Friday, October 12, 2012


This is the first quilt I made. I just kinda made it up and dove in, which means if you take a close look (okay, a cursory glance) at it, you’ll find all kinds of uneven seams and a whole mess to do with batting and the washing machine and their basic incompatibility, the way I built the layers. But it hangs on my wall anyway, and I love it. 

I started quilting when I was in college - no particular reason why. I mean, in 3rd grade when Santa gave me a sewing machine, I immediately loved making clothes for my Barbies and so forth, but despite my mom's prodigious skills at kid clothes and the best Halloween costumes ever, I never really became much of a seamstress. So the quilt thing was a little random (wait, I remember why: I did a docent thing for the AIDS quilt when it was passing through Santa Cruz and was impressed by the diversity of the construction as well as the messages, of course.) 

Since then I've made maybe a dozen quilts, mostly small, with a few big ones thrown in. Some crazy quilts, some traditional patterns. (This one is a strip quilt out of flannel, so dang cozy, which we often fight over at my house.) I've made them for nieces, siblings, my parents, a couple of baby quilts for friends, etc. My sons - well, there's this whole big project where I made a 12" square for each year of their lives, with the intention to combine them someday into a story quilt of their childhoods. Yeah. I have a lot to catch up on. Most of my Giant Armoire of Fabric is full of fat quarters I picked up for those quilts. 

One of my favorite places to fabric shop is the International Quilt Festival, which will be back in Houston at the end of this month. It's simply astounding to wander the aisles of quilts (and note how very accomplished these quilters are, and how very rudimentary my own skills are.) I'm so inspired by the fabric artists - my first novel is about a quilter at an artist's retreat, in fact. The things they manage with cotton and thread would bowl you over.

One of my most artistic quilts is the one I made for my mom's 50th birthday. I crafted a Texas Star, with each arm of the star representing a decade of her life. (One of her doll's dresses for the first 10, baby handprint fabric for her 20s, when she had the four of us, etc.) Then I had my grandmother, my dad, and my three siblings each make a smaller star which I floated in the spaces between the arms of the main star. All of the background fabrics are celestial patterns. It was my first really big project and I love how it turned out. 

I made a small (tiny) quilt for my dad's 60th. It's a pictorial square that I floated in a frame. It's inspired by the yard of the house where I grew up - the view from my bedroom window was of a live oak tree with a garden of azaleas and the lawn. I embroidered his initials at the top and mine at the bottom, and it's kinda pretty.

With the weather cooling and the quilt show coming to town, I've been thinking about my quilting a lot lately. It's been - well, my youngest niece is almost five, so I guess about that long since I actually finished a project. My oldest son just turned 17 (yikes!) which means I have a lot of work to do if that old goal of a 'your life in fabric' quilt is going to happen, so watch out, everyone. Once I re-open the Giant Armoire of Fabric, just about anything could happen. 

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