The top secret quilt I’m working on is no longer top secret. Events unfolded in such a way that it made sense to tell the subject of the piece that it’s happening … however slowly. So here’s the story. The quilt is attempting to tell the story of Florence Chittenden Verdurmen, the person who taught me everything I know about coaching Special Olympics gymnastics. Florence has impacted the lives of countless gymnasts of all abilities as well as everyone else whose path she has crossed.
Attempting to summarize her life and the difference she has made in so many lives is proving to be quite the challenge. I have gone through several designs and think I’m finally on the right track. Below is a glimpse into the thought process that has brought me to this point.
First, I knew from early on that I wanted to include images of Florence as well as words that describe her. So I enlisted her granddaughter and a mutual friend to help me gather these. We contacted friends, family, current and former students and their parents to contribute three words each that describe Florence and the relationships they have with her. Believe me, this is quite the list!
So the first design was a horrible, scrapbook-like combination of photos and some of the words on what would be a not-quite solid batik. This didn’t come close to capturing Florence, her life, her energy, or any of the words seen here.
I then went out for a run to get away from this disaster of a design and had what I thought was a brilliant idea: LAYERS! So I came back and started playing small scale. I thought I’d place pictures and words on different layers of tulle to create more interest and depth. Turns out this idea was not much of an improvement.
After walking away for a while and having a restful Shabbat, I had another idea. What if we forget about the background and leave the pictures connected by words embroidered on sheer fabric. While this was an interesting idea, it was too old-fashioned and quaint for the active, bright Florence. So three strikes but I refused to give up.
I was still liking the concept of layers and kept trying to come up with ways to make that work when I got an email from Florence that contained much of her life story. Years ago, when I was back in high school, I encouraged her to write her memoir and offered to help her with it. She had a hard time thinking about some of the more difficult times in her life and put it off until … apparently very recently. While I was working on this piece about her, she was working on the beginnings of her story to share with me!
With this new information, I went back to the concept of layers, but this time with an ombre background with cut out pictures covered with a sheer fabric that I would write her story on. The words I collected would still be embroidered on sheer and placed over the text of her story.
I’m still not completely convinced that this will work, but I like it enough to move forward so I found a yellow fabric with a subtle print and painted an orange to yellow ombre on it. I’ll update you on the progress as I move forward!