Marie Harnish of Indianapolis, Indiana, attends First Mennonite Church where she is active on the fellowship, mentor-mentee, Jr. Mennonite Youth Fellowship and allergy awareness committees. She makes pottery in her home studio and considers her garden to be an art project. Marie and her husband, Ned Geiser, have three children.
Patterns are everywhere. The human eye sees patterns that give order to what you wear, where you drive, what structure you live in, what colors make you feel relaxed or not. Recognizing patterns is one of the first ways a young child begins to learn about letters and numbers. Think of a child stacking squares or matching up puzzle pieces.
Quilts are the same way, stacking blocks and putting puzzle pieces together in a pleasing pattern. With my newly discovered interest in quilting, thanks in part to a good sewing machine, (courtesy of my daughter’s inheritance from her FMC mentor, Luanne Fast), I am loving figuring out how to put patterns in quilts! My favorite part of a quilt is the process of designing…choosing interesting fabrics with similar or opposing colors, pinning shapes to my design wall, and finally, satisfied the pattern works well together, deciding to sew.
Even in the t-shirt quilts I make, the designing time is important, which entails rearranging small pieces of graph paper until all the pieces fit in a pleasing pattern that reflects the quilt recipients interests. For example, I made a quilt for a baseball player that began with shirts in the shape of a diamond in the center. For a runner, I made steps going up with 4” x 12” sections of his shirts.
I told myself I would start quilting when I turned 50, with my “gateway” being t-shirt quilts. I don’t necessarily make traditional quilts, but lean toward the modern, bright colors, and random color combinations. I often find patterns in unexpected places. I recently finished 2 t-shirt quilts for brothers with unique backing fabrics, one with red batik swirls and the other black tiny curls. As I worked on them, I realized the patterns and colors looked fabulous together, like a checkerboard! Often, I just start sewing random fabrics together to use up small pieces, perhaps in a limited color scheme, until they are all mixed up. Then, I can cut them in an orderly fashion, to create a pattern that is less chaotic, like the cross from leftover banner fabric.
While working on the JUSTICE.JUST US banner with the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. quote this past year, the group of women working on the design had unique visions of the pattern for the project. I had a vision, but couldn’t figure out how to get the pattern right with the fabrics we had. We met on Tuesday evenings for several months and 2-3 women each time would work on the pattern. On the design wall, one woman would put together strips in a pleasing color pattern in one corner and another woman worked on her pattern in another corner. The next week another person would join us and she would make patterns she liked and cannibalize fabric strips from someone else’s section. Clearly, we had many ways we thought the fabric colors would form the pattern we were trying to achieve! Add to that, some women wanted to know exact pattern and size (the airplane mechanic) and another (the artist) wanted things to be a process, figuring things out as we went. (I feel safer knowing the airplane mechanic is very precise!) Eventually, we settled on a 4” x 12” pattern with dark outer edges and light center fabrics to achieve the woven pattern you see. The collaborative experience was positive, with much laughter along the way, and we are happy to have created a pleasing pattern with many metaphors of weaving together Christian faith, hard work of justice, and connecting to each other.
I see and think about patterns all the time…in colors, on buildings, on the water, in the garden, repetitive and random,…I have so many ideas and drawings (and fabrics), I will always have something to create! I can’t wait. Now if you will excuse me, I need to go sew…
You can find more of Marie’s work at the following links: