The last few weeks have been a challenge for a lot of different reasons. So I decided to take a little time to do something just for myself.
I was straightening up the studio a few months ago and came across this Amish style Double 9 Patch quilt that I made probably 20 years ago. My sons, who are now 29 and 26, were in elementary school at the time. It’s a very traditional design, which was what I was making at the time. And it’s all in solids, which was unusual for me–I normally used batiks and commercial prints in my quilts that long ago. I’ve always been fascinated by the aesthetic in old Amish quilts though–and I have the books on my bookshelf to prove it.
I had begun to hand quilt it, but got sidetracked by life, I guess, and had only done the center plain block in a feather motif and three of the four surrounding double 9 patch blocks with straight lines. This quilt is large–not quite full bed size, but close. You can see some of the hand quilting in the featured photo above. Although I enjoy hand quilting, my stitches are not as small as they used to be and my hands get tired faster, so finishing the quilt by hand really wasn’t an option. I did finish the fourth pattern block by hand and I hope no one looks at it too closely!
This quilt is just for me–to wrap up in on the sofa in the winter–so I decided to finish it with free motion quilting. I wasn’t sure how it was going to look, since I’ve never done anything like this before. It’s definitely not show worthy, but it will keep me warm and that’s all that matters. It definitely wasn’t going to do anyone any good in its unfinished state. As the texture grows on the quilt, I like it more and more.
Above is a detail of one of the blocks. I remember I started out making all the small 9 patches in just two colors, but I ended up with a bunch of extra strips and I decided to make some oddball blocks that have random colors in them. That’s one of the reasons I like this quilt so much!
Interestingly, I just read an article in the AQS American Quilter magazine by Victoria Findlay Wolfe about looking back at your work to see where you’ve come from, and how that informs where you’re going. Even 20 years ago when I was a traditional quiltmaker, I was interested in colors and how they interact, as well as adding texture with my stitching lines. And I liked to “color outside the lines,” so to speak–adding in those random multicolor blocks as a way to add more interest to my design.
With my current improvisational work, I’ve taken these ideas that I was just beginning to articulate way back then and made them my own. It’s part of my own “quilting DNA” if you will, that makes my work uniquely mine. I believe we all have our own likes and dislikes, quilting history, and sense of design that inform all of the quilts we make.
How has your work changed, and yet stayed the same? It’s an interesting idea to think about. Let me know in the comments!