Years ago Winnie and I took a mixed media sewing class together.
Yeah, the class was as weird as it sounds.
I'm not really sure what the point of the class was in the first place, it was about 5 years ago, and we never even got close to finishing the project. It was fun though, Winnie and I spent a couple of long Saturdays together making various forms of sewn and painted and glued and fused and otherwise altered fabric sheets which I think were supposed to be turned into some kind of book or something, but I really don't know.
Like I said, we never got there.
I was skeptical when we arrived for class and we had to pick up several additional supplies from the store, beyond the list of supplies I'd already brought for the class. I recall asking the instructor "Are we going to be using all these things in class?" because it didn't seem possible that there was enough time to make all these various projects in 8 hours worth of class time.
The teacher assured me with a resounding "Yes! Of course we're going to use everything!" and so off I went to buy the extra supplies.
We weren't even close to using everything, as it turned out. I think we didn't even use half of the stuff we had to bring.
This lady didn't really have much of a clue about how to teach a class or manage time, let alone effectively teach creative techniques. And she wasn't a new instructor, either - she'd been teaching classes for a few years. So that made the whole thing extra weird.
One person left about half way through the first session, saying that the class just wasn't for her, she wasn't following the teacher's process at all and nothing made sense to her. I remember being mildly shocked at the time that someone would actually do that, leave a class and say that it just wasn't working for her.
(Now being five years older and wiser I think that lady that left was pretty smart. Good for you, Walking Out Lady.)
When we left the class at the end of the second day with so much unaccomplished, I wasn't too disappointed. Winnie and I had tried a bunch of things we'd never done before, so that was a win. And getting out of the house all day to make art is always a big win in my book.
But I did always wonder about the instructor and what she was thinking, how she thought she was going to run that class because I knew in the first 10 minutes that we were never going to get it all done and she was convinced we would.
I've always wondered what goes on in the minds of people like that, the ones who can't get a grasp on the amount of time things take. Ones whose minds seem jumbled and unable to make realistic judgments. Ones who aren't able to carefully plan. I don't get it. It always feels a little bit crazy to me.
Or maybe it's some sort of creative genius that I just don't appreciate.
I've seen that teacher around the last few years, she's worked in various fabric shops since then. She hasn't recognized me when our paths crossed.
Last November I joined an online swap where you sew a holiday pillow for a secret partner and I decided to give the Cathedral Windows pattern a try. I'd seen the technique for years and was fascinated by how it went together. And I was about to give birth any minute so what better time than the present to take on a complicated, fiddly and precise new project?
(I went into labor the first night I worked on it. Coincidence? We'll never know.)
I thought it came out great and my partner loved it. And I really loved learning a new technique. There are a few different ways to make Cathedral Windows and this tutorial is the one I've had the most success with.
Be forewarned though that no matter which process you follow, careful precision is the name of the game. In order to end up with a pillow that doesn't look like it was made in a drunken stupor, you have to cut, press, sew and align with great attention to the tiny details. An eighth of an inch off here and there and you've got a sloppy mess on your hands (ask me how I know).
It's one of those projects you really have to be in the mood for. Cathedral windows are not for the winging-it, fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants sewer. It's for someone who wants to take the time to think things through and move ahead carefully and slowly. Even the sewing part of the actual windows themselves is a very slow process. Sometimes I like to revel in the slow, though. It can be very satisfying to control the stitches in such a methodical, steady way.
I enjoyed it so much I even made three more as Christmas gifts (but only got a picture of one of them).
So when a friend who loves music saw the swap pillow I'd made and asked if she could commission one for herself, I was more than happy to oblige.
The only problem was that I didn't know if I could still get the music note fabric I'd used the first time. Several months had passed and with fabric you never really know what you'll be able to get as time goes by.
I called around and managed to track it down locally. I made a trip out to the store, one that had recently opened.
I ran into the old teacher there, apparently she was working at this new fabric store now. She still didn't recognize me.
I was browsing around with the bolt of music fabric under my arm and she asked if she could cut it for me, but I wasn't quite ready yet. So she turned to another shop employee and continued a conversation they apparently were having before I came in. She was telling the other lady about a big bag of scraps she'd inherited from her aunt.
"There are all kinds of fabric in there, lots of bigger pieces but some are really small. She had tons of small squares all evenly cut out. I have nothing I can do with those, they're all such small pieces" she said, "I'll probably just get rid of them."
Then she continued.
"The only thing you could do with those small squares is make a Cathedral Window quilt, they're just the right size for that" she said. "But I would never make that, no way. You have to be crazy to make one of those."
Yep, a whole different kind of crazy, I suppose.
(watch for a picture of the finished musical Cathedral Window pillow in Sunday's post)