"My Greatest Challenge" by Linda Taylor
"The Supper" created and pieced by Dr. Don Locke
Don first approached me nearly two years ago and asked me to quilt his quilt when he got it finished. He had about 3' of it finished at the time and rolled it out to show me. From a distance you could see Christ sitting at a table. He told me that he had digitizied DaVinici's painting and was trying to piece it using 1" squares (of course when allowances are taken, that makes 1/2" squares). I thought I was pretty safe in saying I would be happy to quilt it when it was finished. The next time I saw Don, he brought the quilt in again with about 6" finished in width. About every 6 months, he brought the quilt in to show me how it was progressing. Finally, one whole side of the quilt was completed. I still thought I had plenty of time to think about how I would quilt it. But now Don was extremely motivated. The last time I saw it unfinished, he had only one disciple left to piece. He painstakingly hand dyed many of the fabrics to obtain exactly the shades he wanted. Finally, one day while I was teaching a workshop, he brought in the finished quilt. It measured 15' wide and 6' high and was spectacular! It was breathtaking and caused a little stir in the entire quilt shop! Now the ball was really in my court and I had no idea of how I should quilt it.
The first thing I did, almost instinctively, was to take several pictures of the top and have them blown up into 10 by 17 inches. The first challenge I encountered was the quilt had to be loaded on the machine sideways because it was too wide to mount vertically. That meant I would be quilting it with all the figures facing sideways. I stabilized the quilt by outlining most of the figures on the quilt and completing the outer walls. Then I proceeded to quilt the tablecloth and in between the figures. Finally, the persons on the quilt had to be quilted. This quilt was really scaring me! Each time I worked on a disciple, I felt like I was getting to know that figure as a person. Frankly I did a lot of praying during the three weeks I actually worked on the quilt. I felt unworthy to even be working on it and it became a process in my life. Working on the quilt became an event for me each day as one by one the personages took on a personality. I'm sure Dr. Locke knows exactly what I am talking about. The lines in the clothes, hands and faces were a new experience for me since I have had no formal art training. I found myself studying people's necks and shadows on thier faces, almost to the point of obsession. Any open hands on the quilt have thier own lifeline since that was the only model I had available when I quilted the hands.
I took the quilt off the machine a couple of times and hung it up to study what I had done and what I felt needed to be done because when I was working on the quilt close up looked just like a bunch of little squares. I had to stand back and squint to see the definition between the figures as well as eyes, noses, hair, etc. When I remounted the quilt, I put it on going the opposite direction from the previous morning. I was amazed that my perspective of the figures changed dramatically and I saw things I should quilt that I hadn't seen before. Even the food on the table was a challange for me. I studied a picture of daVinci's painting for long hours and compared it to the pictures I had taken before I started on the project. Many times I had to count squares (like a counted cross-stitch) to determine where I was on the quilt. I even drew lines on the photographs and used them like a map.
Mostly out of trepidation, I put off quilting the image of Christ until all the other figures were completed. This was the hardest of all because I know that everyone's perception of Him is different. ...I quilted my best for Him and because of it, because of Him, I am a better person. For that, I thank you Dr. Don Locke, for choosing me, for trusting me with your precious quilt top. Finished at last, hopefully to be an inspiration to all that view it.
Letter used by permission, Linda's Electric Quilters