Sunday, August 29, 2010

loss and realization

I cut up another quilt yesterday.It wasn't finished, and when I spread it out, I realized that it would never really satisfy me. Large, made mostly of uncut tussah silk, I was about half way through the dense quilting. I did love the size of it, and I do love the central square. I just did not love the circular part that I imposed on it last fall. Here's a photo from October. I am feeling regret and loss today. Mostly about the scale of the piece. One of the things that attracted me to quiltmaking in the first place was the large (bed) size.
Bed sized quilts are large in a natural feminine way, not pushy like ab-expressionist paintings. The messy stuff that accompanies the bed metaphor, the powerful feelings of nurturing and protection come with the large size. Large enough to cover a family. When I reduce the size of my quilts, I have to be more careful. I can't rely on the emotions that quilts bring up in the viewer. What was I thinking? I'm home alone- maybe that was the trigger. Solitude's gift is usually a break through, sometimes it's a realization.

I realize that SCALE IS IMPORTANT for me.
I am going to continue to work large.
When I make smaller pieces, (and I will of course) I'll ask myself, Why a quilt? Should this be a painting? Is it an embroidery?

Quilt 'baggage':
1. re-purposing fabric
2. warmth and protection
3. inner voice of women maker
4. exhuberance and joy using beauty and texture
5. the bed and all that goes on there.
6. covering up, covering over
7. the great tradition handed down by our fore-mothers.


  1. this was a nice post and i too often like quilting because it is large doesn't help that i have a bee in my ear (mama) who tells me that the quilts that truly last are usually on the larger side of things....:)

  2. I think I get what you are saying partially - I always feel a little strange calling something meant for the wall a 'quilt' and tend to compensate by calling the smaller quilt like works studies or samples. I dunno. Maybe I should just call them quilted works, or stitched or...who knows. So much in a quilt. And big - the way I want to do things - takes so much time too...I fear I'll never finish anything.

    All good stuff. Hope your feeling better!


  3. I think all of us who have made quilts (and been brought up around quilts) think of them on a larger scale. They were utilitarian, for warmth and comfort. They were also items of beauty for our homes. Saving those special fabrics, embellishing with quiliting and/or embroidery...the time and the thought makes them so special.
    I have been doing the onlines classes with Jude and made quite a few smaller pieces, but my nagging thought is always 'how am I going to put these pieces into a quilt' (obviously thinking large scale). Your post has made me wonder does it have to be large scale?
    Great thought provoking post and I love the centre of this quilt and all of the beautiful stitching (I am wishing I had bought a bigger piece of cloth on holiday with me to stitch).
    Home alone after your time with family....lots of time for contemplation. I look forward to seeing what you do with this quilt. You have certainly inspired me to look at the piece I am working on differently.

    Jacky xox

  4. Anonymous5:03 am

    I've only ever made one large bed quilt (all by hand), and found it enjoyable enough to do once. I find it physically difficult to manhandle and manipulate (womanhandle and womanipulate?) such a large quantity of fabric. I do admire quilt artists who create on such a grand scale.

  5. well, it looks to me like the cutting has opened up something amazing. i like small and big, not too happy with in between.

  6. Anonymous6:47 am

    the scale of a project can be changed for me in an instant. it has to do with so many things and not necessarily the "size".

    i have been handling the magic cloth lately, wondering how big to make it.

  7. Hello Judy, Never have been exposed to the tradition of quilt making. But I was brought up by women who mended and patched and recycled their linens. Oh, and embroidered them too! I think that was why embroidery soon started to creep into my quilting which I started late in life.

  8. Oh, and Judy, I forgot to mention that now I'm wrapping trees with my grandmothers worn sheets! She would think me very strange!

  9. thanks for these timely thoughts. I've been wrestling with this dichotomy for a while now with two large pieces underway. Although I want they both to have the bed cover functionality and all that goes with blanksets, I still want that pushy, ab-ex scale and composition. I want my cake, pie and eclairs AND eat them too.

    Accomplishing both of these designs would be over and done with in a day if I were attacking a six by eight foot canvas with brush and paint (my heart's desire) but the soul need of working with cloth and hand stitching has me feeling frozen in time. I find myself picking up a piece and wondering "when will you ever be done?" and

  10. large or small, I am just stunned by the beauty...

  11. Wow that took guts. I hand quilt and I have never really wanted to make large quilts. Beds aren't where I want them, the walls are. One thing I do have a problem with edges - they have to be finished in some way.

  12. Your 7-point "quilt baggage" list hits the spot. Working with fabric in any way connects us to a long strand of mostly female humans going back many thousands of years, with what is thought of as pre-historic times, but I think fabric itself is a history.

  13. Sometimes cutting is the only way to progress and it may have nothing to do with what gets cut. Gilly

  14. A lovely, thoughtful journey into your process, thanks, and yes, quite lovely center square! And I like a lot of it, beautiful.

  15. The time invested in a large hand stitched quilt is monumental, and it is physically impossible for me to make all of my work large. I have only one life span, I'm past the top of the mountain.

    I guess what I want from a quilt is the cake and eclairs and to eat everything as well. Like Deb, I want the fine art intelligence and passion, but I also want the soulful and thoughtful hand caress and those domestic metaphors. I really don't know if it's all possible in one piece, but if not, for me, what's the point? I keep aiming for this.

    So although I will continue to work large, I will also continue to work small, and I will continue to work middle sized.

    I will continue to work.
    I will continue to get better.

    thanks for your comments and encouragement.

  16. I've been scrolling back and forth looking at these beautiful images.... stopping at the scissors cutting into the quilt.... and I get the same feeling as when watching a mighty oak being felled, but I've cut the heads off some of my carved totems so I do understand. As Cat commented, large or small, your work is stunning.

  17. Wow! What an amazing conversation. Yes, I think you were brave to cut into that quilt, but it is much more than that, the act as well as the symbolism behind it. Quilts for me are filled with so many emotions. I have not done many, only a few because the process is sometimes daunting. Large or small, there is purpose and attachment in each stitched piece. But I am over the mountain too, so how do I want to spend the time that is left? Cloth, in general, is my passion, and I think, now, that any way I work with it, whether it be constructing a garment or a quilt, the act of touching and creating is what most captivates and nourishes me. I like the idea of fine art, but I don't want to have it lead me into a state of perceiving it as something too precious or rare. Great post and incredibly beautiful work.

  18. To me a quilt can be virtually any size, being the maker of quite a number. If it has been quilted then can't it still be a quilt no matter the size? There is no reason at all why a another quilt can't be created from what has been cut off! There are no mistakes - only solutions! The joy and the pleasure come initially from your own idea, handling the fabric, enjoying the stitching of it and the energy it gives you in the whole creation whether it be for yourself or someone you love!
    The "quilt baggage" sums it all up beautifully!x Suzy

  19. Your list of quilt baggage made me think: bed sized quilts witness birth and death, or at least they used to, and do still in my mind, symbolically. Also in between birth and death, they witness disease and recuperation, and always, always they witness our dreams. In fact, I think they inform our dreams! At least mine. Your blog and art work is lovely, BTW!

  20. I only just read this blog entry today. I love your blog and find your art inspiring. I don't say that lightly or often. Your 'Quilt Baggage' explains succinctly the reasons I make quilts rather than paintings. (And even the small pieces I make are quilts in my heart.)


Thank you for taking the time to connect. Much appreciated.xx