A plea for help…

The past couple of weeks I’ve been thinking a bit about how I came to be designing fabric and making quilts, so I think today just may be a good day for a trip through the Wayback Machine. If I were to just look back the over the last few years it may seem like quite a leap, but if I were to take a little longer view it all kinda makes sense. So get ready and I’ll go ahead and throw the switch…

Oh, and then there will be a call for your help in my next utterly insane project, so stay tuned.

One, two, three, go!


Oops! Too far. Let’s try again…


So, I’ve actually done a whole lot of fiber arts over the years of my art practice; it is something I just seem to keep coming back to. Heck, I even did cross-stitch in middle school to keep the tedium at bay, but that’s a different story. In the mid-nineties I spent a lot of time working through ideas surrounding Process Art, some of my pieces taking obsessiveness to impressive extremes (maybe some day I’ll break the Palindrome Book out of its boxes). Above we see the first of my obsessive pieces, 5,000 Feet of Twine, which was part of my Senior Comps show back at Kenyon College. It was followed, of course, by the more ambitious 10,000 Feet of Twine:


After Kenyon, I went on to Ohio University to do an MFA in sculpture, during which, obviously, I didn’t make a single sculpture. (That’s kinda the way I work.) But I did do a serious of graphite drawings which led to the aforementioned Palindrome Book. I don’t have images of a lot of those drawings, but here is one of my favorites, 10,000 Xs in a One-Inch Square:


Now this wasn’t all about obsessiveness; I was, and still am, rather interested in the effects of accumulated actions, how repeating a gesture, an action, or a mark takes on both symbolic and literal shape, and how the result can take on importance even if just for the person doing it. (Starting to see the parallels to quilting?)

As time went on, my pieces started to focus more and more in the symbolic rather than the physical effects of actions. I started looking for projects that would leave no physical residue, but would function primarily on a poetic level. One of my last process pieces before I began to really focus on language in my art was a piece called Stopping Time:


I spent what my internal clock told me was an hour (it turned out to be 53 minutes; my internal clock kinda sucks) moving water from downstream of me to upstream of me in my cupped hands, symbolically creating a circle for that bit of water, trying to hold on to that instant in time. Obviously I couldn’t do it, but I still think it was a rather lovely performance piece.

From there my work began to take on a harder edge, something that always seems to happen with my work; I oscillate between the poetic and the cynical. Surprisingly, after my last couple of years in the real world, I am on an upswing of the poetic right now. Though perhaps I am just needing that in my life right now to counter all the cynicism, but that, too, is another story.

So that is today’s trip through the Wayback Machine; now for the next insane project:


I am going to tackle my friend Katy’s Scrap Vomit Quilt, but of course I’m gonna put my own special spin on it. I want to do the No-Repeat Scrap Vomit Quilt! That’s right, I want to do the entire quilt without repeating a single print. Crazy, eh???

So, I’m gonna need a hand (or 100) to pull this off. I want to make this a healthy full/small queen quilt so I am going to need 2,058 3,136 different 2.5-inch squares. (My god, am I totally nuts?!?) No way do I have that kind of stash. Right now I probably have about 300, so I have a long way to go. And considering a lot of you have some of the same scraps I figure it will take me 3,500 or so squares to get to the no-repeat goal.

So here is my plea for help: send me squares, please!!! Now I don’t really need scraps or what not; a 5″ x 7″ scrap doesn’t help any more than a single 2.5″ square, the extra material goes nowhere. (Though of course I wouldn’t reject the scrap if you would rather send it that way than cutting a square.) Do you have a jelly roll that could have some squares snipped off of? Bits of scrap in your bin that you could convert into squares? Etc, etc, etc…

It doesn’t need to be designer; it doesn’t even need to be pretty. When it all comes together I am sure it will all be gorgeous. Whatever you have will be perfect: a bit of the soccer ball print form that project for your nephew, the Xmas print from 1984 that you still have around, a single square of some rare, ultra-beautiful print. It will all do, and will all be greatly appreciated. I’ll be diving into the clearance and remnant bins at Joann’s to see what I can dig up too. This project is all about scrap in all its glory and the incredible variety of fabric: the good, the awkward, the novelty, and all…

What I am asking for at first is for people who are coming to Quilt Market in SLC could bring a wee baggie of squares for the project. If you know someone who is going, can you send some squares with them? And when I see you at QM I’ll certainly give you a hug, and gladly take you for coffee. Of course, if you aren’t coming to Market, and don’t know anyone who is, I will gladly email you my addy and you can send them along that way. However those squares arrive they will be greatly appreciated.

We have 33 days until Quilt Market; let’s see of we can get all of those squares gathered by then so that when I come home I can dive into laying this puppy out. And once it gets laid out all those extra squares will surely find homes in other Scrap Vomit Quilts around the world.

So, who’s game? Please spread the word; I’ll be your bestest friend…

UPDATE: The project has grown; the new goal is 4,851 squares, still with no repeats. Read this post for more information. Thanks for all the love and support everybody!!!


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54 Responses to A plea for help…

  1. 1
    Emma says:

    I’m not going to be at Quilt Market and most of my fabric isn’t designer (a very small portion of it is) but I do have a few pre-cut 2.5″ squares that I can send you one of each of. I think they’ll tend towards the blue and green (leftover from my scrappy trip around the world seen at http://www.flickr.com/photos/47797623@N05/4558802195/in/set-72157623822425237/ ) but I might have a few others cut too! Let me know, and I’ll need your mailing address. 🙂

    • 1.1
      thomas says:

      Thanks so much. It totally doesn’t need to be designer (I just updated the post to say that; I knew I’d leave something out). I’ll be diving into the clearance and remnant bins at Joann’s. This project is all about scrap and the incredible variety of fabric: the good, the awkward, the novelty, and all…

      I’ll send along my addy if you don’t mind sending.


  2. 2
    Natasha says:

    I would be happy to send you some scraps. Some of mine material is over 10 years old so I do not think it will be repeated…..at least lets hope not. Send me an email with your address.

  3. 3
    Rae says:

    I don’t have much, but I’ll dig out some before our MQG meeting (whenever it may be)

  4. 4
    Alissa says:

    I’ll bring a slew to Market. Might not have time to cut ’em out into the squares but I have more scraps that I’ll EVER know what to do with so I’ll bring you loads.

    • 4.1
      thomas says:

      If you haven’t time for cutting, I will happily do the cutting myself. Just no need to bring scraps much bigger than 2.5″ as I can only use each print once. Thanks so much, and totally looking forward to meeting you… #SoManyRockStars

  5. 5

    Yay Thomas! I’m going to send some to Katy. There will be some squares from dutch fabrics and one from Norway too and then some…

  6. 6
    Kathleen P says:

    Got issues with flannel? How about cotton wovens from clothing? Denim? You know how I roll over here–all upcycling no out-throwing.

    Last week in April come sooner! And please can I come to SLC as your, I don’t know, food-eater? Everything I love about Utah you can’t eat…

    • 6.1
      thomas says:

      All good with cotton wovens. I think the others might be a bit tricky with so many small squares.

      Totally wish I could bring you to SLC, but you know my budget… #Pout

  7. 7

    Oh I wish I was going to QM but I know some guild members will be there. I’ll see if they’ll make a hand off for you.I have my Mom’s stash that includes some classic 80’s fabric and some random stuff I’ll dig up.I can’t wait to see how you put it all together.

    • 7.1
      thomas says:

      Thanks so much. That stash sounds totally awesome, and I would be honored to incorporate it. I am so going to have to make a map of where all the contributions came from!!!

  8. 8
    happy zombie says:

    Done! You had me at “my next utterly insane project”. And if Pétra is reading this – I gladly be her delivery service, too.

  9. 9
    Andrea says:

    Very cool idea, I have some scraps from fabric I printed myself 15 years ago, so I know that it won’t be repeated because it doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world except in my house! Please email me your address and I can send you a couple of squares in different colourways.


    • 9.1
      thomas says:

      Wow!!! That sounds fantastic; can’t wait to see them. I think this may turn into a quilters’ challenge to come up with the most obscure prints on the planet…

      Which I would totally love.

  10. 10

    Can do! I need to speak to Katy about taking them out to SLC with her. I have all sorts already cut into 2.5″ squares.

    • 10.1
      thomas says:

      Excellent. Katy may just end up transporting vast quantities of little squares. Thanks so much!!!

  11. 11

    That reminds me of my Y2K quilt, still sitting in baggies. You weren’t a quilter then… I swapped 2.5” charms with other quilts so we would each have 2000 to put together a quilt. I was tortured by how to make it unique and never got around to piecing anything. It’s on my someday list… But this might motivate me to move it up the bucket list.

    I’d be happy to send along some charms. A friend is going, but it would like be easier for me to mail them along to you. She’s shopping for her store. Then again, I’m sure she’ll find you as I think she would love your stuff!

    • 11.1
      thomas says:

      Wow!!! So you each had 2000 squares with no repeats??? I knew if I called out to the quilters I’d hit my goal in no time. If you want to send I can email you my addy, but feel free to send to QM, another excuse to meet fabulous people…


  12. 12
    Javene Ballard says:

    I would love to be a part of your quilt and send you some 2.5″ squares. Let me know where via my email. Anxious to see it!

    • 12.1
      thomas says:

      Thanks so much. I will email you straight away. This is becoming such a fabulous project even before I stitch a single stitch. #Hugs

  13. 13
    Judy LeVang says:

    I would love to send you some 2.5″ square love. Send me the address via email and I will go into my way-back box of early 1990’s and older fabrics and cut you some!

    • 13.1
      thomas says:

      Thanks Judy. I love how people are doing their own fabric archeology to help out and avoid repeats. This is so amazing!!! Thanks so much!


  14. 14
    Brie Henri says:

    So these 2.5″ square do they include seem allowance? Can you send me your address so I can send you some?

    • 14.1
      thomas says:

      Email sent, and yep, 2.5″ includes the seam allowance; may the gods of 1/4″ seams be kind to me…

      Thanks so much for helping out. Yay you!!!

  15. 15
    Mary says:

    I will bring some fabric to market too! No sense in you going to JoAnn’s let us help you!
    Where are you going to be at Market?? Just wandering?

    • 15.1
      thomas says:

      Thanks so much. I’ll just be wandering, but can arrange to meet just about any time. I have a few appointments, but mostly I am there to see the pretty and meet all the lovely people!!!

  16. 16
    Dr. S says:

    Mama once did a charm quilt that was all trapezoids, and while she did use some repeat fabrics, she cut them so that there were no repeat *patterns*. It’s an *awesome* quilt (even includes parts of at least one shirt that I had loved but grown out of by the time she made the quilt). My brother has it and could probably be persuaded to send you pictures if you wanted them.

    • 16.1
      thomas says:

      I would love, love, love to see pictures. And gotta talk to your mom this week anyway. This quilt just wounldn’t be right without at least one wee square from your fabulous mama. #TotalQuiltingHero

      Oh, and I will, indeed, be snipping a few of Little One’s old things for this quilt…

  17. 17
    sandra says:

    If you can send snail mail I have Fabric from dark ages I could share 2.5″ of! Some of stash is 25 years old. sandra

  18. 18
    Belinda Shreeve says:

    Email me your addy. I’ve a friend coming to Market, but if she can’t bring them, I’ll post them. Happy piecing!!

  19. 19
    A.J. Dub says:

    I would love to send something! I won’t be at quilt market, so will you be taking them via mail?

  20. 20
    Kaye Prince says:

    I am going to be a quilt market next month and I will definitely bring you some squares! I have some stuff in my scrap basket that is seriously ugly and from the 80s so I doubt anyone else will give you some of those! I’ll also look around and see if I can find anything else that you might now get from others.

  21. 21
    Lou says:

    I just discovered your page, and I’m amazed with your story and your first quilt. You must be crazy to try this, but I loooove the idea. It’s going to be just way cool… Send me your address, I’d love to help you with the no-repeat challenge 😉

  22. 22
    Martha Heidt says:

    Hi, Tom! We’ve been out of town for a few days–getting a leak in our brand-new Airstream fixed! (They are not supposed to leak!)
    Anyhow, I just read your request for squares. I went to my box of 2 1/2″ strips and found 300 for you. I’ve almost finished cutting the squares, so if you’ll e-mail me your address I’ll get them in the mail on Saturday. There will be 301 if I can find a piece of that penguin shirt Sarah so loved. It’s the one that’s in Andy’s charm quilt.
    I was so surprised as I went through that box. I could remember where and when I bought or received most of the fabrics. Many are ones I really loved. Some are just plain UGLY. That will be your challenge. Feel free to dispose of any you don’t want.

  23. 23
    Luanne says:

    Send me your address, I have oodles to send. 🙂

  24. 24
    Amy says:

    I’ve made 2 cat charm quilts (generous queen/king each) so if you want cats – I can supply them! I have lots of other bits too – especially novelties.

  25. 25
    angie says:

    I’ll send scraps if you email your address.

  26. 26
    Liz says:

    I have a jumbo fabric stash and would be happy to send you some scraps, but they won’t be cut perfectly to size. I will cut them with scissors to be about 3″ square. Go ahead and email me your snail mail addie if you like. And if you have a few scraps to send back, that would be awesome!

    I look forward to seeing your finished quilt!

  27. 27
    thomas says:

    Thanks for all the fabric love everybody. What I thought was going to be a near-impossible project is looking remarkably doable. And so excited to be long-distance meeting so many new people…

    Yay you!!!


  28. 28
    auntie pami says:

    Hi Thomas, I can send them to your hotel in SLC. Or with a friend. I’ll have to ask her. I have some golden oldies, but I think they are packed away. You should have enough to do two!

  29. 29
    Lina LaMora says:

    Hi Thomas, found you from Katy’s blog. I just finished my “Holy Scrap” AKA Scrap Vomit. I would love to contribute to your 2.5″ squares. I am making another one cut size 2.5″, Holy Scrap was cut 2″. If you need more 2.5″ squares send me your addy.

    I was so glad Katy invited me to join Scrap Vomit Appreciation Society. flickr name: Bahaykoobo

  30. 30
    Emily says:

    I can happily send you some fabric. I’m currently making a crazy MCM wallpaper insprired king sized quilt that is using 199 different blue/green/brown fabric, framed with white and damn near black brown. I have about 150 of them started and maybe 100 “blocks” finished. I’ll be glad to help another person’s craziness!

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