On a local sale site in Facebook, I posted a picture of the Pink Ribbon Breast Cancer Awareness quilt I made and was offering for sale.  It is pieced, all of it, and machine quilted.  It looks like this, and yes, even the background is pieced.

pink ribbon quilt


The quilt I had listed sold and three other people ordered one.  Then someone asked if I could make a Brain Cancer Awareness Gray Ribbon quilt.  Well, of course, I could, but I explained to him that if I make a special order quilt I have to get half the money up front and if the person ordering it backs out, that the deposit is non-refundable.  I hate doing it that way, but have learned through experience that getting half the money up front will at least insure that I don’t get stuck buying fabric for a quilt that only one person was interested in buying.

The man said he had no problem with that at all and where could we meet so he could give me the deposit?  Frankly, I almost said that with an attitude like that I didn’t feel like he even needed to give a deposit.  But sanity prevailed. He came to the nursing home where I go each day to visit my husband and was so polite and kind and I exchanged a receipt for the deposit.  He said he wanted it for a Christmas gift, and I told him I could not promise it would be finished by Christmas.  He said that would be all right and if it wasn’t ready by Christmas, maybe we could just give a picture of the pink one and tell the recipient they were getting one just like it except gray.  You see, the special person for whom he wants the quilt has been diagnosed with brain cancer.

Oh boy, a new and different quilt to make!  Wouldn’t you just know it came along at the same time Bonnie Hunter’s new mystery quilt started?  But guess what, one of the major fabrics in Bonnie’s mystery is gray!  So I had already searched out the gray fabrics I had on hand.  There were only three, but what the heck.  Black Friday was upon us; Hancock Fabric had DEALS, and so with coupon in hand I made a run on gray fabrics.

I found gray fabrics with sparkles that made me think of synapses in the brain, grey reindeer and Christmas ornaments that reminded me that even with brain cancer the brain will think of Christmas, a lovely swirly print that just made me think of brain matter, and a white background with gray flowers on it and why wouldn’t the brain see flowers, especially with hateful stuff going on in the brain?   I’m sure the brain needs a rest by thinking of nice things like flowers.  So I gathered up a little of this and a little of that and took my purchases home to begin the process of assembling a gray ribbon quilt for brain cancer.

I cut out 111 background squares from a white-on-white print so it would have a bit of a textured look to it. I’ve had people ask why I don’t just make the background all one piece or at least in strips; and why do I cut the background up into pieces and then sew them back together?  Good questions! For one thing, when I make all the seams meet, the quilt stays squared up better and everything falls into place as it should. And there is that texture thing; you may not be aware of it when you look at a quilt, but texture changes the look of things and when the pieced background and the pieced ribbon have the same texture, the ribbon is more the focus when you’re looking. If I appliqued the ribbon onto a smooth background, it could make the ribbon look like it had sunk into the fabric and the background would become the focus. There are other reasons, but suffice it to say, I like the look of a pieced background on this particular quilt.

Next, I cut the colored blocks for the ribbon and then the larger colored blocks and background blocks to make the half-square blocks so the ribbon would have depth and shape.  Someone commented that it looked like one side of the ribbon folded over the other side.  Yes, it is supposed to look that way, and no, it wasn’t an accident.  That comes about by carefully using light and dark color placement and even making a couple of blocks that have quarter-square triangles in them.  Nothing about the quilt is accidental.

This is what the quilt top looked like when it was partially laid out.

Gray layout

Some people ask about the pins they see on the edge of quilt tops currently under construction. Those are put there so I know which row I’m working on without having to stop and count . . . again.  You may also notice that some pins are pointing outward and some are pointing inward. That is so when I take it to the ironing board I’ll know which way to press the seams.

Gray pins

And here is what it looked like on the back after it was sewn and pressed:

Gray backside

If you look closely, you will see that the seams on one row are ironed to the right and the seams on the next row are ironed to the left.  This is done so that where the seams meet they will “nest” against each other and make the seams straight and have less bulk where they meet.

When the top was all put together, the seams ironed flat, and the lining put together, I sent it off to the quilter, my brother, John Hinshaw.   A couple of days later he called me to ask if I knew some of the fabrics were wrong side out.  Of course I didn’t know!  I would never have sent a top to be quilted if I knew it had fabrics turned backside forward.  The background of this quilt is a white-on-white print and the backside is creamy looking.  If you really look at the picture above, you will see on the right side of the middle row that the front side of the fabric is turned to the back. See how creamy all the pieces look except that one?  Well, my brother said he counted seven blocks like that.

Naturally I told him to send it back to me so I could correct the errors.  Blast trying to do something requiring concentration while hurting!  My arthritis has been vicious lately, and I’m having to have my teeth extracted, and I have a torn tendon and torn meniscus in the right knee which I’m waiting to have surgery to repair.  But I will not send out this quilt until it is right.

The quilt top came back to me and I began taking it apart. My brother wasn’t correct when he said seven; there were actually nine blocks with the back side on the front.  I took the sewing loose, turned them over, and then had someone with better eyesight than mine look it over carefully to make sure I had found all the ones in backward.

The top was all back together again and off it went to the quilter . . .  again.

Now it was getting “iffy” whether or not I would get it back and bound in time for Christmas. I really, really, wanted this man to have this gift under the tree on Christmas morn.

The quilting is done in grey thread – what else – and in a curvy pattern called “meandering” that makes one think of the folds and creases in the brain.

braingray quilting

The quilting is done in grey thread – what else – and in a curvy pattern called “meandering” that makes one think of the folds and creases in the brain.

The back is a small gray print that doesn’t look “Christmassy” at all, but it is sprigs of pine needles with small pine cones. The color is right, the print size is right, and it can be used all year round but is just another bit of reminder of the special Christmas present received.

gray lining

It was the day before my scheduled knee surgery when the quilt came back to me needing to have a binding applied.  Not knowing how I would feel post-surgery, I made up my mind to “git ‘er done!”

Binding cut, check. Binding sewn to the front side of the quilt, check. Binding folded over to the back side and sewn down, check. Is it finished?  Yes!  It is ready to go comfort someone who will find it under their Christmas tree.

gray finished

Who was the customer having the quilt made for?  His wife? No. His Mother or daughter? No. Son, sister, brother, dad?  No.  This quilt was made especially for his mother-in-law.

That’s alright; go ahead and say, “Aw-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w.”  You know you want to.