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The Manly Quilt and How it Got That Way
I have a younger brother. I don't mention him here often – I love him dearly, but we live on pretty different planets. We only grew up together for a short time, and nowadays we see each other once in five years if we're lucky. We try to keep in touch, but that can be challenging. We're just people with not much shared history. We honestly don't know each other all that well.
I was excited to have the chance to make him a T-shirt quilt – there are so few opportunities to do anything meaningful for him. But when I received his box of shirts in the mail, I was all "Hmmmmmmm. What the heck am I gonna do with these?!" They're all black, grey, and army green. They have liquor companies, a tattoo parlor, a firearms manufacturer, and other equally masculine things on them. How to blend all that with the warmth, comfort, and prettiness a quilt "should" have?
But in taking photos for Instagram, I found that I actually quite liked the range of hues in the shirts, and the weathered quality of their graphics. And I reminded myself that what I like in a quilt doesn't matter so much here. These shirts represent his life, and so should his quilt.
So I decided to go with it, and keep the whole thing neutral with no added colors. I gave it a hashtag: #manlyquilt. Once I had that moniker, I was 100% into the adventure.
I had a little challenge in that the quilt blocks these shirts yielded were huge – my bro is, after all, a strapping bodybuilder kind of guy. But with such big blocks, it was impossible to create any cohesion in the design. So ultimately, I took the two shirts with the biggest and most nondescript designs and cut them into narrower slices. Popping these between the larger blocks really helped it all hang together. (And I hope the folks at Xtreme Couture will forgive me.)
The more I worked on this project, the more I loved it. It was a big step outside my design comfort zone, and a fun opportunity to converse with my brother (via text message, our preferred channel). I'd send him in-progress pics, and get back an "[Expletive] Sweet!" – high praise – and then I'd feel newly excited.. He really seems to like the thing, which, even as I type this, makes me tear up a bit.
As I'm sure many of you can relate, there's a big swath of my family to whom my crafty and bloggy existence means little. What an awesome opportunity to use these skills in a bandwidth my brother and I can both relate to – not to mention, to think of him chilling out under this thing, watching TV on a cold night.
My bro is not a cat-lover (see what I mean about the different planets?), so of course I've been tormenting him with pictures of Pushkin anointing the finished quilt. "Get that [expletive] cat off my quilt!" he replies. And I cackle.
In all seriousness, though, making this thing has felt a lot like getting to hang out with my brother for a week, and that's been wonderful. If you have far-away loved ones, I can't recommend this experience highly enough: get them to ship you a dozen or so t-shirts, and turn them into an emissary of your love. You'll both benefit.
(If you want to learn how to make a T-shirt quilt, remember you can RSVP to be reminded of when my CreativeLIVE class broadcasts.)