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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Little Hands Can Make a Big Difference

If you’ve read this blog before you know that I often share funny moments here—the wacky things I do and the silly circumstances that I find myself in on a regular basis. But I also love to share triumphant moments and creative projects, and this post is about something I've helped to create.

For the last couple of weeks I have been working on a quilt. I’m no expert—it’s only my third quilt--but I had a great time making it and I’m proud of how it turned out. It is called “Little Hands Can Make a Big Difference.” I made it with my daughter's second grade class for the silent auction at the school’s fundraiser this month. It’s somewhat based on the “Around the World” pattern I used for my first quilt, although I decided to take a few liberties and try mixing things up a little. It’s not intended to be completely symmetrical, but for me that makes it even more appealing.

There is evidence here and there that a human being (yep, flaws and all!) made this quilt, not a robot. But I’m okay with that. In fact, I like it. Once upon a time I thought I had to be perfect. I thought that everything I did needed to be impeccable. I felt ashamed if my results didn’t pan out perfectly. (That’s a pretty tough way to live, but it was also hard to unlearn.) It has taken many years to learn new ways to look at the world and at myself, but these days I embrace imperfections. I like that I can see the human touch in this quilt. And I like that I can enjoy the process without needing the result to be perfect (whatever that is!).

Here's my Betsy Ross moment:

The colors choices: the fabric store I visited had dozens and dozens of wonderful fabrics. So how did I end up with the seven choices (plus white) that I used? Well, I started off with a medium blue. I chose a darker blue as an accent. (A quilt—like any piece of art—looks more visually interesting when there is contrast). For my darker accent I found a batik print I adored because a) I love batik and b) within the fabric there were many shades of blue (some light, some grayish, some dark and even some purpley-blue shades). I knew this would give the quilt more interest than a solid color would. I chose a bright turquoise to add pizazz within my blue color scheme, and a beautiful red as contrast. The polka dot fabric and the stars fabric both meshed with my color scheme but also added more fun and more visual texture to the combination of fabrics. Here is a sketch I did as I went along, to block out the colors and patterns:

So how did I decide what this quilt would look like? Good question! There are countless ways to make a quilt, just as there are infinite ways to make any piece of art. I started at the center, literally, with a diamond with the name of the school and “Class of 2021.” From there, I built the quilt outward. I liked how the red fabric contrasted with the white of the center piece. I wanted each row to contrast with the one next to it, but I love that the whole piece is harmonious, too. I purposely did not make the quilt symmetrical, although it is visually balanced. The fun accents at the corners were done because I ran out of fabric and challenged myself to piece together squares from smaller scraps of fabric. The effect is quite fun! I love that there is an accent at each corner.

Building a quilt is such an interesting process. It starts with an idea, and gathers steam when you choose fabric. This quilt was meaningful to make because I know my daughter’s classmates and their handprints are personal. As I sit here I have mixed feelings about this quilt. Part of me wants to keep working on the quilt—I’m attached to it and making it satisfies my creative urge. The other part of me is ready to hand it over for the school’s silent auction. I will be excited to learn which family takes it home. There are so many creative projects banging around in my brain—I’m ready for the next one. (And there are many projects partially completed that I want to work on. Doing this quilt has reminded me how satisfying it is to finish a project. Hopefully I’ll buckle down and finish some of them soon!)

By the way, I just want to put this out there: if anyone is reading this and is considering trying to learn to sew or trying something new, go for it. Don’t worry about not having the fanciest gear out there. Just try it and have fun. I made this quilt using a Kenmore sewing machine from 1976 (that I found in an alley!). It’s your interest in something that makes it satisfying, not top-of-the-line gadgets. The enthusiasm you bring to an activity is what makes it meaningful…

As a final note, a word about the title: I usually don’t give titles to my paintings but giving a piece of art a name can be a nice touch. This title came to me immediately. I do believe that kids can make a difference. Small hands (like small acts) can do more than we can imagine...


  1. Your quilt looks awesome! Great job!

  2. It really is a gorgeous quilt.. Which lucky family got to take it home??
    - Laura