It has been one year since I started quilting. I have made two bed-sized quilts. The first was from a pattern, the second I based on a certain design (stacked coin) but modified it to suit my desires. After that I felt that I was ready to design a quilt from “the ground up” and I wanted it to be an art quilt. I also knew right away that I wanted it to be a memorial quilt for a dear friend who passed away last year from cancer.
His name was David and he started out as my mentor and ended up as my colleague and friend. He and his wife became dear friends and his passing was hard for me. I saw making this quilt as a way to work through my grief, and a way to do something for his widow (they live very far away, in another country, so it was hard to be of help during that rough time). I made it as a gift for her and planned to send it on the one-year anniversary of his passing. It ended up taking me a bit longer but she received the quilt last week and seemed very, very happy with it. We shed a few laughs and a few tears on the phone when she called to thank me.
The design didn’t take long to put on paper, although I made a few modifications along the way. I started out with a Star of David because a) his name was David, b) he was Jewish, and c) it’s a traditional quilt square design and easy to find a pattern for it. I chose the fabrics, put them together the way I liked, and then appliqued his name in the centre in Hebrew. I had to look up the Hebrew spelling and I also had to learn applique. I took a great online course at Craftsy.com to do so. If you ever want to learn machine appliqué, this course is fantastic.
Initially I was going to piece the star into the quilt background, but I ran into some problems and, in the end, simply machine appliqued it to the background after piecing the star itself.
The rays were done using free motion quilting, and it was finally a chance to experiment with some patterns that aren’t well suited to bed quilts because they are so dense. I spent so long auditioning different designs and colours of thread for this quilt. Finally I settled on using Leah Day’s “Boomerang” and “Concentric Circles” designs. I used a dark grey thread for the boomerangs and a yellow-ish grey thread for the circles.
Initally the star was going to be in the centre of the quilt, but it didn’t leave me much room for the appliqued pieces, so I moved it and was pleased with the result. This photo of the whole quilt allows you to see how the threads and quilting patterns produced different “looks” on the quilt. Here you can see the difference in tone with the two threads used for the rays.
I chose the symbols and created them myself (after I had taken the Craftsy course). I used some line art from Google Images as a baseline and then modified the designs for what I had in mind. My friend was a scholar and mentor and so the Torah scroll symbolizes that. The tree is supposed to represent the Tree of Life, and the candle is to represent the anniversary of his passing (in the Jewish tradition, so I learned, one lights a candle on the anniversary of a loved one’s passing). David was also a real light in the world, bright and funny. I chose the fabrics for all these pieces and machine appliqued them (except the leaves, some of which I ended up doing by hand because they were small and finicky). For the background I used Leah’s Flame Stippling design with a low thread density. I didn’t want it to compete with the rays.
Here are some closeups of the designs:
And here is a photo showing the backing material. I also made a label but since it has personal information on it I’m not going to post it.
I had a lot of fun creating this quilt. At times it was hard work, but always worth it. I also think it really helped me with my grieving process, giving me time to focus on David, what he meant to me, and celebrating his life. In the end I worried that it was not attractive, etc. which I think is normal for any artist when you have stared at your work for so long. I think, based on her reaction, that his wife truly liked it and that it will find a place on her wall somewhere. I’m so very glad that I could send her this message of love and support. It has made me realize that quilting is so much more than a hobby, it is a way to send gifts that are from the heart as well as the hands.