The Gods Must Be Crazy…As Well As Me (Originally published 10/11/2013)

I must be crazy. It’s really the only reason I can think of. Why else would I decide to have 300 random SeaMonkeys sign handprints, cut from hand-dyed cloth, and decide to fuse them onto a 5′ of black cloth, double-wide, in radiating rays of color around a picture of the JCCC3 entertainers, then blanket stitch each hand down, before I even quilt it, when I’ve never done a whole-cloth quilt, and I own two curious cats, who shed like mad? Doesn’t that sound crazy to you? It does to me.

Let me elaborate.

It started around November/December of 2012, ya know, about 5-6 months after that stroke? We had already planned and paid for JCCC3, which sailed in February 2013. Don’t know what JCCC3 means? Go ahead, click on the link. I’ll wait. In the midst of the stoke-induced fog, I decided that I needed a creative project that would link me to all those wonderfully nerdy folks. I had all this hand-dyed fabric sitting around, begging to be made into a project. I’ve done memory quilts before, and things with handprints, and things with signatures. So I decided to incorporate all of that.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to hand-cut enough handprints, But I have a Cricut machine, which is used to cut scrapbook paper, vinyl, or fabric. And I have an older version of Sure-Cuts-A-Lot, a program that allows you to, among other things, import a line-drawing, and send it to your Cricut. So for the first part of this complicated process, I traced around my hand, scanned it, and pulled it into SCAL. After much cleaning, and research, and recleaning, and more research, and more recleaning, I finally figured out how to send it  my Cricut, and cut my test hand out of plain paper. Yay!

Next, I ironed fusible webbing to the back of some hand-dyed fabric and then cut that out. That worked great, so I cut out a few dozen…and finally realized the handprints were too large. I’d never be able to fit a respectable number of them onto a piece of fabric I could run through my 8′ quilting machine. Back to SCAL, where I played some more, and sized the hands down to about 5″, and duplicated them to show 6 on a page. That worked much better!

Now came the power runs of cutting out hands. That involved a GIANT roll of fusible webbing, an ironing board, the Cricut, my computer, and a USB cord. I started out with packages of 8.5×11″ sheets of webbing, and tried butting the little strips together to make a whole sheet (mistake #1). But that soon proved costly and inefficient. Oh the horror! So my good friend Amazon, and the brown Santa, as my sister calls UPS, soon delivered unto me that GIANT, 25′ long roll of fusible webbing. So I’d cut 2′ strips of fusible (to fit my Cricut mats), iron them to my hand-dyed fabric, cut out the sheets of fabric, about 10 at a time. Then, convert the ironing board to a Cricut stand, which is the only thing I had that had enough room to allow 2′ of clearance on both the front and back of the Cricut, so that the mats had enough room. Next, sqeegee down a sheet of fabric onto a mat, gently because its fabric and you don’t want to mess with the weave, yet firmly, because you don’t want it coming up at the edges and jamming the Cricut. Hook up the Cricut to the computer, open SCAL, pull up that 6-up handprint page, insert the mat, and “print” that puppy!

Is this sounding crazy yet? Cause I’m not done. The hands wouldn’t cut clean, so I had to clip a few threads on each one to release the hands…EACH hand…times 6 hands per page…times how ever many pages I managed to do that day…in that stroke-induced fog. I had to go out and buy more cutter blades a couple of times, because I could EASILY tell when the blades started getting dull.

Remember those couple of dozen hands I cut out of the hand-dyed fabric before I realized they were too big? Yeah, I ran out of hand-dyed after about 150 hands…and JCCC3 management said they’d already registered over 600 people. So I pulled out the tie-dyed looking fabric I’d done at the same time as the hand-dye, and ended up cutting another 150 hands.  At which point I decided that multiple people could just sign the same hand, and be done withe it!

So I took those 300 hands with us on the cruise, and even through the fog, managed to get about 400 of the SeaMonkeys, and most of the entertainers, to sign hands for me.

Yay! Fantastic! Great end to the story! Right?

Not exactly.

What was I going to DO with all those hands? How was I going to make a quilt out of them?

First I had to get a picture of the entertainers together. Thank god for Atom, the unofficial photographer. He had just the right shot. I bought a copy from him, promised him attribution and no commercial use (natch), and printed it out on a sheet of chemically prepared fabric.

I had a vague idea about arranging the hands around the image. After several attempts, and sitting there staring at them on my design wall (which hangs in the living room and my husband wished I’d just get the damn thing DOWN already! Thank you!), I decided on a circular pattern, with rays of color separated by rays of tie-dye.

But how to get them arranged and ironed onto the background? I didn’t have enough space anywhere to lay it all out at the same time! More sitting and staring and contemplating. I eventually figured I could draw the rays on the background, and arrange just a ray or two at a time. That way they’d be pretty much even. But I had 18 rays, and no compass to measure out the rays evenly. Finally figured that I could fold the fabric and mark it into thirds, and lay out three rays in each segment!

It moved much more quickly at that point. Sewed the background halves together to make a big square, folded and marked the thirds on each half, layed out and pinned the hands.

That’s when I realized that I didn’t want to have just the quilting holding down all the hands. The fusible web eventually lets go, and if the quilting didn’t catch everything correctly, the finger tips would start flopping. Didn’t want that! Soooo…each hand would have to be sewn down. (!!!) I wasn’t going to satin stitch, and I didn’t want the frayed look that can come from raw edge applique. Which meant blind hem or blanket stitch around every last hand. Gulp. I didn’t want to go through that many thread color changes either. So I decided on blanket stitch in a multi-colored thread.

Which leads here. I’ve got about 2.5 rays of color done. And I fall more in love with it each time I look at the finished section.

So here I am. Still crazy after all these years.