I made a special quilted wall-hanging for both of my children when they celebrated their twenty-first birthdays. Because Annie had received one almost four years earlier, David knew that I would be making one for him as well. But, of course, he didn’t know what it would look like.
David was a smart, creative, loyal, and loving young man who had some deep hurts and conflicts inside him. He had struggled with addictions for several years by then, but at the time, he was winning the battle and doing well. So I wanted to make him a phoenix, the bird which perishes in the flames, then rises triumphant out of the ashes. I do many things well, but drawing isn’t one of them! I searched for an image of a phoenix that I could re-create with cloth, and found a wonderful painting by Marina Petro, who kindly gave me permission to use it for this gift.
Now, if you know my work, you know it’s not pictorial! So I had to teach myself how to do a lot of things for the first time! I ordered a print of the painting, then traced lines around the major color areas on tracing paper, so it looked kind of like a paint-by-number project. I took it to my local printer, who enlarged it for me. This was my guide for cutting the applique shapes. I dyed the background “sky” fabric, using a shaving cream technique I read about somewhere to get the water-color effect, yet careful placement of colors that I wanted. I found a wonderful piece of McKenna Ryan ombre fabric in my stash that helped me greatly in achieving some shading in the bird’s head and some of the feathers. The appliques were fused onto the background, then I zigzagged around the edges with monofilament thread.
I sent freezer paper-backed sheets of fabric to family member and friends, and had them write “Happy Birthday, David” notes with memories of him. These were pieced together and used for the backing. I quilted in the ditch of the applique shapes with monofilament, quilted “flame-y” and “feather-y” shapes with variegated thread in the fire and wings, and stitched a simple horizontal line fill in the sky.
The quilt was a hit!
It, along with a table he made at a workshop in Arrowmont with his sister Annie and me, were his most prized prossessions.
Tragically, he was not able to escape the flames of addiction, and died almost two years ago. Today would have been his twenty-eighth birthday.
Make those special gifts for the people you love the most, and treasure those special hugs…