The Quilts Must Go On : Because They Have To

posted in: Quilting, Work 2


Hi, everyone.

I’m composing a blog post about the legendary London fog — if you’re like me, it’s not what you think it is — but until then, I’d like to direct your attention to a little thing I put up on YouTube a couple days ago.

For the past couple years, I’ve been working a second job. My dream is to make a 10-part documentary series that tells the history — the whole history, in all its glory and complexity — of quilts in America. The story of quilts in America is the story of America itself, so I guess what I’m trying to do is tell the history of our country. It’s daunting, but I won’t give up until I do it.

From the start, the goal has been to pitch the show to a major streaming network, like Netflix, Amazon, etc. It’s essential that the beauty and cultural juggernaut that is the American quilt reach an audience that doesn’t already know about it. In increasingly digital lives, the tactile power of quilts is more important than ever: Quilts have been and will always be there for us — as long as we keep making them and valuing the people who do. (It’s in everyone’s best interest: Most quiltmakers give their quilts away, so if you’re hoping to have your own homemade, patchwork quilt at some point, hug a quilter today.)

Perhaps more pressing is the fact that our country is more divided than its been in a long time, and I sincerely believe that the story of American quilts can bring us together. It’s not a stretch. All kinds of Americans have made quilts for generations: rich and poor; Black, White, Brown, and Indigenous; in every corner of the nation, with fine or rough materials, with expert skill or with no sewing experience whatsoever, we have quilts in common. The quilt is a symbol of American ingenuity and the idea at the heart of our nation: each sovereign piece works with others to create a diverse, beautiful united whole that is far more powerful, together.

Under the direction of filmmaker Jack Newell (aka my brilliant brother-in-law), and with the financial support of Bee-Hive Productions, I’ve turned a few of my lectures on quilt history into what I hope are entertaining “shows” for YouTube. I’m calling it The Quilts Must Go On! because they have to; the title is a declaration as much as it is a kind of prayer. This little project is not the documentary; it’s just videos on the internet. But it’s been lots of fun to make.

I like to learn stuff and then share what I learned. Stuff is so crazy right now and has been so crazy. Maybe The Quilts Must Go On! will provide a distraction. Each episode is about an hour.

Here’s the link to the first episode, which apprehends the rather controversial topic of myths in the American quilt story. I hope you like what you see and I hope you’ll do the whole YouTube thing where you hit the “Like” button, subscribe to my channel, and share the link with your friends on social media or whatnot. If a quilt history nerd shares quilt history on the internet and no one hears it, did it really happen?

(It did, but it will be very depressing!)


A Super-Secret Mission!

posted in: Work 7
"Animal locomotion," Plate 156. Eadweard Muybridge, 1887
She’s kind of like a ninja?? (Image: “Animal locomotion,” Plate 156. Eadweard Muybridge, 1887. Courtesy Wikipedia.)


It’s been hard the past few days to touch base because I can’t tell you where I am!

It’s true: I’ve been in [REDACTED] for the past couple few days because I’m on assignment for this magazine and I can’t let the cat out of the bag about which state Quiltfolk’s Issue 05 will spotlight. Not me, Satie! No way, Monet!

And while it’s fun to be a lil’ ninja and fly under the radar, it’s also the pits: I can’t write to you about all the things and I can’t even do any Instagram stuff! Believe me, I’m in a very cool place with crazy-good photo opportunities. The Instagram stuff can wait, but it’s torture to not write up what I’ve seen and the things I’ve experienced since getting here yesterday morning. I just need you to help me download things, you know? Downloads of the mental variety. This is something you help me with.

Agh! Okay, one thing:

It’s been so horribly hot in Chicago; we broke records all week last week with temperatures in the low- to mid-90s. I hate a summer that stretches into October, and of course it’s all just very anxiety-provoking and confusing and frightening, all this extreme weather.

Anyway, I experienced a fall moment today and it took my breath away, honestly. There was a quicksilver chill in the air and when it whistled through me, my entire life-in-autumn flashed before my eyes. Autumns of my childhood (the sharpened pencils, the trick-o-treats); the autumns of my young adulthood (the cigarettes outside the bars, the late-night rehearsals); the autumns more recent (the leaves downtown, the frost on the windows of the cabs in the morning.) But in that moment when you first feel the fall air, all the autumns blend together and it’s just your life, in technicolor, in a sweater.

You will love Issue 05 of Quiltfolk.