|The Quilting Bee, Grandma Moses, 1940 Wikiart|
But wait: pause the DVD, then rewind it. In a few minutes the barn roof beams are lowered, the nails unhammered, the walls horizontal, the windows unframed, the piles of wood re-stacked on the ground. The lunch is unserved and the quilt unstitched.
|Barn-raising in Lansing, c1900 City of Toronto Archives|
Thus it was this week when I helped to unmake a friend's quilt.
|A beautiful quilt top, meticulously pieced, but with a fatal flaw...|
This particular king-size bed quilt had been many months in the making, and involved the sewing together of strips. Quilting wisdom dictates that you should sew each alternative strip in the opposite direction to avoid distortion - an instruction so very easily forgotten or overlooked in practice, so disastrous as a result. And it could have happened to any one of us. Advice had been sought, but the answer was inevitable: unpick it, or consign the unfinished skew-whiff quilt to twenty years in limbo at the back of a cupboard.
|Unpickers at the ready, girls!|
Enter the Quilting B Team, brandishing scissors and unpickers and roaringly ready to rip those seams.
"What would be your Desert Island Discs?"
Cats shooed off the table. Getting into the rhythm of those plucked-apart threads, those fabric furrows.
"Surely you can't like Rod Stewart?"
"It's so wonderfully BBC4, but probably only 300 people watch it."
"It was like kissing an over-ripe pear."
Soup and salad. More unstitching, The warp and weft, the snip and snag, the indigo fabric and navy thread, the slicing through knots and tangles.
"You did WHAT with Roy Hattersley?"
"They've sold out - they were playing at the O2 Arena."
"I know the book's a best-seller but I really didn't enjoy it."
Unpickers meeting in the middle of the final seam, a pile of loose threads on the floor...
After four hours the room felt like a pathology lab (I've never been in one, but I've seen the TV shows), a magnificent quilt dissected and lying eviscerated at our feet.
Time to catch the Tube or bus home, to reflect on the value of friendship and to congratulate ourselves on a job well undone.