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Life Makes Art: A Covid Quilt

A few months ago I received an interesting request from my best friend. She was looking for a way to turn the Covid experience into something positive, and thought that a quilt created from the masks we wear would be the answer. Here's my journey...

After a couple of conversations, we settled on a theme for the masks: the tree of life, and the masks would be the leaves on the tree. That means it's an applique AND an art quilt; two things that aren't exactly in my wheelhouse even though I have experience with both. This was quite the growing experience for me!

I was mailed a box of masks and immediately dug in. Luckily most of them were already washed and ready to go, so I was able to jump right and began the process. First step was to remove the straps and ear loops, then unpiece the masks so that I could get at the biggest square inch of fabric from each masks. And some were only kid-sized, so that was my first challenge. Once I had all the pieces disassembled, I took a good look at my palette to choose an appropriate canvas for the tree. I picked a tone-on-tone fabric called Moda Grunge in a light tan color. I didn't want the background fabric to be too plain, but it couldn't detract or distract from the leaves. For the backing I picked a darker brown fabric.

Next was to purchase a AccuQuilt die to cut the pieces. I was on a deadline, and I knew that if I didn't find a way to speed the process up, this quilt wouldn't make it in time for High Holidays come September. Luckily, I found a great die that featured 3 different sizes of flower petals; the perfect shape for nondescript tree leaves. The die allowed me to cut up to 6 pieces of fabric at a time, and made the leaves both scalable and uniform.

First hiccup of the project...

August was a super busy month for me, and I had my timeline planned down to the hour. Which is probably why the fabric I ordered got lost in shipping on its way to me. I lost 3 days where I prepped what I could with the leaves, and (not so patiently) waited for fabric to arrive. Once it did, I immediately threw it up on the design wall. The actual tree is painted on using a half-dozen different shades of color. I actually found this to be very relaxing; I don't get to fabric paint often, and it's really a lot of fun! Here are a couple of pictures of the process.

Once the paint was dry came the process of leaf placement. I used all but a handful of the small leaves for the art quilt. And every mask fabric was represented on the quilt. I used three different types of fusible web for the masks. (And can tell you volumes about how they work - but that's another blog.) And although the instructions say they're permanent, I choose to add a layer of protection by sewing a blanket stitch around each leaf to ensure they stayed put. This BY FAR was the longest step in the process. There's over 300 leaves on the quilt.

Several days later I managed to finally step away from the sewing machine and took the art quilt to the longarm. I used a low-loft cotton-poly (80/20) blend batting. I first used a dark brown thread to outline the tree and branches. Then I used a light tan to echo the leaves, thus ensuring the quilt was properly tacked down.

After that was the simple addition of binding/facing and hanging tabs. That is until hiccup number two... Did I make the deadline in time? Not exactly.... there were shipping delays again, this time on it's way to its new home. For some reason the trip from Albany, NY to South Orange, NJ includes a two day trip thru western Massachusetts. And my two-day shipping guarantee turned into a 6 day excursion. But the tree quilt arrived safely and is now hanging proudly, and ready to be seen for the rest of the High Holiday season.

If you're in the South Orange area, drop by TSTI to take it in. I gotta say, I'm pretty proud of her. This art quilt is roughly 5 feet tall and 8 feet wide.

Presenting: Sow/Sew in Tears Will Reap in Joy, made for TSTI with love by me!

Thanks for dropping by my quilt lab! Cya next time!


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