No one taught me how to make a quilt. When a friend showed me the book from the Whitney Museum of the Gee’s Bend Quilts that were on display there from 2002-03, we decided to make our own.
We were both out of art school for some years. I had stopped making art, wondering if I would ever feel the pull to start again.
She lived on Long Island and I lived four hours away not far from our farm. We started collecting fabric from thrift stores and when I would visit her I’d bring the Singer sewing machine my mother bought me for my twenty-third birthday and we spend the weekend making quilts.
The quilts I saw in that book, which I now refer to as my “bible” stirred something inside of me. Besides their striking colors and individualistic uniqueness, they shouted confidence and integrity. Each with its own voice, soft, or loud, they were all bold.
I know now that my reaction to those quilts was much the same as my reaction the first time I watched the Bennington Beledi Tribal Bellydancers. It was that “in your face” attitude. The quilts and the belly dancing each had something I didn’t have. But once I had seen it, I wanted it.
Unlike myself, they were not afraid to be looked at, not afraid to be seen. They knew their own worth and they didn’t care what anyone else thought.
I learned to make quilts by making them. One piece, one quilt at a time, I figured it out as I went.
The idea of getting a quilting frame never entered my mind. From the beginning, almost 20 years ago, when tacking my quilts, I hung them from the ceiling and one by one pulled a needle with yarn through the three layers of quilt and tied it on the back.
A few years ago someone (I don’t even remember who) told me that she saw someone tacking a quilt by pulling the yarn through the whole quilt as if sewing it in giant basting stitches, then cutting and tying the yarn.
My first thought was that that’s not how I do it. And then, for the most part I forgot about it. Except sometimes when I was tacking my quilts, it would come to mind.
Then last month, when tacking my quilt I thought of it again. And this time, instead of pushing the idea away, I tried it.
Not only it is quicker, but it makes it easier to keep my tacking lines straight and evenly spaced.
I just pull the yarn through, from back to front and back again over and over as if sewing, then cut the yarn and tie it.
I think what amazed me most was how long it took me to do it. I know it was my ego that held me back. I wanted to do it my way, even if it wasn’t the best way.
One of the things I have always loved about making my quilts is that I’m the only one who can make the judgement about what it is “right” and “wrong”. Because I’m not following anyone’s rules by my own.
I’ve always had issues about people telling me what to do. I don’t like it. It’s one of the reason’s I do well working alone and running my own business. But it also can stop me from taking good advice, from learning.
I don’t want to be the kind of person who can’t change. And the more confident I am, the less defensive I’ve become.
My art has always taught me about myself. If a person is being authentic, how can it not?
When I think of how long it took me to adopt this efficient way of tacking a quilt, I’m reminded that I don’t have to shut myself in a room away from other people and ideas to create. Because I’m better at picking and choosing what works or feels “right” for me. Better at saying no, so I don’t have to hide and push people and ideas away.
And I’m better at saying “yes” when something is good for me, even if it still makes me a little uncomfortable.
6 thoughts on “Learning From My Art”
That is brilliant! I’ve never seen that way of tacking a quilt. I will need to try it.
Oh Deb, glad to pass it along!
I volunteer tying quilts off for The Linus Project, which gives handsewn quilts to children needing comfort (hospital, foster care etc). That is how they taught me to do it and they know their stuff.
It doesn’t surprise me you taught yourself, its perfect.
What a nice thing to do Elizabeth.
Thanks so much Maria…you inspired me to tackle a few Gee’s Bend style quilts after receiving ‘Migration’! Made a few successfully gifted and appreciated but love this method of tacking…will try it next time❣️
Wendy, I had no idea! I’d love to see them if you have pictures. It makes me very happy to hear.