I have been super reluctant to share this quilt but it is time to tell its story because it’s a big one. Meet my Aerial Quilt; a mini quilt designed by the fabulous Carolyn Freidlander. I started this quilt at Sew Down last April in Carolyn’s workshop. Wow Almost a year ago.
I finished it a long time ago. In fact, it was the first project I finished when I returned from Sew Down last spring. I started it with the intention of having it hanging in our home, a bold declaration *might* have been uttered about bringing more of my art into our home.
A couple of things got in my way. For starters, I have a lot of quilt insecurity. I’ve never been a quilter with a capital Q. The exactitude of Quilting totally crimps my style so I wing it on size and style. It’s fun but has its drawbacks. For whatever reason being at Sew Down where I was surrounded by amazing quilters, highlighted that insecurity. Ever been in a situation where you feel just a little bit uncertain and then that little bit grows and grows until you are on the outside? Yeah, that happened.
My seam allowances were less-than-perfect as noticed by one instructor (oh, the perfection of Quilting!). I struggled in a class that I wanted to love but just wasn’t interested in or inspired by. Pretty soon I was doubting my color choices and, as much fun as I was having with my friends, I just felt out of place. I didn’t feel good enough. I love going to retreats and conferences but at the same time, it’s easy for comparison to get the better of me.
Carolyn‘s Aerial Quilt workshop was the last one of my weekend and it was the perfect antidote to my spiraling uncertainty. If you have ever met Carolyn Freidlander you know that she is unlike anything else. She’s quiet and unassuming and the embodiment of “still waters run deep”. She’s got a calm and reassuring manner that is so genuinely warm, generous and accepting it feels like a hug. It didn’t surprise me at all when she came out with her lovely Savor Each Stitch movement.
When I returned home from Sew Down, I decided to focus on making this mini quilt…to focus on the part that made me feel good and leave the ‘less than’ feeling behind. I got the boys and my husband involved and asked them to choose colors for some of the squares so all of our choices would be in the quilt. I blended all of that together and was pretty happy with the result. The trouble (re)started when I went to quilt it. As you can see, the quilting stretched the quilt, the stitches went wonky and it lost it’s shape. It didn’t help that mixing some lightweight cottons,linen and voile with standard cotton made it tough to do tight straight-line quilting. I didn’t help that my machine needed a tune up. I didn’t help that I had so much of my delicate ego resting on the results of the quilting. I was equally devastated and pissed. I mean, the universe was kicking me while I was down. It was poisoning my lemonade; the lemonade I was forcing myself to cheerfully make from the bad lemons.
I finished the quilt but instead of putting it up in our house, it’s on the wall in my studio. It’s hardly awful! It’s just not what I wanted it to be. Looking at it now, after a bit of time, I can say I like it. In all of its wonky, imperfect glory I like it. When I step back and squint my eyes, I like it even more. It reminds me of my family; it reminds me of all the great people I met at Sew Down; it reminds me I still have things to learn and my mess-ups don’t define me.
We all do this, right? We fail at something we put our hearts and identities into. We pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off, force a smile, grit our teeth and fall AGAIN. It happens and if it doesn’t happen…well, we wouldn’t have any good stories to tell, no wonky quilts to squint our eyes at and no passion to strive for better.
I love making mini quilts. I find them very therapeutic and freeing. I realize they are not practical (if quilts are for warmth these don’t even cover a lap!) but they offer a great chance to play with color and try out a new technique without the huge commitment that comes with a full-sized quilt. They suit me, I can learn but still wing it and just make until it feels ‘right’. Precision be damned.
I will be making more mini quilts this year and already have. I will conquer quilting tightly with a mix of fabric substrates because I love texture in a quilt. I will be putting a mini quilt on our family wall. And, I will be telling their stories.