Snips and Snails

6 May 2010 to 31 May 2010
Squares, multiple (2", 4", 8")
Level of completion: 
Completed and given away

This placeholder has been here long enough that I think I'm safe rewriting it and being more explicit about the details of this quilt. Believe me when I say that keeping this under wraps has been making me crazy, and I've wanted to talk about it -- wanted! wanted!

Annie is a co-worker of mine. Annie is also one of the nicest, sweetest, and most decent people you'll ever meet. She's a pleasure to take a lunch with, and a day-brightener whenever you run into her in the hallway.

Annie's mother, Helen, was also a co-worker of mine until her death from cancer in 2008. One of our branches sponsors a Fun Run every year in her name:

Written in front of the sign-up tables for the Fun Run, which was held in Helen's honor. 

Helen was the manager of the Madison Public Library until her death earlier this year.  She was a lovely person, as well as an excellent colleague.  She is missed.#91 - We [heart] Helen

['We [heart] Helen']

When Annie announced she was pregnant, there was no question. An email went out shortly afterward:

Sarah is helping me be sneaky by getting in touch with Annie's family and procuring something of Helen's we can incorporate into the quilt, but the rest is totally up to me. I'm trying to keep this email to people whom I know have a long personal history with Annie, so that the quilt's really personal.

I got back a slew of contributions, both financial and fabric. I had enough to immediately order a perfect backing, enough to cover purchasing batting, and plenty of fabric. So much so that I realized I'd have enough to do a twin-size quilt AND a baby blanket. (If I'd opened up the contributions to the staff at large, Annie would never need another quilt for the rest of her life.)

I expected fabrics like these:

Most of the light-colored prints were what I expected to get, with a bonus of cute frogs

Blog entry: lights and brights

['The lights and brights']

but was thrown by the color and scale of these:

The dark fabrics contributed were mostly plaids.

Blog entry: that go 'plaid' in the night

['Things that go "plaid" in the night']

This print is huuuuge. It's also topical. But HUGE. (help?)

Blog entry: spanner in the works

['The spanner in the works']

So ... I waited. I thought about the pattern, but realized there was nothing I could do until I found out whether or not I could get an item of Helen's to incorporate in the quilt. I could do the quilt without such an item included but it wouldn't have nearly the amount of meaning. Then, one day, this arrived in a plastic bag on my desk:

I managed to get this shirt from Annie's husband. It belonged to her mother Helen, who was also a co-worker of mine until her death a couple of years ago. 

Helen would have been so excited about the prospect of a grandchild.

I promised myself that I would get every scrap of use out of this shirt. Normally I keep a little for future projects. Not this time. Call me a sentimentalist, but this fabric needs to stay together.No exchanges, no refunds

['No exchanges, no refunds']

By the time I was done, I had unpicked almost every seam in the shirt and turned it into

First, I cut all of the 8.5' (8' finished) squares I could -- I got five.  Then I cut all of the 4.5' (4' finished) squares I could -- I got 12.  I got 40 of the 2' finished squares, 47 of the 1' finished squares, and 28 half-square triangles that, when sewn together, would make 1' finished squares.Ready for reuse

['Ready for reuse']

What remains are shreds and strings. I wasn't able to salvage the hems, but I did unpick, press, and use even the collar and the button plackets.

I included a 1.5' square in the photo for a sense of scale. What remains

['What remains']

Tenzing was, as always, helpful.

I'd cut several hundred squares and had maybe forty to go. But, it seems, it is time to stop. Tenzing, my benevolent master, decrees.I hereby declare WORK STOPPAGE

['I hereby declare WORK STOPPAGE']

As of May 19, I have the first quilt top done. I chose to do a pattern based on 4" finished squares, so the quilt has 2", 4", and 8" squares. I also made two checkerboard 8" pieces comprised of 1" squares and 1" half-square triangles from all of the fabrics in the quilt. The original of this photo on flickr has a few notes about some of the Easter eggs I left in the quilt top:

I always bring in quilt tops the morning after they're completed. It's nice to see this one held up, to get a sense of scale. Yes, it looks huge, but you have to remember that I am barely five feet tall. It's twin-sized.

I'd sleep under it. :)

For those of you just encountering this project, it has extra sentimentality. I work in a library. This baby quilt is for a co-worker of mine (A) whose mother (H) was also a co-worker, as well, until her death from cancer a few years ago. The star fabric scattered throughout the quilt was one of H's shirts.  

More info at off at my desk

['Showing off at my desk']

Annie doesn't know yet. I'm having to be exceptionally careful to ensure that nothing gets reposted to Facebook, because she and I are friends there. She's going to laugh when she finds out in a week or so that yes, I really have been ducking her, but I swear I had the best of intentions.

Sarah and I intend to give her the quilt privately. We're not going to make a big show of it, like we did for 'star stories' for Lexie a year ago. The joy of impending parenthood aside, I'm aware that Annie misses her mom desperately right now, and wishes she had her here in the days leading up to her son's ... Helen's grandson's ... birth.

The lesson, I think, is if you spend your lifetime being a decent, kind, and delightful person, sometimes the world finds a way to pay you back in ways you don't expect.

Update, October 2011:

Shortly before leaving the library, I was able to get straight-on photos of the two quilts (the baby-size and the twin-size) and thought they'd be appropriate to add in. The larger quilt is shown at the top of the page, and this is the finished baby-sized quilt:

I had a fifth big square left of the star fabric, so I decided to do a true 'baby' quilt in addition to the twin-sized main quilt.

This set of two quilts was for Annie, a co-worker of mine at the library. The main sentimental part of the quilt is the star fabric, which came from a shirt of her mother's. Her mother, Helen, was a co-worker of mine as well until she died of cancer not too long before Annie's son was born. 

Full quilt info is at and Snails: the baby quilt

['Snips and Snails: the baby quilt']

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But does the cat approve? That's the real question.

I know this is shocking, but that cat has amazingly low standards. Sometimes I think it boils down to "is it soft? will it sit still long enough for me to lie on it? will it eat me?" If those answers are satisfactory, zzzzzz.

Jeff started referring to Tenzing as Proximity Cat. Proximity Cat does appreciate a good cuddle and will whine like a spoiled child if he doesn't get it the nanosecond he wants it to happen, but most of the time, Proximity Cat just wants to be within arm's-reach of me. Not held, not petted, just near. For a long time, I tried tossing him off the kitchen table, over and over, as I sewed. I realized he would be far less distracting if I just gave him part of the table. He'd (usually) curl up and purr himself to sleep, and I'd get more done.

Edmund, in comparison, almost never gets on the table at all. No interest.

It's just lovely, what a fabulous gift! I'm a new quilter and this is really inspiring. What a thoughtful person you are x