I have got this funny little fear of quilting. Really, I break into a sweat standing next to an un-quilted quilt top. I like making the quilt top but it’s the whole putting it all together that makes me a basket case. The actual quilting. It seems an extra cruel final step, the quilting. You work so hard on a quilt top and then every. single. thing. can mess up when you go to quilt it! Ah, the pressure is insane. I’d so much rather make a complicated jacket.
The problem is, I really, really want to make quilts. Specifically mini quilts. I love that a mini quilt can explore an idea or an aesthetic in a way that is creatively energizing far beyond garment sewing. At the beginning of the year, I quietly decided I would make mini quilts. Just for fun, as little breaks for myself. But, I haven’t followed through on that..until now. Meet my quilt, it’s named Together. I was inspired by the Umbrella Prints Trimmings Challenge, which challenges makers to create something with only the Umbrella Prints excess scrap fabric. I love the creativity in restriction so this was the perfect way to jumpstart my mini quilt idea.
I call this quilt Together because creating the quilt top was based on thinking about togetherness… specifically what it means to be an individual and also a part of a group. On the technical side, I made it by combining four abstract quilt squares made up of a very loose and wonky interpretations of the traditional log cabin quilting method. I honestly didn’t follow any rules other than making sure I liked each quilt square then deciding how to fit them together.
On the emotional side, it’s a bit more interesting. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how people, like family members and friends, share space and exist together. How we are each our own person but are also together. This quilt was an exploration of all of this. That individually, we are beautiful and messy and vibrant; we are light and dark and bursts of color and gaps of blackness. We are pushing against our own edges and defining ourselves as unique individuals. Yet despite all of that, we share the same landscape. We are abstract quilt squares that piece together and make up a family or a group of friends or even a community. Whatever place feels like belonging.
Sometimes we are contained and closed off, sometimes we are grabbing and reaching for each other. It’s so messy and beautiful, confusing and glorious. It was, in part, inspired by where the boys are at lately. They share so many of the same interests; a love of soccer and Star Wars and Legos and funny jokes and games. But, other things are diverging and at 23 months apart, I can see them figuring out what their own individuality means. J loves music and wants to sit in his room listening to adult artists like Cat Power and Gorillaz or jazz. C wants to play soccer and practice soccer skills for hours while J wants to build a fort and pretend he’s tasked at protecting it. They aren’t sure what to do with these new, different interests. They are both annoyed and respectful. I can also see that sometimes, they are a little sad…they’ve lost a soccer buddy or don’t know how to share their new passion. This is the process we go through our whole lives, right? How to have the feelings of togetherness without any constraints on our own unique sense of self.
But, it’s not just a precious little family thing. I’m over forty years old now and I’ve had some friendships for a long, long time. We are people who love each other with all our hearts but live in different parts of the world, we have changed our politics and cultural surroundings. Our values have changed. Even friends from recent years, things about us change and shift or are simply uncovered over the course of time. We look at those differences, new and old, and have to ponder what they mean. It feels especially poignant with the upcoming presidential election. What happens when we disagree about something that we each find so important? But, we know the other is a good person. We have to settle ourselves with a bit of uncertainty in a world that seems to be more and more obsessed with making everything black and white. Monster or angel. We agree or disagree. Maybe this quilt was about me coming to grips with the places in between, the grey of uncertainty. A place where what matters most is we are in it together.
In this way, I patched together these four quilt squares with hope and optimism. We bend, we sway, we listen, we hear. We note our differences, we are capable of accepting them and of welcoming them in. Because, at the end of the day, we are better off Together. I think this is so exciting. Sharing the same space, accepting some of the grey unknown. It’s exciting but also difficult. Making this quilt, quieted a few of those internal questions. I actually feel like I wrestled a bit with an idea and have come out a little more comfortable with dissonance.
I can’t say for certain that I was successful on the technical/aesthetic. When I look at this quilt, I see what I want to do differently. I like the idea of my Together quilt but the mustard is too strong and the salmon color too red. It’s not fully balanced to my eye. I want more space in the center of the quilt squares and I don’t like the quilting. I think it would have been better with a straight line quilt method. The stipling is too bumpy and in-your-face. I’ve entered it into the trimmings challenge but only to keep myself honest. I am eager to try the idea again and see if I can improve on the concept. It’s a first effort. I don’t think I’m being overly hard on myself, just honest about how I think it turned out. My honest reaction is a little…meh. It happens.
Perhaps “without any constraints” should, could, be “without too many constraints”? AND…I think that the bright accents of red and mustard actually make the quilt. (Good gut decision!) I also think that quilt therapy is so productive! I have my most profound thoughts while sewing. Unfortunately I never write them down…
Melissa Q. says
This is such a sweet comment. Yes, I think you are right…without too many constraints, it’s probably more realistic. It is therapeutic, I guess because there is so much thinking time! Ha!
Melissa, your quilt is beautiful, and your writing very eloquent. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and talent
Melissa Q. says
Daphne, this is such a nice comment. Thanks so much.