It’s been awhile since my last blog post and a lot has changed. I’m almost done with my MLIS program, I’ve started a new job, and I’ve taken on new leadership opportunities. Needless to say, I’ve been busy, and I’ve struggled to find time for myself. For example, while I love genealogy research, I haven’t logged into Ancestry.com in months. So, following my 30th birthday, I took advantage of the Christmas break and picked up a hobby. I visited the Boston Museum of Fine Arts’ Fabric of a Nation American Quilt Stories exhibit in November and was so inspired by it that I asked for a sewing machine for Christmas although I’ve never used one in my life.
I was familiar with the quilters of Gee’s Bend and my own paternal grandmother Gladys Bush from Alabama was a quilter, but I hadn’t seen any modern Black quilters. This quickly changed with Bisa Butler, whose vibrant To God and Truth (2019) quilt anchored the MFA exhibit. To see this HBCU educated Black woman incorporate her Ghanaian culture with African American history mesmerized me.
I was so excited to unwrap my new sewing machine on Christmas morning. I immediately set it up, although I’m embarrassed to say that it took me 2 hours to figure out how to thread it. Anyway, once I figured that out, I was off to the races! Me being the ambitious person that I am, I decided that my first sewing project would be to make a quilt. I headed out to Joann Fabrics, coupon in hand ready to purchase yards and yards of fabric. I had learned that Joann’s has a special Black History fabric available and eagerly sought it out. I’m a more subdued person, but being inspired by Bisa Butler, I decided to get some fabric that would pop!
I joined a few quilting groups on social media and scoured YouTube to get some ideas for my pattern. I discovered Melanie Ham’s “My First Quilt” series on YouTube which was a Godsend. She was an amazing teacher and influenced many, I was saddened to learn of her illness and recent passing.
Learning the basics of the sewing machine, a few steps in the quilting process (cutting, basting, and sewing) and my grandmother's quilts.
I worked late into the night planning my pattern, cutting fabric blocks, and sewing them all together. Putting this quilt together was a labor of love. While I probably needed to rest, I wanted to see this project through and I’m so glad I did. Throughout this I’ve learned 3 things: 1) quilting is expensive, 2) patience is a virtue, and 3) the devil is in the details.
The amount of items I’ve had to purchase from fabric, to scissors, to thread is crazy! I thought I would be finished with this quilt within a week, it’s been two and I wish I had slowed down to really get everything right. There are so many steps that go into quilting and you must take care to carefully complete them all. I really understand ‘measure twice, cut once’ now. My squares were all kinds of shapes. I had to go back and recut a lot of them. I wish I paid a little more attention in geometry class. I’m often juggling multiple things at a time but this project forced me to just focus on the task at hand, especially the binding. The binding is what really made me appreciate the art of quilting. I hand bound my quilt, because I wasn’t confident in tackling machine binding. It also allowed me time to just sit, sew and watch to a good show or movie on TV. (I finally got a chance to watch Boomerang!) I much more appreciate my grandmother’s quilts because I now understand the time and energy that goes into creating them. I’m so excited to reveal my quilt and can’t wait to get started on more projects. I’ve already sewed placemats and coasters.
“If you are losing your leisure, look out! -- It may be you are losing your soul.”
― Virginia Woolf