At one point this summer I was at loose ends. I was ready to start something new but feeling oddly ambiguous about any of my many (perhaps too many) options. I remember thinking “I’d love to have a project that I didn’t have to come up with.” Whump, whump, they started falling from the sky.

The most ambitious project came out of the blue. It was to create a quilt from a gentleman’s T-shirt collection and he was very specific. The panels were to be 14” x 16”, each like a torso, and the centerpiece, a red T-shirt with the iconic Woodstock guitar and bird motif, was to be a bit larger so that no imagery was sacrificed. I answered his email, we had a phone conversation and I agreed to do it. After all it was what I had wished for.

I picked up the box of 25 shirts from his porch, took them home and started to think. Opened the box and generally laid out most of the options. There were two additional pieces that had been ordered because the originals were just too worn.



There was a natural balance that immediately emerged -diagonal bright balanced with diagonal darks, with four tie-dyed shirts that anchored the Woodstock center. There was rhythm without rigid symmetry. Good so far.


I got a plexiglass form from Big Red Frame, 14 ½” x 16 ½”. Cut the front of the shirts a bit bigger than the requested measurement. Washed and dried a lot of muslin. Cut panels and bonded them with low-temperature fabric glue. Adhered 25 pieces of muslin to the back of the 25 shirt fronts. Nothing melted. Good so far.


Found the center of the quilt batting. Found the center of the Woodstock panel. CAREFULLY aligned these and pinned it down. My gentleman, David, suggested cheating the t-shirt above and the t-shirt below a bit so that all the rest of the panels would line up. Genius idea. Did it. Good so far.


Laid all the t-shirts fronts out and sent the picture to David for final approval. He suggested a simple switch of one for another. They were both dark so the balance was maintained. Sewed a vertical ladder of 3 to each side of the center panel with a tie-dye on the top and the bottom of each. Sewed a horizontal ladder of three above the center panels, dark left and right with a light between them. Ditto to the bottom. Good so far.

Sewed a ladder of five panels for the far left, adjusting as needed so they lined up perfectly (or perfectly enough). Sewed another ladder for the right. Pinned the bejesus out of the edges. Cut and stitched the border top and bottom and then the two sides. Pinned the bejesus out of the border edges. Trimmed the edges and the batting to the finished size of the quilt. Not too big for David’s space. YAY! Good so far.


 Sewed two big pieces together for the back of the quilt. They needed to be wider and taller than the front. Tied the back to the body of the quilt with embroidery floss. Trimmed the back leaving a scant ¾” beyond the front all around. Rolled that carefully over the edge of the quilt, putting in another set of many pins and topstitched the edge. Handstitched a sleeve to the top and bottom of the back of the piece for hanging. Good to go.

I am grateful for the trust that David had in my ability. He handed over a lifetime collection of objects that represented high points or milestones or adventures knowing full well that I was going to dismember them. It’s a good reminder that transformation does not come without risk. It requires vision, hope and a willingness to take a leap of faith. It means believing that the outcome is worth the effort involved in the making of it. It could mean working with someone you don’t know in order to move an idea forward. It may require giving something up to create that which is bigger than the sum of the whole. It takes guts.

We are living in challenging times. I hope that we, as a community, as a society and as a nation can fully commit to a transformation that may lead to more kindness, acceptance and justice than ever before.