It was September when I bought the pattern for my first quilt from Cortney Heimerl at the Renegade Craft Fair on Division Street in Chicago. Since then, eleven months, all sorts of day jobs, seven finished quilts of various scope and size, two in-progress quilts, ideas for dozens more. I don’t think I knew what I was getting myself into, but I also think I did know. Buying the pattern was a decisive act, an act of beginning, of committing even. It’s only been eleven months, but I now call myself a quilter, a designation that I intend to keep attached to myself from now on.
This September, I’m moving to Wisconsin, to the big woods, where I will keep being a quilter. I know that my quilt practice will change. I’m excited for my quilt practice to change. I’m excited to keep claiming my artist-ness-ship-dom in new and bigger ways, to perhaps launch the small creative business I’ve been dreaming about, to be quiet and make some quilts in bigger chunks of hours with more space in me and around me to do it in. And I’m excited to keep writing about it and stitching myself into the things I make because I don’t know any other way to do it, and that seems like the only reason to do it anyway. I want to quilt in the woods, I want to quilt in the woods alone and with other people. I want also to dance and read and write and eat and go to bed early and go to bed late and have long conversations and to be alone and to make fires and put them out and to use quilts to keep warm. I want fullness, fatness, but also leanness and space. I want hours to stitch but also urgency. I want work that I build for myself. I want work, too, that someone else asked of me. I want not to toil. I want to bless.
These eleven months of beginning have been really, really something for me. I can’t stop thinking about it, I’m sure you’ve noticed. Quilting has fortified me in ways I never asked it to, and I am so thankful. I’ve seen my skills grow, my quilts get less wonky, my ideas become more ambitious. I’ve hand-quilted in the evenings sitting next to Isaiah for so, so, so many hours. I’ve listened to a lot of Carole King, which is linked to quilting for me in mystical ways. I’ve sold my quilts, I’ve given my quilts as gifts, I’ve been asked to make more. I’ve been told that the quilts I make are beautiful. I’ve told myself that the quilts I make are beautiful. My self-esteem, that small precious bird of a thing, has become stronger in ways that it really, really needed to. I’ve started experimenting with needle-turn applique which I immediately fell in love with. I’ve made thousands of tiny stitches, slowly, carefully. I feel good about myself when I make quilts. Really, I do. And that’s reason enough to keep doing it probably forever!!! All of this in just eleven months, eleven months where so many other things happened too. Eleven months full of both sadness and joy, eleven months where I’ve radically changed, where the people around me have changed too, where a lot of us decided to move away and change our lives too while we’re at it.
So I’ll be in Wisconsin and I’ll make more quilts. I have literally so many ideas, some small, some big. I have ideas about teaching other people how to make quilts. I’m going to buy a shiny new sewing machine. At some point, probably in the next eleven months, I’ll launch a tiny business where there will be a shop where folks can buy functional quilts and art quilts already made, chat with me about custom quilts, and read my writing all in one place, PROBABLY BUT IT’S REALLY SCARY TO SAY THAT OUT LOUD!!!
All this to say, it’s been eleven months, only eleven months, and I’m really just beginning.
Quilters I really truly admire, not just in an instagram “like” way:
- Cortney Heimerl
- Jessica Lewis Stevens, Sugar House Workshop
- Ashley Brown Durand
- Maura Grace Ambrose, Folk Fibers
- Stuart Moore Textiles
Quilts lately, in no particular order:
Hand-quilting outdoors, waiting for National Treasure to start at Wicker Park.
Tiny stitches, tiny stars.
Someday soon I’ll turn these scraps into something good.
Everything got a little wet, but it was worth it.
I’m enjoying letting this project take a long, long time. Picking it up and putting it down then picking it up again.
Charlotte’s quilt, pieced, in the backyard.
I did some quilting and some tying.
Jill asked for a very late birthday present and suggested I try some improv needle-turn applique. Leave it to a sister to ask for just the right thing for both of us.
Always my favorite part of the piecing process. Once all the prep is done, laying things out, seeing it for the first time.
Learning how to represent myself and my quilts. Learning how to be seen.
Pieces, pieces, pieces!
Poems next to quilts in the notebook, stuff everywhere, happy mess.
Quilts on fences.
I snuck in a little sawtooth at work and then hung it on the wall. Something just for me.
Tiny sawtooth in just the right colors.
A long dreamed about word quilt made real.
I love quilting outside.
Latest work in progress, most exciting thing.
It’s not perfect, so it is perfect.
A quilt for my Charlotte, colors she picked out decisively.
I love the cutting part, the sorting part, the counting part, the setting things out just so.
I’ve seen my stitches get smaller, and myself more confident.
I hope he stares at it when he can’t sleep, seeing colors, stars, stitches.
Got this vintage quilt rack at Goodwill, feeling like a champion.