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Infinite Possibilities

Hi. I’m Melanie McNeil and I’m a quilter.

I grew up in a creative family, with one brother who is a potter, another who is a magician, and a sister who paints, collages, and quilts. My other sister enjoys sewing clothing, and my stepdad wrote plays, acted, and directed.

My mom could make anything, though she specialized in sewing. When I was very little, she fed us kids by doing alterations and custom sewing. For many years she did costumes for community theatres in our city. One year she even made a two-person cow costume for a children’s theatre production.

She was an original up-cycler! One day she brought home a pair of ugly painted lamps she found in someone’s trash down the alley. On cleaning them, she found they were creamy white alabaster stone, beautifully turned and carved. After she rewired them, they became our living room lamps, sitting on end tables made by her, next to love seats upholstered by her.

Her shiny, dark green sewing machine was inset into a wooden table she made herself, of fruitwood with a pecan stain. But even though she spent a lot of time at that machine, I didn’t learn to sew from her. In fact, I didn’t really learn any crafts from her. Not the tatting, crocheting, or needlepoint she enjoyed in turns. Not upholstery or furniture making. Not plumbing or tearing out a kitchen and rebuilding it.

What I did learn from her was a way of looking at things for their possibilities. No matter what you make, this is a valuable skill.

Quilts are the embodiment of possibilities fulfilled. Take small pieces of fabric that, by themselves, have no real value. Put them together and you make something priceless. Quilters do this every day.

I love all kinds of quilts. I especially love medallion quilts. I’ve been designing and making them almost since I started quilting. There are all kinds of things I love about medallions, but one of them is that the possibilities are infinite. When you design them from the center outward, each border can be anything that complements and supports the center.

Would you like to change the color emphasis of the quilt? Make the next border to do that. Would you like to increase the size of the center block? Put it on point, or put it on point twice, in the same way you would make one of Camille Ainsworth's economy blocks. And there are so many other ways to visually increase the importance of the center.

Every border has its own options, for size, color, value, and shape. Each choice can change the look of the quilt. Here are some pictures I drew in Electric Quilt 7 (EQ7) a few years ago. They all use the same center block but show a range of ideas for the outside border. They aren't all great ideas! But they do show you that there are infinite possibilities.

Explore the infinite possibilities of quilting with us at Just Wanna Quilt. You can find hundreds of podcasts with amazing, talented people across the world of quilting. And keep coming back to the Just Wanna Quilt blog, where we'll bring a different, personal view of quilting to you.

I also share at my personal blog, Catbird Quilt Studio. Check in there if you'd like to see what I do and how I think about quilting and other making.


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