Most handwork challenges posted online are for making small items. They are modest things, such as bags, cushions, needle cases, or pincushions. They are small, inexpensive to make, and the time commitment is manageable. They work because people can envision finishing and using them. As challenges, they are practical, doable projects with little fear factor involved. So how is it I have ended up running a stitchers' challenge that involves making a full-size crazy quilt and hand embellishing it as well—crazy or what?!?
Make a cuppa, take a break, and let me tell you the back story. One day while waiting for my book, The Visual Guide to Crazy Quilting Design, to be released I was mooching around the house twiddling my thumbs. OK, maybe not mooching, and maybe not twiddling my thumbs. Perhaps a more honest description is that I was bouncing off the walls with excitement. This can be dangerous when you are a well-built late middle-aged woman, as bouncing off walls can get messy. (It breaks things … don’t ask me how I know…) I knew I needed a project to calm me down.
One of my bounces took me perilously close to my I Dropped the Button Box quilt. It rattled and caught my attention. I made it in the year 2000 and had become so used to it hanging on the wall that I usually hardly noticed it. But this day was different. This is a Y2K quilt and is made of 2,000 pieces of fabric, lace ribbons, etc. At the turn of the century, many regular quilters made Y2K quilts of 2,000 pieces of fabric. The idea was to have 2,000 unique pieces. Crazy quilters gave it a twist and had even more fun as their count included not only fabric pieces but also the stuff you embellish crazy quilts with. So a Y2K crazy-quilt includes lace, buttons, ribbons, threads, beads, etc. in the count.
For a few moments, I took pleasure in the quilt and remembered how much fun it was to sort out all the materials that are on it and how long it took me to make. I was thinking about how much I loved working on those blocks, when a small voice with a naughty thought whispered in my head: “Why not do it again, twenty years on?” I tried to dismiss the thought, as it is a big commitment and it takes me between eighteen months and two years to make a full-size crazy quilt. It is not piecing blocks together that takes time, but the hand embellishing with embroidery and beading. But the thought persisted: “It is only half way through 2017, so you have two and a half years to do it—plenty of time! It would be a doddle.” I agreed, but I had other projects to do and teaching samples to make. I had to be practical. The little voice teased me, “It would be interesting to see how your style has changed.” Nooooooo!! I thought, fast realizing that this could get out of hand.
Over the next few hours and days, this little voice kept niggling at me. While I did the dishes, I was reminded that my stash was overflowing and could do with a large project to reduce it a little. While showering, my little voice reminded me of some lace recently given to me that would be ideal to use, as it was already in small lengths; then while out walking, my little voice asked me: “How many different sorts of buttons do you actually have?” And before I knew it, I found myself thinking about block size. Soon, I found myself standing in the supermarket aisle thinking about color schemes.
Then the little voice struck a cruel blow: “You could turn it into a challenge.” “No, I couldn’t!!” I nearly screamed out loud, “No one in their right mind would take on such a large challenge.” “They might do,” my little voice replied as quick as a flash. "They might like the idea of stitch-along because it is such a large project. A group challenge would inspire and keep them on track.” Well… I had to admit that was a good point. There is nothing quite like a challenge to keep me on track, and many people are the same. The little voice drove the message home: “Many crazy quilters only do small items because they are scared of them becoming UFOs. A group keeps the interest levels percolating away, and people feel safe if they can ask questions about this or that.”
So at that point, with all my concerns countered, I sat down to write to the admins of the two largest Facebook groups for crazy quilters. I asked them if they would mind me introducing the challenge in their groups and while I was at it, being extra cheeky, I added that perhaps people could post their progress photos to the group? To be honest, I thought they might tell me I was mad and that would put an end to my musings—my little voice. But no, they bounced back and said it was a fantastic idea. So I posted details to the group, fully expecting just a handful of people to take it up—and by the following day, my inbox was full—and I mean full! It was like an email bomb—you could almost see the poor little computer bulging … and the walls for both groups were full of chatter and comments. Easily a couple of hundred people had put their hands up and over the next week it kept growing… My little voice sat back smug as can be and said, “You’d better get stitching…” And before I knew it, I was busy sorting fabrics and beads and laces and buttons and… well, you get the idea :-)
The idea behind a 2020 crazy quilt challenge is make a crazy quilt using 2,020 different items by the end of the year 2020. You can read the guidelines on Pintangle: http://pintangle.com/2020-crazy-quilt-guidelines/.
Note: no little voices were hurt during the writing of this article...
Sharon Boggon of Pintangle