Making A Quilt Experience Essay

When looking at my college career, the last thing I expected to do humanities driven majors was to make a quilt. In fact, I remember being so excited just last summer that I had found a class that would meet the Embodied and Creative Engagement course requirement that had nothing to do with painting, drawing, sculpting, or anything else that is congruent with artistic abilities as I believed I had none. I certainly did not imagine I would be having to create a quilt in one of my Education Studies classes. However, the journey of turning pieces of fabric and batting into a quilt taught me far more about myself than I would have ever imagined. This paper will give the reader a glimpse into the process of thinking of ideas, the ups and downs that came with creating the piece, and the pride I feel after accomplishing something I was not sure I could do. 

I was first told about the project during class on February 2nd. I wrote down my first impressions after hearing the assignment where I stated “After David told me about my 202 final paper topic, I felt worried and a little anxious as I am not a very crafty person and I have never attempted to make a quilt before.” That anxiety certainly was carried with me as I progressed through the project. I knew that the first task I needed to complete was deciding what the idea for the quilt was going to be. Because it needed to represent my educational experience thus far, I spent a few days thinking about what would appropriately represent the highs and lows of my time in and out of classrooms. I eventually settled on the idea of centering my project around roses. As cliché and cheesy as it may sound, roses were the best representation I could think of that emulated the hard times I have experienced as well as the beauty of the journey. The thorns represent the difficult times. These could be bad grades, overwhelming assignments, and hard times in my personal life that made it harder to be a good student. The flower itself represents that although there were difficult times, something beautiful came out of the hard work and perseverance. I did not realize at the time that this analogy would also represent the creation of the quilt itself. After forming my idea, I began searching for material. This presented a challenge as I struggled to find what I envisioned that was also budget friendly. I eventually gathered all of my materials and was able to begin the challenging process of creating a quilt. 

The following weekend, on February 14th, I sat down to begin my quilt. I had laid out all of my materials including plain gray fabric, the squares of different rose fabrics I had purchased off of Etsy, batting, pins, and my needle and thread. I began pinning the squares of fabric, both rose patterned and plain gray, together and started to sew them together. I had hoped that the YouTube videos showing tutorials on how to sew by hand had prepared me enough for the process, but it did not. It took me at least an hour to get the process of sewing by hand down, and even after I did, I realized that this was going to take me far longer than I had initially anticipated. After the frustration of not getting it right and spending hours on something that looked quite terrible seemed to overtake my willingness to learn, I gave up. I decided to call home and ask if the sewing machine in the garage still worked. I had planned on going home the following weekend to use the sewing machine to finish my quilt instead of hand sewing as I did not have the time nor the patience to sew every little piece of this quilt by hand. My plans were altered a little by the weather. I drove home on Wednesday, February 17th, and began working on it on February 18th. I was able to sew all of the squares together, much faster than my previous attempts, and I had the front of my quilt. I pinned it to the batting in the middle and the gray fabric that is the back before sewing the front to the backing. I was quite proud of myself for the work I had done, and I naively thought that the hard part was behind me. 

On February 20th, I sewed down the sides of each square to give it that quilted look. I had also cut off the extra fabric that I had on the quilt which signified to me that there was no turning back. Then, it was time to do the binding. After watching countless YouTube videos and reading step-by-step directions on how to do the binding, I still did not understand what I was doing. I pinned the fabric I cut down and began sewing the binding initially on the back of the quilt. It was going well until I reached the first corner. My quilt had become bunched up within the thread on the sewing machine and I had no idea how to get it out without ripping the quilt. After a few tears and a call for my mom to help, I was eventually able to remove the quilt without ripping. However, my binding had become so messed up that I had no choice but to rip out the thread and start over. I had become so frustrated by the hours I spent trying to learn how to do the binding just to end in what felt like a catastrophe that I had to quit for the day. I came back on the 21st with a more hesitant yet hopeful outlook on the success I would have that day. Luckily, I had learned my lesson, and I was able to pin down the binding to prevent it from getting bunched up in the machine as I continued. I was able to finish the binding on the back within an hour and flipping it over to do the front. This was once again somewhat easy until I reached the corners. After around three hours and two coffee breaks to regroup, I had finished the binding and thus my quilt. While it is by no means perfect and not what I had anticipated it to look like, I was very proud of myself for pushing through the difficult moments, doing something new and challenging, and creating something that represented me and something I am passionate about: education. 

I was certainly able to see aspects of my process reflected in what has been discussed and read in the class so far. One of the readings that spoke the most to what I experienced was in Small Teaching by James Lang when discussing fixed mindsets as opposed to growth mindsets. Lang was discussing entity theorists, or students with fixed mindsets, who were quick to give up in challenging situations. While there were many times where I felt like giving up on this project, I kept going and was able to learn from previous mistakes and become better at it. It allowed me to see that although I had doubted myself, I embraced the opportunity to grow and alter the situation to be successful at challenging tasks (Lang, 2016, pg. 203-204). Lang also discusses the importance of practice. I had thought that once I was able to get to the electric sewing machine I was in the clear: I was not. I had no idea what I was doing, I messed up repeatedly, I had to take the thread out and start over at least twice, and yet I was still able to successfully sew my quilt. This is because I practiced. I decided to take spare pieces of fabric and practice sewing on that before continuing on my quilt. After completing a few successful rounds there, I tried it out on my quilt again and was able to see growth and progress (Lang, 2016, pg. 119). Motivation was also certainly a topic present within my project that I learned about in class readings. I found that when I first started the project, it was with extrinsic motivation to get it done and get it done well to get a good grade. However, as I continued, I found myself motivated more intrinsically to become successful at making a quilt and sewing for the sake of learning how to do it, setting aside the idea of the grade (Eggen & Kauchak, 2016, pg. 413). The expectancy x value theory was also present. Because I expected myself to be successful at creating a quilt, no matter how challenging it seemed, and I placed value on that success, not only for grades but also for learning a new skill, my motivation for the project increased (Eggen & Kauchak, 2016, pg. 428). Of course, Piaget’s idea of disequilibrium was also ever-present throughout the process. I was in a constant state of disequilibrium and was craving a sense of equilibrium to feel as though I understood what I was doing (Eggen & Kauchak, 2016, pg. 66). Also, I would consider the YouTube tutorials I watched to be a sense of scaffolding for me as I learned the process of quilting (Eggen & Kauchak, 2016, pg. 81). I was very grateful for all of the experts who had taken the time out of their day to film themselves doing something second nature to them as it certainly helped guide me before I was able to gain a sense of independence when completing the tasks.