Heidi Shelton taught Stack and Whack in Ramstein back in 1999, and I took her class, cut out these blocks, and stitched them together. She had advised us to use bright fabrics, but I just felt like this art nouveau fabric would make great blocks with graceful flowing patterns.
I love the blocks. I love the blue backgrounds. I could hardly wait to get it all together, which went very quickly.
But once I got the blocks together, and hung it up on the project wall, it was just . . . so . . . . BLAH. I was almost sick, I was so disappointed. I looked at it for about a week, at a total loss. I couldn’t think of how to fix it. I added a wide outer border with the original fabric – I like to do that with a Stack and Whack, because the inner blocks look so different from the original fabric. Then I looked at it for about a week, folded it up and put it away.
I pulled it out and looked at it every now and then, at a loss. It is rare that I am so stumped.
Maybe a couple years later I pulled it out. I knew it needed something red, so I put a narrow red band as an inner border, and added an outer border. I didn’t really add a lot of border because I didn’t want the quilt to get too big.
At least every time I moved I would pull it out and ponder what to do. I often pulled it out and asked my quilting friends what they would do. No one really had an idea. “Add an applique!” one friend suggested.
By 2009, back in Doha, I had some time. I had decided on an applique pattern; I designed it myself. Yes, it took me a while, but that is because I wanted it to be consistent with the Art Nouveau feel of the fabric. I love irises, and I had this great hand-dye fabric, not my favorite color, but a color which would brighten the somber mood of the quilt. I used freezer paper and hand appliqued the iris.
Once again, it didn’t do it for me. I love the irises. Somehow, to me, they are not what this quilt needs, but I don’t know what is. And 13 years is long enough, time, I figured, to just get on with my life. I need to get this quilt finished and OUT.
Here is the hilarious part. I ended up teaching Stack and Whack when we started the Qatar Quilt Guild in Doha. It was quick, it thrilled the beginners, and gave me a chance to teach a lot of skills (rotary cutting, the 1/4 inch seam, chain piecing, etc.) and technique while they produced a quick, usable quilt. Every time I taught it, I ended up with another stack and whack for myself, so I ended up with a lot of them – while the first one I ever learned, this one, languished, unfinished, on a shelf in many quilt rooms as I tried to figure out what to do to make it work.
Finally, I just decided to finish it, unsatisfactory as it may be. Even finishing it was a problem for me, tension problems in the quilting of the border, lots of “unstitching” and restitching to get it right . . . will this never end??
Now the good part. I had my daughter-in-law in my quilt room to show her Sheherazade, but she couldn’t keep her eyes off the stack n whack.
“I love it!” she exclaimed. “It’s Art Nouveau!”
I thought of explaining all the things that made this an unsatisfactory quilt – to me – but then I shut my mouth and thought – one look, and she got it. She got the fabric, she got the iris applique, she totally got it. Guess who gets the quilt, thirteen years after I started it? :-)