When I was a fourth grade teacher, there was a book that I read aloud to my students every year called Night of the Twisters, by Ivy Ruckman. This is from the introduction:
"When I was a little kid, I thought a red-letter day was when you got a red letter in the mailbox. Pretty dumb, huh? It finally dawned on me that a red-letter day is when something terrific and wonderful happens to you. Usually something unexpected.
Now that I'm older and more experienced, I know there are black-letter days as well as red-letter ones. Those BIGGEES, the real blockbusters that mess up your life, aren't marked on a calendar either. You never know ahead of time when you're getting one of those...It's those black surprises that get to you, those things people call acts of God because they have to blame someone."
I made this quilt to acknowledge a black-letter day. I could feel the annual gloom descending a few weeks ago, and then I saw this meme on my Facebook feed.
For some reason, it spoke to me. Maybe it was the birds I had just experimented with in The Lovely Woods. Maybe time had given me more perspective and healing. Maybe I was just tired of gutting my way through February when there are so many happy things to experience. This year I decided that it was time to be brave--to lift my head up and acknowledge it.
The little birds in this quilt are free-pieced. I had a lot of time to think about things and process my experience while I put the birds together. Improvisational piecing really connects you to your quilt because so much of YOU ends up in there. When I looked at this finished quilt top, I smiled. I also had a teary moment. Why? Because it doesn't feel sad.
I used my favorite neutral (Cotton Couture, stone) to select fabrics for the background. I love it because the color is not quite gray, and not quite tan. Plus, it makes Marsala look good. I got lucky at my local quilt shop and found quite a few friends that coordinated with stone. The birds are made out of fabrics from my stash and from a Marsala FQ bundle. My mom found the stack at the brick and mortar location of Suppose, but the Marsala bundle is also found online in their Etsy shop. My favorite Marsala fabric is the background of the large bird. It is an interweave chambray and none of my pictures even come close to capturing the depth of the color play in the weave.
I quilted this with three different weights of Aurifil thread in six different colors. I hand quilted three lines of 12 wt. thread in grey, black and red. The rest of the matchstick pattern is quilted in a combination of 40 and 50 wt. threads in greys and reds. I like the unique texture achieved with matchstick quilting and the special meaning that the thread colors have for me.
This quilt finishes at 24" x 24." The tiniest bird is a 3" square. If you are interested in doing a bird quilt of your own, earlier today I published a tutorial for improv birds.