Me and My Husky
Got out the old Husky today; figured I’d do some serious damage. Got my gear together, checked the oil*, and grabbed ahold of that puppy, and got ready to dazzle ‘em all.
“Oh, so you’re getting some chainsawing in?” you might ask.
“No, I am sewing on Annie’s Husqvarna, Viking, Mega Quilter, Sewing Machine, working on Mahlon’s quilt.” Oh. I figured if Word-Nerd could use the tease she used the other morning, I could do the same. [OK, it lacked some of the pizazz that hers had, but I didn’t want to outshine her.]
Mahlon Blue is my friend from the service, who passed on January 30th, and the color of the quilt is, appropriately enough, blue. It doesn’t matter to me, or to Annie, that Mahlon won’t ever get to see it in person; it would have been nice, but is not critical in the big picture. He even gets to watch us putting the rest of it together. He’s probably getting some good chortles in at my expense, so I may as well tell you why.
I make the assumption that everyone here sews, so I am simply going to ignore that fact, and tell this remarkable saga through my man-eyes, and if it gets too pedantic, or I keep too close a watch on the score, feel free to move on. I’m not very good at this, though I did make a pair of pajamas about five years ago, when Annie was first getting her couturier shop set up on the second floor, where small boys somehow grew up to become men, and traipsed off to do manly things.
So we have been talking about me helping with my friend’s quilt, not to vary too far from the theme of manly things, and Annie came downstairs yesterday to see if I was up for some work. I was very excited at the prospect. For years I have watched the parade of brightly patterned, brilliantly colored artistic endeavors sail through, long enough for Annie to work her magic. She has to insert batting, attach backing, take care of logistical details such as last minute squaring of the quilt, and wavy borders, and then use the long-arm to sew the whole kit and caboodle together. She does this by producing all of these carefully orchestrated swirly, undulating movements, like an Ice Capades on cloth.
My first task was to take a pile of two and one half inch squares of fabric,** and draw a diagonal line through each of them, using a ball-point pen. Annie took the extra moment to make sure that I knew to offset the ruler just a tad, to compensate for the base of the pen. She emphasized that precision in sewing is a must. Luckily, as a wood-smith (as well as a word-smith) I understand clearly how a sixteenth of an inch can come back to bite you in the backside, when it is multiplied by sixteen pieces of plywood, or in this case, a “bunch” more squares of cloth.
Annie also explained to me that she defines quilting as “cutting up big pieces of fabric, into little pieces of fabric, so that you can sew them together, to form big pieces of fabric.” It’s kind of a complex definition to follow, but I like it all the same.
When she explained that it was important that I not get the top of the squares confused with the bottoms, I looked closely and saw it was hard to differentiate the two.
“What is this stuff?” I asked.
“Batik,” she responded
“Boutique?” I asked hopefully.
“No, batik, b-a-t-i-k.”
“Sounds Indonesian,” I commented. Later, when I looked it up, it proved Javanese, so I was on my game, even in Annie’s arena.
“They make it by pouring hot wax in splotches all over the fabric, and then adding the dyes. The dyes do not stick to the fabric, where the wax was, and the result is the batik fabric.”
Next, I placed the piece that I had drawn on, over a second piece of cloth, cut to the same dimensions. The second piece was a much darker hue of blue. I then sewed the two together, following the lines I had drawn. Of course I was crawling on the sewing machine, preferring to be precise, if not fast.
“Is it OK if I am as slow as the satellite is to boot up?”
“Slower, if you want. Speed is not important.” She was smiling broadly. Of course, I had to get past the fact that one of the two threads kept ending up outside the needle. Well, it happened once, before I asked Annie to inservice me, so that I would not have to keep bugging her. She has an infinite amount of patience with her students, and double that with me. After all, this is the Husky I was telling you about, and I wanted to be on good terms with her. Above all, I wanted to keep a close eye on that needle, so it wouldn’t do to me, what it did to Dakota.
Dakota was in sixth grade at the time, athletic and outgoing, and not afraid of anything. She was in the sewing elective one afternoon during seventh period, and I think this is as far as I need to go. The next morning, she told me [almost] matter-of-factly how Annie had had to take the whole machine apart, to remove the needle, still imbedded in her finger. Dakota’s dad used the pliers to, well, never mind. She was certainly very brave. I made an indelible note on the white-board in my mind, to profit from Dakota’s experience, should I ever board a sewing machine. I asked Annie what Dakota was like, while the needle was being removed, and she said as stoic as a rock. Kids. Aren’t they resilient?
So as I settled in to sew more than one hundred and twenty of those squares, in two sittings, yesterday and today, as straight as my drawn lines, I made sure that my seat belt was fastened, and my fingers were not. I didn’t want to see any pliers on this job.
More tomorrow-This is too much fun. I didn’t want to kill the post.
- Afterwards, when I joked about checking the oil, Annie stopped me, and gently told me I didn’t need to, because that was the first thing she did. Appropriately chagrined, I wiped that smug smile right off my face.
** I called it material. I only did it once. It’s fabric.