Son’s Liberated Baby Quilt

This morning Jim and I cleaned a room, the room our son refers to as mine. When we moved to this house, my room was intended as a guest room, as well as for my sewing and crafts. It is again the guest room, but it no longer holds my studio. Now the family room and his room hold my long-arm machine, domestic machine, and all my quilting supplies. His room is no longer his, though he won’t officially recognize its change in status.

The room we cleaned this morning has Son’s remaining belongings, a bed and a dresser. One of the other remnants of his life with us hangs on the wall. It is a small quilt I made for him, what I call his baby quilt. In fact, I made it when he was 20, a few short years ago.

His life has changed dramatically since I made this, going from college student to Air Force pilot, from Iowa to the Pacific Northwest, from in love to engaged. My life has changed, too, as has my quilting.

When I made this quilt, I wanted to try new things. I had a Gwen Marston book (the first of the several I now own) and wanted to try the “liberated” style. I did not love the process of making the quilt. It did not feel “free” to me but both chaotic and contrived.

My evolution in quilting makes this more comfortable now than it was then. Last summer I finished a quilt that uses some of the same liberated approach.

African star 1

African Star. 42″ x 44″. July 2014.

Truly liberated quilting need not be “anything goes.” Nor does it need to include contrived, even patterned (or paper pieced!) “wonky” stars. Liberated quilting at its best is mindful quilting. Rather than mindlessly following someone else’s pattern and rules, we can make decisions thoughtfully. We can follow recognized design principles to break the rules. We can create for ourselves. Sometimes that means perfect points and evenly spaced blocks. Sometimes it does not. We are liberated when we choose for ourselves.

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13 thoughts on “Son’s Liberated Baby Quilt

  1. katechiconi

    I’ve never understood why wonky = liberated… Can’t I be free while at the same time keeping my points even? I like your son’s quilt, but I’d never have picked it as your work, which I think says something about how far you were from your comfort zone!

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      As I said, I’d be more comfortable with “wonky” now than I was then. I chose the style to go with the feature fabric, a children’s novelty print with cheetahs and other African animals on it. But yes, contrived wonkiness is not necessarily liberated. You and I seem to think a lot alike.

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  2. Janie Kemp

    Ms. Catbird, your son’s Baby Quilt is very cute, but compared to your more recent star quilt, WOW! I admire your work and look forward to your posts. Thanks for discussing “liberated”, “wonkiness”, and “thoughtful quilting” – you are helping me form my philosophy. :0)

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Thank you, Ms. Kemp! 🙂 I think a lot about what I do and how I do it (and why!), so I appreciate visiting with others who also think about that. Thanks very much for taking a look and commenting.

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  3. KerryCan

    It sounds like your quilting paraphernalia is spreading all through the house–fun! It’s funny about this business of being liberated, as if from some quilting prison. One of the things that draws me most to quilting is the history and tradition behind it. I love the old, balanced patterns that came down from our forbears–I have no desire to be liberated!

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Our home has two floors and I’ve nearly taken over the lower level. “His” room has the long-arm and my stash and ironing board, plus a nice walk-in closet where I keep batting and some other things. The family room has a great area with my sewing machine and the cutting table, plus workspace for my computer. ALSO in there are the tv etc and some exercise equipment. And “my” room has the bed piled high with quilts. The princess could hardly find the pea for as many quilts as there are on the bed.

      I love your phrase “quilting prison.” And yes, the history of quilting is fascinating to me. When we study antique quilts we see the full range of styles and skills, from regimented to irregular. I love them all, though some more than others. And there is a lot I enjoy about today’s “liberated” style, too, but again the label rankles me.

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  4. snarkyquilter

    Perhaps the word liberated was used initially to give quilters who felt tethered by same block repetitive designs an alternative path. And no one who sees your medallion quilts could say they are repetitive. Of course, alternative paths have always existed; they may just not have been widely known. I recall Gwen Marston makes the point in one of her books that many early quilts were liberated by her definition of the word. It sounds like you’ve done a good job of liberating 1/3 to 1/2 your home for quilting purposes.

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      This is honestly the best compliment you could give me: “no one who sees your medallion quilts could say they are repetitive.” I do try very hard to make each one its own work, true to my voice but different in expression. That, as you suggest, might be my “liberation,” not tied to the same style of fabric in the same style of blocks each time.

      As to my home, yes. It is part of this queen’s realm. 😉

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  5. TextileRanger

    I don’t know where I was last year when you posted this, but it looks like somehow I missed it! I love that African Star! And I seem to always squeeze a little bit of Kaffe Fassett’s Roman glass fabric into every quilt too.

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I think my holdings of the Kaffe are now officially gone. It was quite useful, and I can imagine buying more if I came across it. In the meantime I have some other cool things to play with. Thanks for taking a look and for the nice comments. African Star is one of my favorites ever, both because of how it turned out and because I made it for a beloved friend.

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