Before I finished my first quilt, I decided to start a second quilt. I'm guessing I'm in the majority with that habit. My girlfriends and I have decided we all suffer from a version of "Quilting A.D.D." We love to start quilts, then see another one we love, and before we know it, we have jumped on to the next project. Such a fickle little group we have become. Looking at bins of "UFO's" can make the syndrome a little more embarrassing. I try not to focus on the unfinished works of art, but instead appreciate the completed quilt. But I digress..
One day I opened my mailbox, and inside was a lovely free quilt pattern from Oxmoor House. When I saw the pattern for "Grandmothers Flower Garden" done in vintage fabrics I was in love. The technique of English Paper Piecing looked easy enough. Very time intensive I was to find out, but easy to do.
I went into a local quilt shop in Draper, Utah and gathered the supplies I needed. Premade paper hexagon templates were purchased, along with fabric, needle and thread. Very few supplies were required for this project and that sounded wonderful to me. This quilt was to be sewn completely by hand, and that (believe it or not) sounded fun to me also. I liked how perfectly the hexagons merged together with just a simple whip stitch. A child could make this quilt look good. Pretty much a no brainer. Then I read the fine print on the pattern: "This quilt contains 2,277 hexagons". Hmmm... maybe I should have read all the instructions before I began.
I started this quilt right as I decided to go back to school. To finish my degree I needed to take some college math classes. It had been over 20 years since I had been in a math class, and it was my worst subject even back then. After listening to my professor explain a math concept, I would check a video out of the library that had the same lesson material. I had to watch the video over and over in order to memorize long math equations. A very painful and boring experience. I was determined to succeed in my math classes and decided I needed to do something to reward myself for my efforts.
I came up with the idea of working on my Grandmothers Flower Garden quilt as I sat and watched my videos. I lined up all the fabrics I needed to complete one flower and plopped myself in front of the TV. The whip stitch required no brain power, and I could still concentrate on memorization.
A miracle happened. I discovered I am a tactile learner. By keeping my hands busy, I could grasp math concepts at a faster rate. By touching the fabric, and doing a repetitive motion with the needle, I could concentrate at a higher level. I know a few of my children love to doodle as they sit in on a lecture at school. Must be a genetic trait.
All at once, I started to look forward to my math videos as I saw each grouping become a beautiful flower.
I'm proud to say I ended up getting all "A's" in all my math classes. I don't know who was more surprised; myself, my husband or my 5 children.
I love teaching this quilt as a class. Every flower turns out so differently. A fun way to use up scraps, just as our grandmother's did. Several years after I taught this class I recieved a wonderful phone call from a woman. She said she had used this technique as part of missionary work in Viet Nam. The village woman all had fabric scraps and she could make the hexagons out of newsprint. An inexpensive way for the village women to produce a quilt. The women would gather in a circle, share their fabric pieces and sew as they talked. A wonderful way to cross international lines and communicate as women. Who would guess that quilting could provide all that?