by Jessica Schunke, SecretaryOverarching is our guild’s take on the most iconic symbol of the city of St. Louis, the Gateway Arch. A group of members took on the task of designing the quilt; when we sat down to discuss the theme of Playing with Scale, the Arch came to mind for many of us. One member presented a photo by Windy Sawczyn (used with permission of the artist with much gratitude) that showed just a portion of the giant structure shining and sparkling in the dusk light, and we knew it would be just right. Not only did the image encompass the grand scale of the Arch itself, but we then deconstructed the image into small improv units, so that the final whole is composed of hundreds of tiny pieces. The pieces do not translate exactly (nor did we plan for them to), but when put together, they recreate the essence of the original image — small scale writ large. To begin the work of actually constructing the quilt, we decided to break the picture down into smaller units (99 to be exact), which would each be translated into a block. Fabrics, both solids and tone-on-tone prints, were mostly curated by one member of the committee and supplemented by donations from other guild members. The small picture units were divided into sets of three and paired with fabrics that matched the colors in those sections of the image; these sets were then distributed to members to create the blocks using improv piecing. Most of the sets were distributed at our annual guild retreat, and it was such a pleasure to see so many members come together to add their part to the quilt. Through the course of making the quilt, many members tried improv piecing for the first time, and the idea of breaking down an image as inspiration took many outside of their usual routine.
Members used a variety of techniques, fabrics, and sizes of cuts to assemble their blocks in the way they thought best conveyed their portion of the image. Additional members stepped forward to piece the final quilt top and backing and then to quilt and bind it. The finished quilt was truly a group effort. Brought together, the final composition pays homage to the Arch with a modern twist and the “signature” of the many quilters who played a role in its creation.