...

Congratulations - I loved your story - you really deserved this win!

Ann X said...

Congratulations, Margaret! I totally agree with judges. Your designs are amazing and deserve winning!

I had learned so much about the quilting from your blog (why they do not judge that as well?) and this story is a part of the learning process for me as well - even the best ones have problems to fight with - LOL

CONGRATULATIONS!

Feather on a Wire said...

LOLS, I have made a quilt which gave those sorts of problems and more. I think it is good neither you nor I gave up and entered it anyway. We are the only ones who judge oursleves so harshly. I love that you made something to cover the glitch, from desparation comes creativity! The quilt is stunning it deserved to win. I am sure others go through the same pains getting the work to look at it's best, they just don't publish it.
Think of it like a dog show, the shampooing and grooming and ear washing and eye wiping help, but the bottom line is the basic dog. The best dog will win even if it has a slight tangled coat (or it should, perhaps this is a bad analogy as I have never even been to a dog show, lols).
Your quilt deserved it win, accept it, enjoy it and put the trauma it put you through behind you. And now when another quilter rings you up with what they think of as a terminal problem, you have become the expert on how to fix it.
Well done and wel deserved.

LynCC said...

Congratulations. :D This is a wonderful quilt, and its story is a lesson in the moral of persevering to the end! I also love "Sea Glass."
So glad they both were recognized.

harrispen said...

Congrats! I have to agree with what Duff said too. I wish I had a thimble full of your quilting talent.

Cindy

Becky M said...

Congratulations! That is so exciting and you totally deserve it. :)

Michele said...

Amazing Quilt, Amazing story. Amazing woman! That is one gorgeous quilt.
My guild is having their biennial show this weekend. I am going to proclaim loudly and often that the quilting on my quilts were done by a two time Maine Quilts Best of Judged award winner along with your other awards! (You do have credit in the showbook and placards for the quilting, I made sure of that!)

Heidi Grohs said...

AWESOME! I will have my LA for almost a year soon and I am still trying to get away from loops and meandering ;)

Michelle said...

Congratulations Margaret.