The T-shirt Quilt
During the holidays, when I was taking a break from writing, I decided to make a memory quilt using twenty of my daughter’s old T-shirts.I had never made a quilt before, so I was excited about learning something new. And while it ended up being a very satisfying project, let me tell you, making the quilt was quite an involved and tedious process!
First, I sorted through all the shirts and determined what sized square I would cut from each one. Then, I measured and cut twenty pieces of fabric stabilizer and ironed them onto all the T-shirt squares, which also had to be precisely measured and cut. I measured and cut 49 pieces of flannel sashing and 30 pieces of cornerstone fabric. I laid the twenty t-shirt squares on the floor and decided how I wanted them arranged. I made sure to sew every seam (there were a lot of them, especially because I chose to use sashing and cornerstones throughout) as uniformly as possible at every step. Once I finished constructing the main part (top) of the quilt, I then hand-tied the three layers of the quilt together—the top, the batting, and the backing—at each cornerstone, accenting each tie with a button. Finally, I squared up the quilt, made the binding, and then hand-sewed the binding to the the entire edge of the quilt. Oh, and I managed to stab my fingertips repeatedly with pins throughout the making of this blanket. Ouch. Rookie tendency, I think.
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Anyway, I’m thrilled with how it turned out.
As I was studying the final product, it occurred to me that this quilt is a metaphor for what I’m attempting to create in my essay about church (the one I’ve been working on for over 2 months). I’m trying to capture different periods of my life and of my relationship with the church and tie them together into a single, cohesive piece. And although I’ve told parts of my story before, I’ve never told this particular story in this particular way. What I’m currently attempting to do is more akin to metanarrative than narrative. I know that sounds a bit heady, so let me say it another way. I’m not just sharing stories. I’m asking and answering the questions, “What do these significant events in my life reveal about me? How are they connected? And how do they intersect with what’s happening in the world and in the church?” Like the quilt, this project is layered and needs to be properly tied together throughout.
I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to hurry up and finish so I can just publish this darn thing, but thinking of it as a quilt has (to a large extent) liberated me from this false urgency. I’ll continue to approach the various parts of the story with the care and precision they deserve. And hopefully, when I do release it into the wild (or rather, into your inboxes), it will be a better product than it would have been had I heeded the impulse to rush it. A major reason I’m on Substack, after all, is to be free to write what I want to write and in whatever time frame the work requires. That said, thank you all for your patience!
Master quilter Lisa Capen made this detailed, easy-to-follow instruction video for this project, which helped make the creation of the quilt smooth from beginning to end.
This is so brilliant and helpful. Our lives really are a patchwork, but thinking about how each square has an impact on the whole helps with perspective! Thanks Judy!