Planned project: Law enforcement map of the Adirondack Park
Richard E. Cytowic, MD to give an illustrated talk on synesthesia & creativity at the Library of Congress on Friday, October 30

Making a quilt for my daughter: a meditation

quilt for Elizabeth

When we were first sewing pieces together for the smallest block, I told her, "Never sew the pieces together unless you know what they mean."

She asked, "What do these pieces mean, mommy?"

I said, "These are angry men running in the grass. This one is the moon rising over the lake. This one is our house. This one is about thinking about the tiny little creatures in the water."

This is not a quilt make from a pattern, but from a method of construction. This is a method to be done fast, in love, in anger, and as a form of meditation: Use only scraps, as much as you can. Cutting from the big pieces of cloth should be a last resort. Make small blocks as though you were spelling words, combining letters. Then make bigger blocks as through you were making sentences.

quilt for Elizabeth

The bigger blocks will not all be the same size. The easy way out would be to trim them so that they are and then sash them with a plain fabric to spread them out so they don't have to mean together. Don't take the easy way out. 

Arrange the pieces on the floor in relation to one another. If some are too simple, cut them apart and sew them back together in a different order. Add strips of fabric to fill in the gaps, but using the same grammar that you have used so far.

Work fast, but observe things like seam allowances carefully. Because this kind of quilt is made in the heat of the moment, it is prone to structural flaws.  Overwork the structure just a little to make sure it will all hang together in the end.

quilt for Elizabeth

I did have to reach for the larger pieces for the outside edges, and needed a trip to the fabric store in Lake Placid, NY to get the batting and the backing.

Also, I did a small amount of applique using some of the better scraps -- 20 years ago I had experimented with hand-cutting rubber stamps and then printing on fabric with fabric paint.

quilt for Elizabeth

I am going to tie the quilt, rather than hand-quilting. Elizabeth and I discussed it last night, and she wants the binding to be sunshine yellow like the backing.

It will be a gift for her seventh birthday.

Vinson on ironing board