Upcycled Mini Quilt or Why I Make Things By Hand


I've been working on this mini quilt for a few months--it's been my "just because" project when I'm between deadlines or just needed some creative distraction. I find these sideline projects to actually be key to sustaining creative work, to stumbling across solutions, and to continuing to learn new techniques. Even in the midst of my biggest art projects I often have a small "just because" project somewhere on the sidelines. Honestly, I think it's my way of tricking myself too because it feels fun.

But this new quilt was tucked aside during the scenic design I finished in May. In January, I solicited textile friends for fabric donations for the huge soft sculpture set. I asked for their castoff blue fabrics and they responded with generous (and oftentimes gorgeous) bits of blues. This small patchwork wool scrap came from my dear friend, Vanessa. There was something about the asymmetrical lines of the patchwork and the soft blue wools that I just couldn't resist. It was too small to use for the set design so I tucked it aside for a future "just because" project.

Soon after--when my set designer brain was saturated with anatomical organ sketches--I turned back to the blue wools and decided the original binding needed to go. That was my way to begin. So I carefully teased away Vanessa's white binding and then added a back panel of natural linen. Then the other details fell quickly into place--it would be an opportunity to practice my hand-stitching and I'd make it into a mini quilt for my desk. I decided on blue thread to contrast with the linen backing and compliment the blue wool top. So I've worked on it little by little and last week I finally finished the stitching and started the binding.

The patterned binding is one of the fat quarters from Anna Maria Horner's collection Field Study. I love that collection so much. And love it even more when I can pair her bold bohemian prints with a subtle earthy solid--like linen. So I sewed the binding strips together, then sewed them to the bound quilt top (blue wools) and quilt back (linen) and then enjoyed my very favorite part of making a quilt--hand-stitching the binding into place. I love this part! It signifies the beginning of the end and the stitches fall into this lovely lulling rhythm that comes with handwork. And then it beckons throughout the day like a favorite book--every spare minute seems to be an opportunity to pick it up again. Oh, the pleasure.

So it's finished. Sitting atop my studio table as I type. Just big enough to hold my favorite teapot and my favorite small ceramic teacup. This tiny quilt keeps the heat away from my heat-sensitive cutting mat and also off the top of my big wooden desk. Over the years, I've realized that no detail is wasted when it comes to my studio space. And no detail is wasted when it comes to embracing handwork and making things for my own home.

Anytime I make something by hand I find that I reap the benefits every time I use it from that moment forward. It's also my way of practicing what I preach. If I'm happy to surround myself with these handmade things then maybe other people will make their own handmade things? Or buy handmade things? Or both? Well, that's my hopeful thinking.

For any quilters--you might like this quilting resource post I did a few months back. It was adapted from the online class I taught this winter. Now then, happy week, my friends! I hope you'll go make something by hand. Or maybe a "just because" project of your own. You know, just because...



  1. oh i so so love this! i have no recollection of actually making the original, but i do remember the rummaged baby blanket that was the original blue and white wool fabric that i promptly brought home and felted. then i remember catching glimpses of the scrappy quilty bit floating around my attic for years. you have made it oh so lovely. also, i happen to have 2 yards of that same AMH fabric sitting in my studio waiting to be made in to twirly skirts for 2 little girls in need of an updated summer wardrobe.

    1. my friend! i am so happy to have indirectly created this collaboration with you. or, maybe more accurately, to have used your scraps as my budding treasures! and i love that you're making skirts for your little ones this summer. oh, heart.


Thank you for your comments, friends. I like to think we are creating a dialogue in this space--building a virtual community.