Sunday, June 20, 2010

Crazy but sane, I think

In my last post, I told you I would share with you what was happening in my life while I was making my crazy quilt.

Early last year, my son was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis and between January and July, he had numerous medical appointments, needed almost weekly blood transfusions and was hospitalized four times. Since I took him to the appointments, I needed something to do while I sat and waited. I needed something that would keep my mind off of what might happen and what did eventually happen.

This is my version of Wichita's Prairie Quilt Guild's 2008-09 block of the month Crazy Quilt. I began the quilt in February of 2009, about three or four months late. Every month, we received instructions for the next step but were encouraged to be creative and personalize the quilt. Since I began working on it so late, I had a little catching up to do but plenty of opportunity to work on it!

While I waited at my son's appointments and through his hospitalizations, I hand-embroidered the quilt blocks. It often helped me strike up a conversation with other anxious people in the waiting rooms. There's just something calming about watching someone create a design with needle and thread.

Some of the embroidery motifs have great symbolism for me - the bottle of tears, the Bible, the bluebird of happiness, the wheat, our pets at the time and much more. I also embroidered all of my family's initials on the quilt. There are velvet leaf and flower appliques plus vintage black button embellishments. I chose not to use lace or ribbon on this quilt. The fabrics are all 100% cotton except for the green velvet outer border.

Its kind of like an "I Spy" quilt because the more you look, the more you see! I hope you can click on the photos to see the detail. If you like, check my previous posts for more photos. One of my favorite parts of the quilt are the fan edges. It looks a little like lace but is actually an embroidered design.

I "finished" the quilt just a week before the Kansas State Fair's entry cut off date in September of 2009. It won a blue ribbon in the crazy quilt amateur division. Tomorrow, I'm dropping it off to be entered in the Common Threads quilt show in Wichita. It will be judged and I'm a little nervous to see how it fares with all the other crazy quilts there.

Making this Crazy Quilt was an incredible stress reliever for me! Our experience with a serious illness and major surgery brought me into contact with people undergoing far worse things than we were. I hope I never forget the things I saw and experienced during this time even though they were often painful and emotional to me and sometimes still are.

This quilt can look quite dark when you stand back from it. In fact, its hard to get a good photo of it. As you come closer though, you see the bright colors and handwork. To me it says there's beauty all around us even though life can often seem dark and dreary.

I don't know if I'll ever make another crazy quilt because right now, I simply don't have the time. This one is and will always be so very special and personal to me.
If you're interested in crazy quilt stitches, I'd like to recommend this book to you, "Treasury of Crazy Quilt Stitches" by Carole Samples. There are no instructions, just page after page of illustrations of stitches that she has collected over the years. I used many of her ideas and highly recommend this book. It is normally bound but I had the spiral binding put on so it would lay flat.

Next time I'll share how the embroidered weeds on the back turned out!


  1. Oooo! What an excellent show piece! I have been tempted to make a traditional crazy quilt, but am intimidated by actually making all the different stitches and having them turn out nicely. You've obviously done a fabulous job, and when I get to mine I'll have to track down your suggested book and just jump in!

  2. You quilt is stunning. What an incredible work of art. I hope your son is doing much better.

  3. Oh Mayleen - how strong you are! I'm so proud to call you a friend. The quilt was beautiful to begin with, it is even more so now with your story behind it.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Hugs - Marie

  4. Mayleen......
    What a masterpiece!!!

  5. what a an amazing a beautiful piece this quilt is. It must be very bitter sweet. I hope your son is doing well - and you also!

  6. mom's pretty was a pretty tough time...

  7. I just love your quilt. The workmanship is exquisite!

  8. Well, now I've been educated on the beauty of a crazy quilt. That is the most stunning work of art, and the back story makes it even more special. Thank you.

  9. What a masterpiece--an incredible amount of beautiful detailed stitchery. You should enter it in as many shows as possible.