When All is Done, and Said

All our words are never said and and all our work is never done . . . but we complete steps along our creative way.

I’ve made reference to and shown glimpses of this quilt I’ve been working on—and the top is finally finished!


The impetus for the quilt came from the block-of-the-month (BOM) challenge my guild had this past year. The way the BOM works is that each month at a guild meeting, participants are given the directions for a new quilt block to make during the coming month. If one stays on track, by the end of the year one has done a good bit of work toward a finished project. I like finished projects as well as the next person!

And I liked the theme our guild chose: in light of this being the 100th anniversary of New York giving full enfranchisement to women, including the right to vote, the theme of our BOM was Women’s Suffrage.

The theme appealed to me a lot but I wanted to take it further and make my quilt more broadly about women’s rights. And I didn’t want to stop at the 9 pieced blocks that we received instructions for.

I reverted to my roots—my love of words, words that inspire, words that provoke, and words that maybe even foment change.

I chose 10 quotations from 9 women and one quotation from a man, Mitch McConnell, about a woman. I tried to be inclusive and choose from women of different eras and backgrounds.

For the embroidery, I used my tried-and-true freezer paper and computer printer method for transferring the designs to fabric—I wrote about it here.*

I ended up with 9 pieced blocks from the BOM challenge but needed one more for the design I wanted, so I added a block from a pattern called “Contrary Wife”–I figured many people saw the suffragettes as just that (it’s the block at the bottom left).

I sewed the pieced blocks and the embroidered blocks together in an alternating grid, with sashing. At some future date, I’ll hand quilt the whole thing.

I started this quilt well before the US presidential election and worked on it while I watched the voting returns, never suspecting the way things were going to turn out. I lost my way for awhile after that and didn’t work on the quilt for a good long time.

But as it turns out, I felt compelled to finish.

I’ve been thinking about a phrase I read somewhere—weapons of mass creation. Although the word “weapons” makes me uneasy, I do like the juxtaposition of ideas, that we can use the tools we have to build up rather than tear down.

And the tools, or weapons, I have are words, and needle and thread and shuttle and loom.

And I intend to use them–for my own comfort, for the simple joy of making, for the chance to make statement, subtle or less so, about the world I want to live in.


*I’m thinking about doing another, even more detailed post about this, to encourage others to try the process of embroidering their own words on fabric. Would that be useful? If you have strong feeling, let me know.


94 thoughts on “When All is Done, and Said

    • Thank you, Jennifer! I never know what I’ll do with these quilts when they’re finished–I’m so focused on process. I’ll probably fold it up and put it away . . .

      • It’s none of my business and you didn’t ask, but I’m going out on a limb anyway. Would you consider auctioning this for one of your chosen women candidates or for a cause that supports women? I can’t bare the idea of it tucked away in a closet. It’s both beautiful and meaningful.

  1. It’s beautiful, and the quotes bring tears to my eyes. Being grouped together magnifies their impact. I love that they are from different eras and cultures, but focused on the same message.

  2. Beautiful work as ever, Kerry, and yes, yes, yes – do please post more about it and the process – it will be fascinating to learn more about this wonderful project 🙂

  3. Absolutely beautiful! I watched you work on this & was so happy to see the finished product! You are amazing! Carol

    • Thanks, Deb–the piecing drove me crazy! I am too loosey-goosey about cutting the pieces out and so they never fit together really well. But, as we say, all those ripples will quilt out!

    • That’s such a nice thing to say, Andrea! Once I had the focus, it was really nice to work on this, even though it was somewhat depressing that we are still fighting for certain rights . . . .

    • Thank you, Margaret. I always have ideas for projects. Mostly it’s a matter of deciding which ones move me enough to bother with. I’ll keep you posted!

  4. You always make the loveliest things! And your embroidery is exquisite! Yes, I would love to read a more detailed post regarding this. It is something I might like to try too!

  5. I can’t read the words, sadly – but maybe later today when my eyes are properly awake I may be able to. This is a beautiful creation and I do hope you get it finished – completing our works of creation and inspiration is part of the deal of countering the forces who wish to deny our united power. This quilt would be a powerful statement!

    I very much like the intention of that phrase you quote, though like you I am wary of the wording. I wonder if there could be another catchy catch-phrase that we can latch onto and use to inspire us that doesn’t allude to the negative?

    And a big ‘yes please’ to a post about using our own words – I have now and again used my own words to accompany a painting and am ambivalent about why I would do that …….. I need convincing 🙂 I am a big fan of using our own handwriting – something that is uniquely us gets indented and left behind.

    • Hmmm . . . I included a separate photo of each embroidered block, so they could be read easily–maybe your computer was just slow loading them? Thanks for your kind words–I know I will finish this quilt but I have two other to finish first and my guild wants to hang this one, as is, in the guild show in September. SO I won’t even start quilting it until winter.

        • My eyes let me down sometimes, too–I hate it. Winter is a good time for quilting, although I have another quilt, that red and white star pattern, that needs to be finished this summer. I think I’ll need to turn on the air conditioner and just push through!

    • Kerry, I’m in awe of your talents. What an extraordinary piece. I love the quotes, some new to me and many warm and familiar. There is something about a quilt, too, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Each of these women, so remarkable to our history and struggle for equal rights in this country and beyond. And you, remarkable in your own right and sharing your gifts and talents with us. xo

      • Thanks for the reminder to come back Alys – I got caught up with other things. I had already clicked through to the separate enlargements – it was just my eyes first thing in the morning don’t focus as well as they do after a couple of hours of practise 😀 I could read the quotes almost easily this time! Great stuff Kerry! PS Did you know that here all women have had the right to vote since 1893?

        • It’s so unfair the way our bodies turn on us. Just as we get this thing called life figured out, we start losing our depth perception. I did not know that women’s right to vote in NZ went back to 1893, though I remain gobsmacked that any of us had to wait around to vote.

  6. Such a beautiful and inspiring quilt! I think you should give it to Elizabeth Warren! She is such
    An inspirationan and role model for women.

  7. It must have been so difficult to limit yourself to those quotes, as there are, and have been, so many inspiring women. It is a beautiful tribute to those who have fought for the rights and freedoms we now have. i am so pleased you were able to get yourself into a place where you wanted to finish it.
    I too would love a more detailed tutorial on transferring designs to fabric.

    • It *was* difficult to choose quotes! When I went looking, I wasn’t prepared for how many I would find that inspired me. I”ll get to work on a more detailed post about process . . .

  8. Kerry, you have a lovely quilt here. I can’t load the pix yet, so I’m curious about the stitch you used for the script. Was it stem or back stitch, or something else?

  9. This is certainly a thought provoking quilt; some unexpected recent quotes amidst the historical ones! The “she persisted” quote has really caught fire, hasn’t it? The execution is beautiful too – hmm, a word with multiple meanings, one of them violent, like the turn of your phrase weapons of mass creation. I can imagine this quilt on display in a museum in a women’s history exhibit.
    Please do write more, and keep using your good weapons.

    • Thanks for this great comment! Yes, the “she persisted” did catch fire! I had a different quite all picked out for the quilt and then McConnell made that comment and I knew i wanted to include it. My guild is having a show in the fall and doing a display on suffragettes and they will display this quilt with the other items. after that, I’m not sure what I’ll do with the quilt . . .

  10. Thank you for finishing the top and for sharing it with us. Our most important power is creative power. You have demonstrated it once again. And as you know, quilters have made political statements with quilts for more than two centuries. They knew it; they demonstrated it, too.

    • Thanks, Melanie. Yes, I felt I was contributing to a proud tradition as I made this. The other members of my guild don’t know quite what to make of this but . . . that’s okay!

    • I think there’s quite a tradition of quilts that make political comment, at least here in the States. I have a book about textiles during our Civil War and several of the quilts in it are very pointed about supporting one side or the other.

  11. I’ve sort of done a similar thing on a quilt label but didn’t embroider it – also the paper I used was very expensive. I’d love to see more of your work transferring designs and wording on to fabric.

  12. It’s splendid. The embroidered script came out so beautifully. My favorite quote is the “wipe the dew off your spectacles,” one, which is just as apt today. And my favorite block is contrary wife! Well done. I imagine there were a good number of subversive quilts sewn in the past by contrary wives.

    • I think subversion lurks everywhere–and that makes me happy. I like that “wipe the dew” quote, too, and the one from Sojourner Truth–I love the metaphor of the ballot box as something perfect yet fragile . . .

  13. Wonderful opening words and an even more wonderful quilt. Truly, so inspiring. And beautiful! Who could ask for anything more?

  14. Hi, I’m Sandy Moore Charlie’s wife. I shared your quilt to Facebook. I belong to a guild in Utica area they will love to see your beautiful work !! I love it. We are going up to Plattsburgh for the quilt show in September

    • Hi, Sandy! Thank you for saying such nice things and sharing the quilt! I expect to be at the quilt show both days in Sept, demonstrating hand quilting–I hope you’ll stop and say hello! I believe this quilt top will be on display although it won’t have been quilted by that point.

    • Thanks, Caroline. It’ll be in our local show in the fall, as part of an exhibit about suffragettes. It won’t be quilted by that point but they said they’d include the top as it is.

    • Thank you, Clare. I agree that seeing those words all in one place gives more weight to each of them. And the fact that we’ve been needing to say the same things for so long . . .

  15. It’s stunning! I love the red and white. Your stitching for the writing is impeccable. Which stitch did you use? I was able to read them when highlighting the smaller squares. That is one very powerful quilt. It should have a place of honor somewhere that many women can pass by and see it. The Hall of Justice maybe. 🙂 You have done very well here.

    • Thank you so much, Marlene! I seem to be on a red and white kick these days–I have three quilts in different stages and they’re all predominantly red and white. The embroidery is done with one of the most basic of all stitches–back stitch. It goes slowly enough to be able to really appreciate the words as you stitch.

  16. Beautiful, and you ought to hang it.
    I like to do sampler cross stitch patterns, to look at the letters or the quote, if I add one. It sounds like this would be good to soothe your soul….

  17. I am late to this party of yours. I shall follow your words now. Maybe change will come. For the sake of our children and grandchildren I sincerely hope so.

  18. Well for gosh sakes, I LOVE this (sorry for yelling)!
    As I told Pauline recently, if you’re selling, I’m buying!
    If nothing else, I’d like to share this on my Elect Women FB page. Is that okay?

  19. Kerry,
    Finally catching up on your blog and can’t believe what I have missed! This is absolutely spectacular!!! So meaningful and thought provoking along with its beauty and many hours of creation. You have written so beautifully about it as well…a joy to look at as well as read as we all ponder making our world better in our own small way. Thanks so much for sharing all these gifts of yours….made my day!

    • Thanks, Joan! It was important to me to make this, and to think about all those women and what they’ve given us. I still have to do the actual quilting–a good project for the winter!

  20. Pingback: Quilting Along, Keeping the Faith | Love Those "Hands at Home"

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