How I Made My American Quilt

Folded patchwork quilt on top of bed spread.

Remember when I ran to make the train and fell on the tracks? That was my most recent lesson in learning to slow down and be patient.

Well, this post shows that sometimes I can be patient. The quilt pictured above is the result of nearly twelve years of patience!

For me, the key to patience is to forget about whatever I’m trying to be patient about and do other things. Time will pass and often things will work out as originally intended.

I’m grateful for blogging, because it helps me figure out the timing of when things happened. February 2008 was my first quilting post. But I had already started quilting before that.

+ + +

My quilting journey started in the summer of 2005. My mom and I went to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and saw an exhibit called The Quilts of Gee’s Bend.

I have never been a fan of traditional quilts. Had never wanted a quilt. Not the ones that I had seen.

Then I saw the quilts made by the women of Gee’s Bend and realized that quilts can be so much more. My perspective of what defines a quilt changed.

Photo of back of quilt next to photo of quilt folded on top of cushioned stool.

They can be beautiful and boho. Modern and freestyle. Jazzy. Sexy. Solid colors. Different textures. Sewn by intuition without a pattern. Sewn by hand. Using pieces of fabric from old clothes alongside new fabric.

It was possible to quilt the way I cook and bake. Using the foods that I have on hand and improvising a new recipe. I could create a style of quilting that matched my personality. This exhibit gave me freedom and permission. I could do exactly what I wanted. With no limitation or rules.

I learned about quilts with hidden messages made by slaves. I learned that as an African American woman, quilting is my birthright. This exhibit was like breathing fresh air. I claimed myself.

Looking back I can see the journey. Finding myself anew. Bit by bit over time. I started blogging within a year of seeing this exhibit — and pushing my freelance writing. Trying to manifest my dreams. I started doing yoga and meditating.

As I’m writing this post, I am seeing even more. A relationship that I had been in (on and off for far too long) had a clear and definite ending. My heart was so broken. More than I care to admit. It’s taken a long time to mend. Maybe too long. The mending happened in ways that I did not expect. Within another relationship and while alone. I’ve learned many lessons. And I’ve quilted here and there along the way. Over many years.

In 2013, I blogged a picture of my quilt in progress. In 2014, I took part of the quilt and used it as the covering for a chair cushion.

I worked on it, then put it away and forgot about it. Then remembered it. Worked on it and put it away — and that pattern repeated. Focusing on other things and knowing that it would be finished eventually. When the timing was right. Going with the flow.

Quilt spread out on rug, patches of blue denim, along with other prints and textures.

At the end of 2015, I finished reading Marie Kondo‘s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I started tidying and finished tidying around April 2016. Well look at that, about a year ago.

Since then, I’ve been able to accomplish a lot and move forward with many things. Clearing out the old to make room for the new. So about a month ago, I started feeling like I needed to clear out more things and finish the quilt. I set a deadline for last Sunday and finished last Saturday night in the wee hours.

It’s done. What a journey!

+ + +
Updated 4/28/2020: Since I’ve been so inspired by the women of Gee’s Bend, I was happy, yet sad, to read about how the pandemic has impacted their community. The women have turned to making face masks instead of quilts.

8 thoughts on “How I Made My American Quilt”

  1. It’s beautiful, and the story behind it makes it so very special! You’re such an inspiration, and I’m proud to have you as my cousin!

    • Nielita – Thank you so much cousin! The feelings are mutual! So nice to see you here, but I’ve been thinking about you and hope to see you in person soon! 🙂

  2. Congratulations on this accomplishments & the lessons along the way. Last fall there was a quilting group at the Dudley Library. I’ll send you some photos. They continue to meet as they can.

Comments are closed.