Quilted Autobiography

For my 20% project I sewed an autobiographical quilt. I became interested in this idea when our class learned about pre-narrative forms of autobiography in Native American culture. In Herth Dawn Wong’s “Pre-Contact Oral and Pictographic Autobiographical Narratives,” we learn that in some traditions, such as the Navajo, women’s quilting was revered as upholding tradition and mostly depicted clan or spiritual symbols and often involved many women working together with individual ideas, styles, and fabrics. Other forms of Native American autobiography seen in cloth were tipis and pictographic robes which would tell war or clan stories.

Sewing is something I previously knew very little about and am excited about overcoming that challenge of learning a new skill. I will be able to use this skill in the future, as well as the quilt. I had planned to stitch the majority of the quilt by hand, partly because I do not own a sewing machine, and partly because I thought it would feel more authentic and I would have a greater pride towards it, a plan to which I mostly stuck to despite using a sewing machine in the initial stages of the project. I bought supplies at Micheal’s which included fabric, needles, pins, backing, and thread. My mother gave me a sewing kit years ago that I finally got around to using, and also gave me her seasoned advice for patterns and time-saving techniques. Quilt making has often been a skill passed down through generations of mothers and daughters and I continued this tradition by having my mother, whose own mother taught her, teach me how to sew. While I was sewing the quilt to represent my own life, I also strengthened family bonds in the process.

The three stages of quilting:

1: Finding the pictures I wanted to represent myself, print them out on fabric and machine sew them together into strips.  I had a hard time picking the pictures to use that would represent me and also be class-friendly. I  knew immediately to include a picture of Black Francis, my cat, Romeo, my snake, and my family, the most important beings in my life. Then I added Biggie, because of my love of hip hop, a strawberry to symbolize my dedication to vegetarianism, Rosie the Riveter because I have recently discovered a passion for feminism and women’s rights, a depiction of Mary because I have spent the last four years in religious studies, and lastly some magnetic poetry to represent my status as an english student and poet.

2. Connecting the two sides together with backing between them through the hand stitching of the lining around the purple fabric and the pictures. In this step I learned to thread needles, stitch, and tie-off thread.

3. Completing the quilt by sewing on a green trim around the outer edge and stitching all three layers completely together.


Wong, Herth Dawn. “Pre-Contact Oral and Pictographic Autobiographical Narratives.”

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