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The West to East Quilt

For years, I've felt a pull towards the American Southwest. Nearly everything I create is inspired by the desert and mountains. Some days, it's all I think about.

Well, after years of chatting about it, my husband and I have decided it's time to work towards this dream. To make it more than a dream. When I was making this quilt, I poured my feelings about leaving my lifetime home in the Puget Sound area of Washington State for a drier climate onto the fabric. The piecing, somehow, reflects what I was feeling while I was processing this decision.

Of course nothing is official... we've just decided that maybe, just maybe, we can make this happen. And I am ready to move from the West, to the East. Creating this quilt helped me process this decision and the emotions behind it. Every step in the process had a major contribution, internally, that was shown through the design of the quilt.

Fabric choices: I chose batiks, an undyed muslin, and a print from Cotton and Steel's Sienna Collection, "Cabochon Lapis". I used Moda's blue medallion print from the Bloomsbury collection for the back, which complemented the Cabochon fabric perfectly- I just happened to find the Moda fabric at my local quilt shop, Whalen Quilt Works, when I was there looking for fabric for another project. I saw it and I just KNEW this was the ideal backing for the quilt. I also pulled some hand-dyed blue cotton out of my fabric stash. I had dyed the fabric back in 2015 when I had first moved to the Olympia area, and refrained from using it until I had a great idea in mind, one that really mattered to me... like this quilt!

The Moda fabric (left), the Cotton and Steel fabric (center left), and my hand-dyed blue fabric (right) for comparison. Aren't they perfect for each other, and for this quilt?

Piecing inspiration/intention: This gets a little wacky, so bear with me. Often, quilts are about the finished product. What will someone buy? What is on trend? What are other quilters making? What kind of bedding did I see flying off the shelves at Target last week?

The West to East quilt was a little different. I started out with cutting the pieces for my Millennial Quilt, with the initial intention to make another sample. I decided mid-way through cutting the Cotton and Steel fabric that NO, this quilt has no rules. I will not follow a pattern. It was new. It was a risk. And it felt right. I had the Southwest on my mind, I couldn't shake it. Moving is a risk, midway across the country to a place I have no roots other than pure enchantment and a potential future in paradise... so improv piecing seemed to fit.

So I started with some Half-Square Triangles, and I arranged them in a classic Sawtooth star. I would still be me, even if I lived in a different place. (My favorite blocks are variations of sawtooth stars). I decided to improv-piece the outer corners of the oversized star block, and to add borders to the star. This created a square in the center, with no plan, just a void to fill.

I pulled large pieces of rust and tan batik along with undyed muslin, and sewed them together. I didn't think about it. I kept adding pieces at different angles, thinking of nothing but how the colors and patterns felt to me as I was trying to answer the questions swirling in my mind...

Why do we even live in Washington anymore? What about our families? What sort of work can we find in the Southwest? New Mexico? Utah? Colorado? Arizona? Ponderosa Pine or cacti? Is there a place with both? What if our kid gets bitten by a rattle snake? Is this just wanderlust? Do I just need a vacation? Are there progressive areas? What church will I go to? Will I go to church at all? Will I have a place to hang my hammock and read? Will my daughter be happy? Will my husband be happy? If I finally satisfy this craving I've felt for my entire adult life, will I be happy?

By the time I had somewhat answered some of those questions, at least to the point where I was ready to actually do some research, I had a giant patchwork that I had to trim down to size to fit within the borders of the sawtooth star. And I felt better. Less mixed-up. Less worried. More ready to DO SOMETHING. More ready to make a change in my life and find my family's place in the world, whether that means staying in Washington or following work to another state.

I bordered this mega-block, the mega block that is the question of this quarter-life crisis or whatever, with a sand colored fabric. I quilted in straight 3/4'' spaced lines in a variegated thread that reminds me of all the different tones of sand and soil. To me, channel quilting represents stability. Comfort. And it looks clean and polished, something that an improv-pieced quilt needs, for balance. I bound the quilt in a dark rusty brown.

And I still don't know if we are moving east, or when, but I know that I want to. If you only have one life, and there's a big wide world, why not try to find your place in it?

The West to East Quilt is available now. Click here to view the listing.

Thanks for reading!

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