Brother and fiance holding up completed quilt.
This post is very word heavy. I haven't posted anything here in a very, very long time and this project has been part of figuring out what is going on in my life and what I want to do with it. If you don't want to read, feel free to skip down to the pics or visit the blog where most all of the processes are explained with more pictures.
Summer 2008 I started a quilt in anticipation of my sister's announcement that she would be marrying the next spring/summer. At that time I had intended to embroider 10-12 very large squares (15-18" initially), choose the 6-8 I liked best and build a quilt around them with sashing and whatnot. I get my squares cut out from medium-weight, reclaimed, polyester upholstery fabric in super bright turquoise and yellow and start the embroidering process. I am planning on hand embroidering everything and so this is going to take a while, but I figure roughly a year should be enough time, right? Then October rolls around and I get a call from sis saying that they've changed plans, will be getting married in December and would I mind making the bridesmaid dresses since I can make them for each girl's measurements and cheaper than buying them from somewhere.
Quilt plan derailed in a hurry. I don't mind at all making the dresses, especially since I'm the poor one lobbying for something under $250 and more like the Infinity dress since the bridesmaids were all different body types. But I can't handle working 50+ hrs/wk at 2 different jobs plus making the dresses and trying to get the quilt done in time. So the dresses get done in time even though I was doing the hems the night before I left STL for northern Michigan and made my fiance do the ironing so I could focus on sewing up what felt like miles and miles of hem. (Thank you, love!) In addition to the dresses, the couple also received a large Penzey's Spices gift crate filled with a variety of hand-picked spices and seasonings and such (I worked at Penzeys at the time) and were very, very happy.
I got a new, full time job shortly after returning to STL in January 2009. It seemed great to begin with but I soon learned that it was a soul-devouring dead-end hole and after visiting for 8-10 hrs 5 days a week I was an angry, perpetually unhappy mess every evening. Couple that with the deliberate intent, patience and focus needed for hand embroidering large areas and it just wasn't going to happen. So, I tried my best to get through it and brainstorm what else I could do. I wanted to keep it a quilt and non-traditional piecing but somehow more manageable. Enter awesome fiance's surprise trip to STL's Anthro store (that I had no idea even existed in all the 9 years I had been there. how did that happen!?). So many cool ideas and awesome things to look at!
So, for my birthday in early April I went to Hancock and spent some money on remnants of various home dec and upholstery fabrics with the idea to make an embellished strip quilt; each type of fabric having its own kind of decoration/embellishment. Then I had piles of 2", 3", and 5" strips of the fabrics and eventually came up with the methods of machine couching yarns, dying, hand embroidering and stamping them all. Below are a couple of examples of things that I did to some of the fabrics (All of these can be seen more indepth on my blog, just click on the tag "quilt" or this link http://mangomerle.blogspot.com/search/label/quilt
and all of the relevant posts will show up)
Bleached over tools. Did this with kitchen tools also.
Throughout April and May I had been making small purchases toward crafting/sewing hardware I would use. Thread, interfacing, a gathering foot and a darning/embroidery foot for my machine, embroidery flosses, hand and machine needles, etc. These purchases were not part of my budgeting and I didn't consciously know what was going on, but I was getting myself set up for creating once I quit my job and wouldn't have an income. Early June I officially quit my job at the Maritz call center and started a phase of introspection, organization, and reintroduction of creativity into my life.
Freehand birdie with fabric crayons and bits stamped with the textile stamps I picked up at Anthro. This birdie did not make it to the quilt as I have other plans for him. I also got some Jacquard textile inks on the recommendation of fiance's brother's wife who had a fiber arts degree from somewhere in Kansas.
When I quit my job, I had enough money to pay my part of rent on the duration of the lease on our apartment, pay the electric bills until the end of the lease, and buy the most basic of groceries. I grew up dirt poor so having beans and rice for almost every meal was nothing new. I did this intending to either find another job by the end of the lease, one that aligned with my moral compass and wouldn't crush my soul even if the pay was lousy, or move back to northern Michigan with my parents and try to get some money selling crafts/quilts/toys/etc. Living with my parents would be glamorous by no means but I would be surrounded by people who loved and cared for me and as long as I was doing my best to make a living for myself I would be welcome.
Things finally started to come together for the quilt!
Fiance's Mom offered in July for us to move to eastern MD and live with her for a while so, because fiance had not seen any of his family in over a year due to geographic and financial impossibilities, we moved there in August. In MD, I landed a job at JoAnns. I found a job again that I liked doing! My co-workers were amazing and kind and talented, I got to help people, I learned a LOT about fabric and fiber and construction of both craft and clothing items and fabrics themselves. Work was like a present every day. Coming from an education background, I genuinely enjoy helping and informing people. Even the super crappy customers were nothing after having worked at Maritz. And the employee discount was like a present on top of a present!
I made a little bit of headway on the quilt pieces.
I learned how to make my own screen prints!
Living in MD was not a present, however. I couldn't really sew since the machine was not welcome in the house unless I was going to set everything up and pack it all away back into boxes when I was done for the day. And even if I was OK with that we could be kicked out of the house or not allowed in at any time according to fiance's Mom's schedule of guests/partners, which cause a lot of turmoil between us. Far from ideal, I felt more and more stifled and at one point even threatened by the living situation.
Did little bits of crochet and hand couching.
So after a lot of soul-searching and consideration of options I decided that I was moving, either to MI with my parents or TN with my brother, and even though it would pain me to do so I was going to even if fiance was not coming. That was his choice to make and not mine. This is what I had done at that time:
Most all of the pieces had their embellishments/decorations but I wasn't able to assemble anything. The quilt parts and further items needed to complete it were carefully packed away and taken to Michigan this Christmas after a *major* purge of furniture, personal belongings and personal baggage as well as dropping off everything we owned in TN on the way.
Family and fiance helping with the last steps in assembly.
Final construction was completed January 1, 2010, 2 days before my brother; and subsequently fiance and me since we are now living with him, had to be back on base at Fort Campbell. For the last year I have been thinking a lot about craft and sewing and creating and how these things relate to our lives, how we live them and what we actually give value to in our lives. I don't have most of these thoughts down in word format yet, but they are now a part of me because of this quilt and the processes involved in completing it even if I never do get them down in word format. I learned how to assert myself to get what I needed out of situations and to not take no for an answer where my sense of right and wrong is concerned. I also found out that people and history, both personal and incorporating it somehow into things I make and do, mean a lot more to me than I had ever thought possible.
There are 8 birds on the quilt (6 of which can be seen in the last pic below), one for my sister's husband and one for each my family members. The 2 silk screened crows/ravens are my sister and her husband because I wish for them long lives devoted to each other. The 2 painted peafowl are our parents who have done their best to give us a solid rational and moral foundation for our lives. The 3 parrots represent our triplet brothers. 2 of the parrots are taken from the same print and represent our 2 identical brothers while the other is a wool embroidery, representing our fraternal brother. The fraternal parrot is embroidered and has a frame. This is because our fraternal brother was killed in a car accident and his life story is now complete whereas the other 2 are not and do not have frames around them.
The last little bird, the one speaking in symbols and music notes, is me. I usually have such a very hard time explaining myself in words that it just doesn't happen, but not everything we say has to be in words all the time. I am not completely done with the process started in June 2008 (can you ever really truly be done making yourself?) and there are some more changes I would like to implement soon, but I have become a person I am no longer ashamed of. I am more a person I would want to know and I have a better understanding of why and how through items I placed on or worked into this quilt. (explained a little better, maybe, at the blog)
Thanks for reading (if you did) and thanks for looking at the pictures. I hope each and every one of you has a great weekend!