The Hexie Cloud Baby Quilt, in all of its glory.
As a lifelong sewer and fashion designer, all of my sewing had been garment based. Upon graduating college, the first project I thought I would create was a new collection, or even a garment for myself. Instead, I began patterning on my studio floor, creating a pattern for my first quilt – a log cabin to be exact. In the spate of freelance jobs juggled with full-time work, the quilt got shelved. Over several years I designed and created several collections, lots of garments for myself, but eventually hung up my idea of creating the perfect log cabin design.
It wasn’t until years later that I began reconsidering quilting. At 75, my grandmother began (and completed!) her first quilt and gave it to me. Obviously inspired and with an array of cottons I had stashed, I began conceiving my new quilt design. I had plenty of blues, and as someone who gravitates toward pink (seriously, my closet is nearly entirely rose colored) I began developing my own pattern piece – a perfect hexagon. Why crawl when you can run? It’s a life motto I live by, although I wouldn’t necessarily apply it to quilting. Little did I know the difficulties that would lay ahead of me as I began my first foray into the quilting world.
I remember that winter being remarkably cold. Cutting out hundreds of hexagons became a reprieve from the weather and a meditation in my day to day. Before work and after, with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine I would sit at my cutting mat with my rotary blade and engage in the repetition of cutting, stacking each neat hexagon one on top of the other. After what seemed like hundreds of hours but was realistically closer to dozens, it was time to begin stitching the assemblage of my hexagon “flowers”. With my tiny edges matched, I began sewing – and quickly realized I didn’t know what I was doing.
I began sewing garments with my grandmother, and sitting at her domestic machine, thigh to thigh is one of my earliest memories. Sometimes she would let me guide the fabric or alternately, press the pedal if my foot could reach its station on the floor. The projects then could be anything and often were: curtains for the home, Halloween costumes for me. My grandma truly made everything that fitted our everyday life. As a child, then a teenager, and a college undergrad, all of my sewing experience had been limited to creating garments. I knew how to read patterns, to align seam allowance, and to turn corners. But stitching something as intricate as a quilt piece – and a hexagon no less – was a completely different task than I was accustomed to. Suddenly pivoting corners and matching seams was a thousand times more difficult than I had ever remembered. Essentially, I began my quilt education and relearning how to sew according to a different set of rules. Contour and clipping no longer applied; the focus was now on the precision of every perfectly sewn seam.
With all of my hexies arranged, it was finally time to attach it to the batting and backing through hand quilting. Early on I had decided that the quilt was going to be finished with simple strips resembling woodgrain on the backing. Binding the two, hand quilted rainbows in varying shades of baby blue began taking shape across the landscape of the quilt. Hand sewing for a living, I’ve always found the process to be incredibly therapeutic. The timing of my experience hand quilting exploration could not have been more punctual: while I started my quilt in the winter of 2019, the finishing stages came about in the summer of 2020. Working from home, and staying inside as a result of the pandemic, hand stitching became an escape from the indoors. The rainbow motif required so much focus as it was freehanded in its essence – while I was hand quilting the stresses of the outside world actually melted away. Each rainbow felt joyful and was an exploration I could disappear into.
Bouncing rainbows – the reverse of the quilt features the hand quilted motif.
There’s a sort of melancholy attached to the end of any creative endeavor. When I create garments there’s a never ending feeling, and creating my first quilt was much the same. The process was so extended that I felt like I could stitch indefinitely – but the truth was, it was a baby quilt and diminutive in size. The hand quilting was soon over, followed by the binding. And then it would be time to be given to its new owner.
Photo: Bobby Loncar
A dear friend had recently had a baby boy, and I knew long before he arrived this quilt was made for him. Before sending it off, I wanted to document the quilt fully and headed to one of my favorite forest preserves. I’ve never been more proud of creating something, and shooting this quilt felt like a celebration. I didn’t mind the onlookers, I was just happy for anyone to see it. I’ve never been more proud of anything.