#myquiltcouldlivehere- Willy Loman Quilt
When I feel creatively stuck it really helps me to look back at the quilts I’ve made and create a #myquiltcouldlive here collage with them. A bit like revisiting an old friend, spending some time with these quilts reminds me of when I formed the initial idea in my head or when I worked through a design problem that I was feeling challenged by when making it. I believe every quilt we make, even the ones we really don’t like, teaches us something.
The Willy Loman quilt was NOT a quilt I hated.
In fact, quite the opposite. It was one of those quilts I imagined in my head at night when I was going to sleep (yes, I literally dream about quilts, I swear). I had been given most of the swatches you see in this quilt by a friend. He was helping a friend move in town, and in the house they found seven salesman sample cases filled with cards of men’s coat fabric swatches. Circa 1950’s as far as we could tell. The cases must have been the kind you could carry from door to door, and they had everything still in them- even order forms and tape measures. So, he saved them for me, even though I really didn’t have a clue what to do with them. (Of course, this part of the story is where the eventual name of the project came from.)
Photo by Stephanie Congdon Barnes of 3191 Miles Apart
They actually sat for a while. When I finally started giving them serious consideration, I was struck by how preserved all of the components were. I decided to wash the fabric swatches to see what would happen to them, so I removed them from all the swatch cards, put them in lingerie bags, and ran them through the washing machine. They came out in thread-y little balls, but a steam press brought them back to being swatches.
And in the process I’d finally formed an idea!
I have always enjoyed playing with color value, or the relative lightness or darkness, of a group of fabrics. (This was the strategy I used to make quilts like Value, Nuts and Bolts 2, even Stepping Stones. Many of the students who come to my classes want to use scraps they’ve save or held on to for just the perfect project. They come to me for guidance in using them in a quilt. It may seem like there is no cohesion whatsoever until I explain how to use the value differences in their collection. Its very fun to see the “Aha!” moment when they understand it and start to play around with their fabrics, grouping them by value.
For Willy Loman, I wanted to play with creating a light to dark transition going all the way down the quilt. Once I really started playing with the color transitions, I realized I needed more colors that my salesman swatches allowed (don’t let my quilt fool you into thinking that there were pink and orange men’s overcoats in the 1950’s). I gathered various wool swatches from everywhere I could find, even overdyed some wool I had with KoolAid, to fill out the palette I wanted for the quilt. (I explain how I did that in the book.) In the end, this quilt used about 450 swatches, and there were enough swatches left over to use in its eventual sister quilt, Turquoise Trail, and many pillows!
I see the Willy Loman quilt living in a space owned by someone who appreciates the whole idea of “make do” and “use what you have”. A true appreciation for old things is a must! Someone who notices the contrast of the blue yarn that ties the layers of the quilt together, they way certain swatches seem to glow and stand out, in the midst of all the other colors. A magpie and forager of the very best kind.
(See the whole assortment of quilt collages here- #myquiltcouldlivehere)