Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Diary Quilt: A Key to Understanding...

I'm taking a break today from showing you pictures of my Diary Quilt, and instead am going to explain a little bit about it.

I gave a pretty thorough introduction post when I started, and this post won't duplicate that but will instead share a little bit of my thought processes along the way. How did I choose which blocks to include? How did I narrow down my life to these few images?

I hope this post will make the other Diary Quilt posts a bit more interesting to the non-quilters who read my blog, which I realize is the majority of you. Thanks, much, for bearing with me as I share this journey here on the blog.

The basic premise of the Diary Quilt is that the maker breaks his or her life into 5 or 10 year increments, then jots down the most vivid or significant memories for each segment.  Then it's time to flip through the book, or other quilt block sources, and decide which memories lend themselves well to being portrayed as a quilt block (or find a way to do so, if there's a bold enough memory that doesn't have an easy solution).

Mimi Dietrich has done a great job of compiling all sorts of blocks that work well for this, and the majority of my selections come from her book. Not all, but most. She also gives great tips for adding personal embellishments to the blocks, making each one your own, etc. so that the finished quilt truly tells your personal story.

So, that's what I did. And I wound up with various things -- a nice, neat 4-block row that I am calling "Heritage Row" -- the blocks I've shared so far that represent my grandparents and parents. Three blocks that together make up my elementary school and junior high school days. Four blocks that sum up my high school and college years. Those finish out my pre-married life.

Then there's a block for my wedding, and a block for each of my boys, and a block that symbolizes our family as a whole. A slew of blocks that encompass various aspects of motherhood and my life since then -- pets, and school books, and beach trips; frequent moves, and new friends, and a family of Americans living in Brazil.  Even a nod to my new hobby of quilting (and my lifelong pattern of creative hobbies).

And then blocks that look at the future -- continued travel, and dreams I hope will come true. Who knows, maybe one day I'll do a "Part Two" quilt, but for now I'm content to sew away, stitching together the stories that I'll one day tell my grandkids. A whole string of imperfect stitches, holding together the fabric pictures that sum up my life so far. There's a certain kind of deep-felt joy that comes from working on a project I know is going to matter to my loved ones.

I'm excited to work on this project, and thrilled to share it with each of you. I've worked quite a ways ahead of the blog, because I make it a point to share each block with the person(s) who inspired it before I share it here with the rest of you, and I have to say -- the block I'm working on today is I think my favorite so far. The memories and thoughts that flood my mind while I sew are just pure happiness to revisit, which is I think my favorite thing about this quilt in general.

I can't wait to share the rest of my Diary Quilt with you, and I hope you enjoy reading my stories. If you were going to tell your story, what medium or means would you choose?? 


  1. My first response is words, because telling stories is what I love to do.

    Upon reflection, however, it would be really fun to tell it through food and/or recipes. I can think of lots of recipes that are deeply symbolic to me, and would really represent phases of my life.

    That's actually kind of a fun idea!

    I love that you are doing this project, by the way!

  2. I love the idea of a diary quilt. Maybe I'll get to it one day when I wrap up some of my other projects. I've been thinking of buying the book Sylvia's Bridal Sampler from Elm Creek Quilts because the samples I've seen online are simply gorgeous. I don't know if I'd have the time or patience for it, but I can dream. :-)

  3. I love the idea of a diary quilt! But I'm not a quilter, or even a seamstress, and I have no real desire to be--the finished product draws me, as does the decision-making process, but the mechanics of quilting ... I have no desire to do that. I think my journey will be recorded for my kids and grandkids through my blog, and through scrapbooking once I get back to a point where I can do it. (Apparently trying to scrapbook with a 10-month-old who constantly wants to be held isn't such a good idea.)

  4. I see my blog as a scrapbook for the moment. I'm really enjoying the diary quilt posts - seeing you learn and share your new skills.

    Like the idea of a recipe book too.