Quilts for Sarah

Boxes of Kim's clothes
Boxes of Kim’s clothes

A couple of months ago I came home and found these two giant boxes on my back porch.  It was over a year ago that Sarah emailed me and asked if I would make a quilt from her sister-in-laws clothes.  Her sister-in -law, Kim had died suddenly.  Sarah and her husband wanted three quilts  to give to different family members.

I’ve had the boxes of Kim’s clothes in my studio for a while and today felt like the day to open them up and get started making the quilts for Sarah and her family.

Kim's clothes, before
Sorting through Kim’s clothes

But before I opened the boxes, I spoke to Kim.  I told her who I was and what I was doing.  It’s an intimate thing to be going through someone’s clothes who is no longer alive.  Someone I never knew or even met.

Then I opened the boxes and looked through Kim’s clothes,  getting a feel for what I would be working with. Colors, types of fabric, that kind of thing.  I  sorted them into piles of similar colors and prints, all the time looking for the special ones, those pieces of clothing that were the most worn and faded.   These I know are the person’s favorites.  The ones they wore for years, each time they came out of the wash.  I found a few of these in the boxes, but the one that stood out the most was a Chicago Bears T-shirt.  I imagined Kim wore it as a nightshirt.  It’s big, the fabric thin and  soft with so much wear,  the words and images cracked and fading.

Kim's "Bears" Tshirt
Kim’s “Chicago Bears” T-shirt

Even though I’ve given up doing commission’s, I know that every time I do one I get something out of it.  In a way I get to know the person whose clothes or fabric I’m making the quilt from.  But I also often do something different creatively because I’m working with a selection of fabric that I didn’t choose.

With Kim’s clothes it was using white.  In the box was a pair of white pants.  They still had one of those plastic tag holders on it and I wondered if she never wore them, or wore them a just a few times and didn’t notice it.  I know I’ve done that by mistake, more than once.  I suddenly felt a little closer to Kim, as if we shared something.  I also felt as if using the pants was the right decision, even if I wasn’t sure quite how to do it.

White can be so stark and bold and I usually avoid it.  But I’ve seen it used in the Gee’s Bend Quilts and it always works.  So I flipped through my Gee’s Bend book to see just how the different women used white.  What I noticed was how graphic it was in the quilts.  So I decided to use it the same.  Big blocks and stripes with solid colors.  It actually scared me to do.  It’s so not a part of my color vocabulary, it was like I had to get used to it.  That’s how I knew it was the right thing to do.  That it was so different for me.  Me stepping out of my comfort zone.

This is what I have so far.  The white is bold and I see how it sets off the colors and frames them. I get little nervous looking at it, wondering how I’ll make it work, but actually that’s also the fun part.  Otherwise it would just be me doing the same thing over and over, like a formula.

What I do know is I’m going to somehow continue using the green on the two other sides that don’t have it yet, and use more white too.  If I look at the quilt out of the corner of my eye,  I can almost see it….

sarah quilt

5 thoughts on “Quilts for Sarah

  1. I am not a quilter or artistic in any way so my opinion does not mean a thing but I really love Sarah’s quilt. Just looks right to me. I am sure the family will be pleased.

  2. Maria, in looking at the “birth” of this quilt, I think that it is my favorite. I like how the colors work and how the white stands out against them. It is bold, warm, somewhat contemporary, and personal.
    I really like it. Isn’t it interesting how important the white becomes next to all the color? Funny, outside it is so incredibly white with all of that snow and indoors the white takes on an entirely different feeling. As a former Chicago Bears fan, I love that they are the center piece in this quilt.
    When I see the news each night and try to fathom all of that snow and cold I am amazed. In Southern California,we are in the middle of this unending drought, our snowpack is low and I have to wonder where all of the snow you are experiencing goes when it finally starts to warm up. I guess in some places, that will mean flooding. I hope not. You, Jon and Tyler are doing a tremendous job of keeping everything together.
    Your most recent photo of Frieda and Minnie is heartwarming. To see them together is a tribute to the age and wisdom of animals. Friendship sneaks up when and where it is least expected. I have two senior dogs myself, one Lab (Riley is eleven) and one ten year old Sheltie (Kerry who is deaf and getting a little senile). I look at senior dogs with a great deal of love and respect; they seem so dignified. I think that they hold a vast knowledge of the world around them; I call it wisdom. I applaud you for all of the love and care you give your animals. Frieda’s longevity is a tribute to you and Jon.
    Thank you for sharing her with all of us.
    Keep warm.

  3. Maria, This has such a feel of Gee’s Bend style. You really used the white perfectly. That was brave and it made it all pop in my humble opinion.
    Wow……….truly love the results.

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