The 13 Year Quilt

2002. Washington, D.C.

I was a graduate student - theater - living alone and far away from my family for the first time in my life. My studio apartment was 325 square feet, had a half-wall of tiny appliances, and was furnished (by my mom and me) with a futon, a rectangular card table, and a black and silver tv stand from Walmart. Making friends outside the dorm life of college was more difficult than I had expected. That first year, I spent many weekends by myself, watching a lot of television and channeling Mary Tyler Moore as I wandered the streets of Dupont Circle. 

I watched entire afternoons of HGTV. It was a little less trendy back then, and my favorites were the Carol Duvall Show and Simply Quilts. I crocheted while they presented holiday centerpieces and masterfully pieced together works of art. Quilting seemed out of my reach, requiring skills and paraphernalia I didn't have.

The day they shared the denim rag quilt and described it as a great beginner's option, I put down my crochet hooks and immediately searched for the episode and instructions on my computer.

To my weekend wanderings, I added thrift stores and the Goodwill, where I rummaged through piles of jeans and racks of shirts to find just the right fabrics to cut up.

I got a sewing machine for Christmas.

2004-2006. Silver Spring and Bethesda, Maryland. 

Kept company by Meredith Grey and McDreamy, I traced around the cardboard square template with a sharpie. Down the legs of a pair of men's Wranglers and up the back. With a good pair, I could get 12 squares. I needed 180 for the whole thing.

To my pile of thrifted plaid garments, I added the left-behind shirts of a former high school boyfriend and one of my college loves as well as two men's button-downs that I'd worn after coming out my senior year, a move that I had hoped signaled my newly-minted lesbian status to the ladies around me.

I bought spring-loaded scissors and kept a rubbermaid tub filled with denim and plaid under the bed I shared with my then-partner.

2007-2009. Washington, DC. 

The rubbermaid tub and my sewing machine sat in a series of closets as I moved from apartment to apartment with my then-girlfriend (now wife).

Law school left little time for crafting, and the piles of fabric looked to me old fashioned in the worst way.

2010. Washington, DC. 

My inner crafter, thought deceased, had simply been hibernating. She revived almost immediately upon graduation.

At the dining room table of our Logan Circle apartment, I oriented the sewing machine so I could stitch together squares while watching back-to-back episodes of Little House on the Prairie and waiting out the 5 months until my law firm job would begin.

"You've been carrying this all around for 8 years?" Navah asked, incredulous.

"Yep," I nodded.

"I didn't even know you sewed," She said.


Rows of alternating denim and plaid sprawled across the living room floor with numbered sticky notes pinned to their tops.

My sewing machine broke.

2015. Richmond, Vermont.

With a freshly painted craft room calling, I opened the old rubbermaid box. Nine rows of fabric stitched together and six waiting to be added.

I listened to the sound of the needle moving up and down through the layers of material and watched each pattern go by, remembering.

"I'm going to finish it," I told my wife. "And I think I might actually like it again - this whole denim and plaid thing."

She laughed and said she'd believe it when she saw it.

I shouted up from the studio - "Finished!" - when I pulled the last bit out from the sewing machine.

I snipped the seams for days (weeks?), through Modern Family, Six Feet Under, The Good Wife, BoyHood, Top Five, Scandal, Interstellar. I bought new spring-loaded scissors, these specific to rag quilts and the primary reason that I can still use my hands after cutting 10 little snips in every seam.

The couch, the floor, the table, my clothes, Navah's clothes were all covered in tiny little denim threads. "The cost of art," I said.

Two cycles through the washer and dryer, carefully cleaning out the lint filter every 15 minutes, and it was over.

13 years older and 500 miles further north, I am sitting under this beautiful fabric time capsule as I write these words.

I think I'll call it my gratitude quilt - for all the days and weeks and television shows and friends and loves and thrift stores and scissors and sewing machines and rubbermaid tubs that traveled alongside me to this moment with the sun not quite up, my dog on the floor beside me, my wife asleep down the hall, and the only sound the tapping of my fingers on the keys.

p.s. The first quilt I ever finished

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Fabric for the Wedding Quilt

I've known that I wanted to use squares that would be made into a quilt as our wedding guest book ever since I saw this one by Cute + Delicious.

I had seen various others during my meanderings around the internet, but I was always on the fence. But when I saw Alix's, I was sold.  Her decision to use patterned pieces and have the guests just scribble in where they could find room (or over the pattern) made for such an organic-looking finished product where the pattern was the focus, but if you looked more closely, you realized there were all those lovely signatures.

It was exactly what I wanted for mine. 

So over the weekend, I headed to Stitched, a fabulous boutique sewing store about fifteen minutes from where I live.  I'd never been and somehow didn't even know it existed for the first six months that I lived here, which is a travesty.  Of course now I can't wait to get back from the honeymoon and gorge myself on fabric, but that's a story for another day.

These patterns in the teal and red colorway from Michael Miller Fabrics caught my eye right away, but I was concerned they may look too childish.  After talking it over with the owner, I decided that was a-ok.  We agreed that a wedding quilt is all about celebration and magic, and what is more celebratory and magical than a pinwheel?  Seriously?

Also, our whole wedding weekend is at a summer camp, so we've sort of headed down the youthful delights path anyway.

After spending an hour or so cutting out the squares, I'm 100% sold and just excited to have everyone sign them and then start to make a quilt that we'll treasure forever!


KTMade Christmas: Part III

It continues!

My dad is a nature man and an avid birder.  Not only does he love bird watching, he's incredibly good at it.  He can spot a bird - by sight or sound - in the midst of a dense forest as if all the birds were just sitting around on bare limbs at eye level just waiting to be found.  He also catalogs the birds that he sees in notebooks and with gorgeous pictures.  Each year I look forward to the calendar that he and his wife Miki put together, filled with his best bird photos from the year.

When I saw this project in Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts, I knew that I had to make it for my dad and Miki.  From the beginning, I knew that I wouldn't be able to make the queen-sized quilt in the book.  Because it required making 30 needlepoint birds, I thought that it would take me more than a year.  So I planned to make a full-sized quilt.

And then I planned to make a throw with 20 birds.  Then 18 birds.  Then 12.  Then 9. Finally, 6.  I hope my dad and Miki don't feel jipped, but I just completely underestimated the amount of time that it would take to needlepoint each of those birds (and the intensity of the callous that would form on my finger - I now know why people use thimbles!).

I dream of one day redoing the whole business and making the full queen-sized quilt. Maybe for Christmas in 10-20 years.

Even though they didn't get the big quilt that I originally hoped to give them, I think the finished product is beautiful and comfy.  It's backed with a soft flannel, and Miki was cozying up underneath it within an hour!

I must also note that today is a particularly important day for this post because my dad had back surgery this morning.  He's doing well, but there's still the recovery process to work through.  I'm sure he'd appreciate any good thoughts being sent his way.



Can you remember the first time you tied your shoes?  Or successfully snapped your fingers?  Or whistled?  Or blew a bubble with your gum?  I remember the first time I opened and closed a safety pin.  It was an enigma to me - the way one side would press in but the other one wouldn't, the way you had to press in and then down just so and then pop! out would come the pin.  I was maybe six, and I sat on the gym floor with other kids while we all tried to figure out how to open a safety pin.  I kept working and working and then pop!  I gasped with glee - such success!

This week my 30-year-old self reconnected with that little kid, and I gasped - and squealed - with delight the moment I took the last pin out of my quilt.  Finished!  My first quilt!

I don't think I sewed a straight line on the thing, and I stuck myself about five thousand times with straight pins, but oh, I am so in love.  I adore it.  I smile every time I look at it.

And - is it okay to say this? - I am so proud of myself!  I know, I know - it's just a 36 x 36 inch ticker tape quilt - there was no patchwork involved.  It won't even cover a bed.  In fact, it's going to hang on the wall behind ours.  But it was a lot of work.  I spent a lot of hours perfectly placing all of those pieces of fabric and then sewing them all down with pin pricks all over my hands (safety pins next time!).  I had cramped fingers from cutting off tiny pieces of thread.

But what a payoff!  Tada, my friends.  Ta. Da.


Lessons in Imperfection

This week I spent more time with my seam ripper than with my sewing machine.  After signing up for a class to make a ticker tape quilt, I realized that I was going to have to miss the first session and do the initial work on my quilt at home.  No problem, I thought.  I've never made a quilt, but this one is just a 36 inch square and all I had to do was sew the front and back pieces together with batting in the middle.  Well, hours of seam-ripping later, I was flipping out.  I could not get the two pieces of fabric to lay flat.  No matter what I did, the top piece of fabric was bunchy.

In utter frustration, I finally called the store where the class was being held.  Thank goodness I did.  I ended up going in early so that I could work with the instructor on it.  Well, she just threw that fabric and batting on the sewing machine and told me to start stitching.  I protested.  Wasn't it going to be bunchy?  I couldn't totally see the guide line.  My stitches wouldn't be straight.  I needed to flatten everything out again!  With a calming hand on my shoulder, she told me that it would be fine and that any bunching would work itself out once we started putting the little ticker tape squares on.  So, sew I did.

It's bunchy, and my seams are crooked in some places. I'm pinning my little squares on, and I'm pretty sure that it's not going to look flat when I'm finished.  Whether I like it or not, crafting, sewing, and cooking continue to offer me ample opportunity to get up close and personal with my perfectionist side.  It's not always pretty - in fact, sometimes there's foot stamping.  But in the end, it's going to be my quilt - the first quilt that I've ever made. It won't be perfect, but then neither am I.