Wednesday, June 28, 2017

America Is Already Great: A Finished Quilt

In honor of the upcoming Independence Day/Fourth of July holiday, I'm sharing my latest quilt in my effort to twist something negative (to me) into something positive. This became my (and your!) love letter to America. You can read more about why I make quilts about politics and human rights here.

My original idea was to create a modern version of the American flag with the words "America is already great" written in large letters (I had to vary up the size of the stripes to do so). Then, I realized that it could be so much more. I am proud of my country and I love it - and so do so many of you.

Here is part of the official description, which I submitted to Threads of Resistance in April (it did not make it into the exhibit). Read on below for more details.

I do not believe in American exceptionalism or isolationalism, but I am proud of my country, its people, and what we have to offer. If you think that those against the current administration's policies are unpatriotic, I encourage you to think again. My love for America inspires me to resist.

Since the presidential campaign, I've been (quite frankly) annoyed by Donald Trump's slogan, "Make American Great Again." These words have been used constantly to justify executive orders and tweets that have embarrassed and hurt the American people as a whole.

I decided to create a quilt that morphs these words into something positive, so I asked my Instagram followers to tell me why they think America is great. The result was over 80 entries ranging from serious to silly (lots of foods, for example). 

I free motion quilted the words in the white stripes with Aurifil dove gray thread (50 weight, #2600); they are just visible this way (versus using white thread to blend). I couldn't fit all the words submitted, but most are on there (plus, I added a few of my own, like Ellen DeGeneres, who, fun fact, is the only person on the quilt). I didn't mark the words - just the lines to write on, with my hera marker. It was soothing and exciting to once again engage in free motion writing.

You can see the full list of words submitted, minus my own, RIGHT HERE on a Google Doc. Thank you so much to all those who contributed - you truly made this quilt sing, and you made it more than just four words!

The last word, "home," was a joint collaboration. My sister helped me choose which words should go in each line and what would fit, and she insisted on the heart on the end. It's perfect.

Immediately following the inauguration, I took this quilt on a trip to Georgia, where I blissfully hand-quilted around the words and stars in Betsy Ross-like fashion. It was an excellent form of fabric therapy and a great way to show my patriotism. I garnered lots of questions and curious looks, and some outright full-on support!

Photo by my lovely guild mate, Lori (@gratitudequilts). She insisted on catching me in the act of stitching by the river. It was a lovely, peaceful morning.

The stars are free motion quilted, but imperfectly, to emphasize that our country isn't perfect but we're all still one country. To lengthen the amount of hand-stitching time on the quilt and its therapeutic hold over me, I "confetti stitch" quilted behind the stars with variegated perle cotton (I found the perfect thread while at QuiltCon!). Cheryl Arkison quilted in this style recently, and it became an obsession as I worked on this quilt over a couple of months. I'm proud of the result.

I was a little disappointed that it did not make the exhibit, because the words are meant to be seen in person. Yes, the overall statement has a bit of bite. No, I'm not sorry for it! In fact, I'm going into the holiday weekend thinking about how much I love my country, and how no one is going to change that or make me feel bad about resisting the current administration.

Happy birthday, America. I love you.

Linking up to United We Quilt (did you know we have a Facebook page now, too?),
Crazy Mom Quilts,


  1. This gives me goosebumps in a totally awesome way. I think America is pretty darn great and I love the quilted words, collaboration, and hand quilting detail. There is so much to look at, see, and appreciate in this one.

  2. This is awesome! Good for you for feeling the courage to share your views. It has been so difficult lately with all the fighting and people jumping down each other's throats. I am from California and live and in Georgia and have learned to not comment because it is so contentious. Love this project!

  3. What a brilliant idea to get others to share their thoughts about your country in this quilt. I'm always impressed by your ability to express your opinions in a clear positive way without taking down others. I'm sorry that the quilt didn't make it into the exhibit.....and I love the hand quilting.

  4. Ugh, I see we are on different sides of the fence. I love my country as well but it had been trampled so badly by the previous administration that I have been hoping we could be great again. I am still hopeful that will happen but it's been made extremely difficult by 'the other side' and the media as well as those in the party 'in charge' not wanting to lose grip of their power. I made HOB quilts to show my deep appreciation to those who lost loved ones in various wars and am making QOV quilts for our wonderful vets who were willing to make that ultimate sacrifice so that we could continue to show how great this country is.

  5. I really love everything about this: the design and Incorporating other people's ideas and words is genious and I love the FMQ combined with hand quilting. What a meaningful, creative quilt.

  6. Your quilt really resonates with me and expresses my feelings exactly about that campaign slogan. Yes, it is patriotic to love our country and resist those that would trample on our rights and freedoms. I love that you made this quilt a collaboration with your readers and that you worked on it in public, engaging others in the process. I love the quilting, too, and I have been wanting to try the seed stitching for awhile now. The quilt is very positive and I believe invites the viewer to think about all the things we can be grateful for in this country, but also think about how some of our gains are being stripped away. The piece needs to be viewed in a public setting, so please continue to look for other venues to display it!

  7. I'm so excited that we finally got to see a full shot of this amazing quilt! And you're motivating me to work on my patriotic Patchwork City this weekend.... I think one positive takeaway from the past few months is the increased patriotism (in a positive way) within populations where that might have been considered "uncool" in the past. And it has encouraged a whole lot of people to educate themselves on the processes that control our legislation and government. I certainly have learned a lot! I'm hopeful that increased participation and civil conversation from both sides will help us all move forward.

  8. Your work is so inspiring! I love how you put your heart and beliefs into it, and share them with the rest of us!

  9. While I, too, believe is America is already great, the past administration has trampled so many beliefs that I hold dear. I respect your choice to quilt what you want and I admire your creativity - I just wish there was a button to push to only receive blog posts that are non-political. While I do understand the history of quilts and their possible political ties, it's too bad that one can't escape politics while enjoying a hobby.

  10. I, too, was upset whenever I heard him say America could be great again. America is great, not perfect, but there's room for improvement. I really like the quilt and sayings. Consider submitting it to ROAD which is in CA in Jan. Then I could see it up close!

  11. Great concept, well executed. The stars look wonderful with the hand quilting besides them. How wonderful that this was a group project. You're right, America is already great!

  12. Good for you, Jess. My sentiments exactly.

  13. Amazing. It's too bad that it didn't make it in the show. I needs to be seen in person.

  14. I love how you use your quilts to express yourself. I'm not an American, an Australian in fact, but I do feel your sentiment.
    Just today I saw a news story about Mr Trump in reference to his latest tweets about a news anchor I believe. I found it absurd that someone with such power and responsibility has the time and lack of common sense and deacency to make such comments.
    No other world leader would be caught making such childish and degrading comments. Certainly not publicly and in print.
    I'm really glad though that you are still remembering all there is to love about your home and not letting this man break down the things that do make you great. Because it's certainly not your current president.

  15. I really like all the styles of quilting you've used in your quilt. I'm grateful to live in a democratic (small 'd') country (UK). We are weary of politicians playing off each other, the votes have been cast, now those in power need to take on their responsibilities and get on with the job; making decisions for the country as a whole not just to please their followers.

  16. Thank you for sharing this project Jessie. No, we aren't a perfect country but I don't think there is any such thing. But we are not well served by this administration and the president's continued bullying of anyone who disagrees with him, especially women and minorities.

  17. Beautiful quilt and a very strong message. I really like the combination of the FMQing and the hand quilting.


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