Here lies a very proud boy.
At some point last year my son asked me to teach him how to hand sew. We started with a basic running stitch and scraps in his favourite colour. Moments at a time - the attention span of a normal 4 year old boy - we stitched some triangles on squares and sewed them together. Then they sat. And sat. Then one day in the winter he asked to sew more.
What ended up happening is he placed his one block on the design wall and started pulling scraps. He played and played and played. I loved watching it come to life one piece of fabric at a time. The next day it would change and again the day after that. In all honesty I thought it would stop there.
Boy, was I wrong.
Soon he started pushing for us to turn those scraps on the wall into a quilt. Hmm... now how exactly was I going to do that? He was quite adamant that it literally be what he laid out. I thought about doing some planned improv - using his fabric and sizes but puzzling it together to make it a solid piece, a quilt top. Well, that, and some applique.
He shot me down. The boy knows nothing about quilting other than watching me but he knew exactly what he wanted. So we picked a background fabric and carefully, with his sisters' help, he transferred the design to the background fabric. Then he glued each piece down. Just so.
This is where I had to take some deep breaths. But, but, but... He picked a busy background fabric and it could be seen through some pieces... He didn't cut selvages off... All those raw edges... those unicorns are upside down...
You see, when I am teaching a new person - child or adult - I am a firm believer in basic, solid technique. Good 1/4'' seam allowances, pressing, colour work, squaring up. It's what I've done with teaching my own kids all along. Know the basics then riff all you want. But here was this boy completely making up his own process, his own rules.
I thought about the articles you read where kids remember being told they aren't creative and they stop making art. About adults coming back to art after feeling shunned due to rule breaking. I thought about those things and didn't want to do that to my boy. I had to let go of constrictions and rules and supposed-to-dos. I had to embrace the way he saw the quilt and the process.
So I followed his instructions to the letter, even when they made me cringe a little as a quilter. Better to make a 'not proper' quilt than kill the spirit of a child. That made me feel better as a mother. When it came to finishing he made all the decisions - backing, thread colour, even the quilting pattern, and binding. He has the label even designed, but that's waiting for a picture with him and Daddy and the dog.
We will make no mention of the fact that the quilt is effectively a baby sized quilt. He thinks it is perfect for Daddy. And so it is, son, so it is.