The Memphis Community Quilt

The last leg of my epic June 2019 travels landed me in Memphis, Tennessee. I had been looking forward to this part of my journey for a very long time.

Two years ago, Paula Kovarik (the mastermind behind the two month long celebration of the quilt called Stitched) contacted me about building a community quilt in Memphis. This community quilt would be different from previous quilts in that I would be building the quilt live with a team of stitchers.

I said yes, of course. I would LOVE to build a quilt with the residents of Memphis.

This quilt is part of a series of activities called STITCHED that were scheduled to take place during June and July at Crosstown Arts in downtown Memphis.

Stitched GraphicCrosstown Arts is a located in the Crosstown Concourse which is a rehabbed Sears Distribution Center.

It is an amazing structure that has been beautifully rehabbed into a multipurpose facility with everything thing from apartments to pedicures.

The community quilt was to built in this glass walled room over the course of three days.


First, I needed to prep fabrics and materials.


I used the laundry room of the Crosstown artist in residency space to sort, iron, inventory, and prep.

On day one, we hosted two quilt block making parties.

I had a great crew of fabulous volunteers for the entire day.


With the help of the Memphis community, we created 49 quilt blocks representing all different aspects of Memphis, and the people who make it a wonderful place to live.


That evening while walking around Memphis, I got an idea for the final quilt. It was something I had not done before, and I really wanted to try it. Step one— install a massive design wall. This one is a furry blanket that is absolutely awesome for holding quilt blocks in place. Thank goodness for tall people.


We sorted the blocks by color knowing that we needed seven color ways to make the quilt work. We also sorted out all of the bits that I had brought from home—dozens and dozens of pieced units that may or may not make it into the final composition.


We decided on two red, a green, a purple, a yellow, a white, and a blue color grouping. We stitched and stitched. All the while, visitors stopped by to observe the process. At the end of day two, we were locked in on what our quilt was going to say.

On our final day, we stitched even harder than the day before. With Sandy’s excellent constructions skills, we managed to get the top half of the quilt completed.


Slowly, visitors began to realize what the quilt was going to be about. Four more letters to go. The H and the I turned out to be very tricky to construct. Their closeness in value to the background fabrics, made them difficult to read.


After twelve hours of solid stitching, we conceded.  The quilt would have to travel to Alaska for the final bit of work.

I finished up a P and an H in McCarthy, Alaska.


And then I finished up an I and an S in Anchorage.


There were six seams left to this massive—104’’ x 115’’ community quilt. I boxed up my progress and mailed the quilt back to Memphis where the locals finished up the final seams. The completed quilt top will be on view at the STITCHED Finale on July 28, 2019 from 1-3PM. I wish I could be there!


What an adventure! This quilt would not have happened without the help of my tenacious Memphis team—Paula Kovarik, Nysha Nelson, Sandy Call, Mary Adcox, and Sarah Terry. Thank you so much for giving me this amazing experience.

If you want to learn more about STITCHED, please follow them on Facebook here.

If you think building community quilts might just be your jam, here is a link pack to all of the blog posts I have written over the years about building community quilts.

McColl Countdown
HOME: A First Look at the Moore Place Quilt
Journey to Moore Place
HOME Is Home
Building a Community Quilt Part I
Ari’s Community Quilt
Creative Cross Pollinations 

And if you think you might want me to build a quilt with your community, just email me at mariashell4atgmaildotcom, and we’ll talk.

This entry was published on July 20, 2019 at 4:02 PM. It’s filed under Community Quilts, News And Events, Quilt Stories and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

14 thoughts on “The Memphis Community Quilt

  1. Jill P Hoddick on said:

    Hi Maria – what a great idea this is. My head is spinning. Can’t wait to se the reveal – I hope you will post a picture of it on July 28. I am sure the community will love it. Has it been decided what will happen to it? Will it hang in this center or elsewhere so everyone can enjoy? Hope so.

  2. Jill- It will become part of the Crosstown Arts permanent collection. It will be on view at some point, and I am really hoping we have some sort of opening where everyone can come together to see the quilt hung. It is my new favorite community quilt!

    • jphoddick on said:

      I really love that you chose to use the city’s letters for the design. I just read all the other blog posts about community quilts/residencies. What an interesting and full life of giving and creating you lead. Best wishes. Jill

      • Thank you Jill. That is very nice of you to say. I really do hope ur paths cross–in Sisters, perhaps? Best wishes to you too!

      • jphoddick on said:

        My lovely friend Lulu took your class last week in Sisters – she really enjoyed it. She is a delight!

      • Of course you are friends with Lulu! It was wonderful to have her in class. Next time, I hope the both of you come to a workshop!

  3. kgreeningram on said:

    After doing a project like this with high school students I have a huge appreciation for what it takes to put this together after all the blocks are made. That’s when the real work begins. Kudos to you and your team for doing a beautiful job. The letters in color block form are genius!

  4. Remarkable, inspiring, wonderful

  5. Marla on said:

    Wow! This was quite the undertaking. I love the idea of using the letters and you did a terrific job using your “bits” to outline the lighter letters. I’m sure the community will be proud of their quilt.

  6. Get Stitchy with Sarah on said:

    I can’t wait to see the finished quilt! It was such fun having you here to build a quilt with us.

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