It's such a joy to stitch in company. I had been waiting for my Cotton + Steel Bluebird bundle to arrive for two and a half weeks, when it came the same day as my visitors. The plan had been to get as much stitching done before they came so that I was freed up to give them a local holiday, while still hopefully getting this quilt done in time to enter Rachel's Bluebird Sew Off. I'd even basted half the diamonds in left over blues and whites from my Free Spirit quilt to try and get a head start. But the postman drove in only an hour or two before my old bridesmaid and her family. It looked like I might just have to let it go.
But as we sat around the dining table drinking tea, and we talked about the kinds of things that could happen this week, I mentioned this quilt, and how, if it was possible, I'd love to get it done by Monday (Sunday night NC time). And my dear friend Jenny completely embraced the idea as the perfect way to spend time together this past week. And though I quite agree with her, I was still surprised. I'm sure many of my quilting friends would attest, we don't often have people lining up to help us hand sew little diamonds together. But Jenny is warm and generous and confident. She'd sewn a button, and maybe a pouch before. How hard to could it be? It sounded fun! And so, we have spent the last four beautiful days together, stitching stars while we watched the kids play, while we snacked on lunch, and while we called out to the husbands to change the dirty nappies please, because we were on a very important mission. It has been the perfect catalyst for many a good conversation after several years living so far away. What a blessing.
I finished the quilt last night, so glad to have it done, full of rich memories, but admittedly a little disappointed that I sewed up the last stitches as the light was dying. I had planned to write this blog post in the evening after the kids were asleep. And then this morning we dragged ourselves out of bed at 5:30 to catch the Canowindra Balloon Festival Key Grab. I quickly grabbed the quilt on the way out the door hoping there'd be an opportunity for a few photos. Then, as we were crossing the river into town, we saw the 4WDs and their trailers lined up on the flat next to the water. They were getting ready to launch! We quickly pulled over, and walked onto the flat.
I can't even begin to tell you what a score this was. Pilots decide that morning from where they'll launch depending on the wind direction. So to stumble upon these beautiful balloons rather than wait an hour or so vying for a good spot at the Key, and to have the flat to ourselves, was a wonderful gift. The pilots were warm and generous, inviting us to take a closer look and answering the kids' questions about the flame and flying.
It felt strange photographing such a small quilt, after all the big ones I've been making. Almost like it was out of proportion. Tim's legs look awfully long! And now that we're home, I can see that I just kept being drawn the interesting patchwork shapes of the balloons. It's a rare treat to have the wide open sky as a backdrop.
After they has all drifted off, we drove around to the Key, a large pole sticking out of the ground with a bright key attached. The pilots have to try and maneuver their balloons to reach and get the key. We stood in the crowd for a while, enjoying the floating colours above us, and also glad for the chance to see them so close earlier. After a while I decided to go back to this fence and grab a couple of shots while we waited. It wasn't until after I was going through these later that I realised that I'd photographed the winning balloon swooping in to collect the key!
These Bluebird blues have been a lovely colour to work with this week. In all the long days of stitching, I have not tired of them. But of course, I couldn't help but throw in some specks of pink and red and burnt orange and I'm so glad for the autumnal feel they give it. I decided to machine quilt, focusing around a single star, and I love the movement it's added to the already sparkling stars. Sparkle is usually created with light, and I've enjoyed the challenge to use colour to the same effect.
I've decided to give this quilt to my visitors as a memento of their stay here, and a thank you gift for embracing my hopes for the week. The joy of that generousity will stay with me for a long time.