Life Story Medallion Quilt


Perhaps you remember this quilt.

I started it
back in February of 2013 and added to it over the next six months or so. I finished the quilt top in August and shared photos of it here.
For a while I didn’t share it simply because I hadn’t taken proper photos of it.  This fall I finally enlisted the help of my husband and son and we took some awesome photos but they were all lost on my old hard drive.  I’ve struggled with how much I wanted to write about this quilt, but today, as I review the year and prepare for 2015, I suddenly needed to tell it now.  I got it out, spread it over the guest bed for some indoor photos and here we go!

This quilt was a totally new quilting experience for me.  As it developed, border by border, it changed and became different – but better – than I’d pictured.  It challenged me, fed me, and was generally a beautiful experience.

But something happened half-way through it, something that made me love it even more but struggle to talk about it.  It happened on border #5.

Border 5 is the mosaic styled one, with all the strips sewn into squares sewn into nine-patch units.  It’s beautiful, but it’s also chaos.  I had just attached that border and was holding it up to show to my children.  My oldest daughter immediately noticed a mistake on a previous border and I was amazed that I hadn’t caught it sooner.  I concluded that if I hadn’t caught it, or anyone I’d shown it to before that point (including all my friends at UCMQG) then I could probably just leave it and no one would ever really notice.  Since that day no one has pointed it out.

But it got me thinking, and looking at what I’d made so far.


Suddenly I realized that I’d quilted my life!  I couldn’t have created something that more closely mirrored my life story if I’d intentionally set out to tell it.  It was quite a moment for me, to look at the center of that quilt and every subsequent border and see my life represented so perfectly by them.  From the near-perfectly pieced 8 pointed star in the center to the paper pieced arrows, so much of my life was based on the idea that if I was careful and good and did my best, things would always work out.  I don’t mean the working out that comes from living through things, but the innocent idea that things would work out the way I wanted them to.  Pretty.  Neat.  Orderly.  Perfect family, adorable children, etc.  I thought that if I sent my arrows in the right direction they would all fly straight and true and hit my mark.  I really did.  I get that it’s funny, but it was 100% me.  And then I entered motherhood.  It worked for a while, right up until I had six kids.  That was when I started noticing things not completely coming together all the time.  I forgot things, messed them up. missed them entirely.  Not that I hadn’t made mistakes along the way.  But perfectionism worked pretty well for me until I had six kids.  Then came my unraveling, little by little.  Babies 7 and 8 finished the job and I’ve been trying to find my way ever since.

What a revelation, to see it all playing out there in my quilt.

By that time, I’d already made border #6 and I sewed it on, still pondering the whole thing.


Those two borders, numbers five and six (six is the flying geese border pointing to the outer edges of the quilt), are where I live.  It’s my current stage.  Beautiful and busy and full of good things, but totally crazy.  I’m forever trying to push my way out of it to some sort of calm – any sort of calm.  I guess I’d really like the calm where I feel like I get to resume the “once upon a time” narration of my life, the idea that I have a story to tell and I’m in charge of how it turns out.  Wouldn’t we all like that?  Believe me, with 8 children in our family and all the surprises that daily land in my lap, sometimes I’m crazy for the feeling that I can see even ONE THING through to completion without it being changed beyond recognition.  Some days I think I’m getting there, like our family is getting to a calmer, more manageable stage, and then life rises up like a tidal wave and sends me crashing back into the middle of border 5.

Making this quilt taught me that where I live, crazy as it is, is beautiful, and necessary, and OK.


Every border I added after that point, in addition to being aesthetically pleasing to me, also became a statement of faith.  A promise to myself that I will finish the job, stay the course, and that things will work out for the best.  Not the way I pictured, but far better than I pictured.  Each border represents something specific that I won’t go into here, but they represent a great deal to me.  Those borders are my statement that “the best is yet to come,” that motherhood is awesome, and that I’m excited to see it all unfold.


The quilt measures nearly 85 inches square, a huge project to quilt myself, but I felt compelled to do it.  I tried a different style of free motion quilting on every border, some with more success than others, but I did it.  Somewhere in the middle the whole project had become a spiritual experience for me and I wanted to say that I’d stitched every stitch myself.  If this quilt is like my life story, I couldn’t ask someone else to bring it to life through the quilting.


And actually, with all the mistakes, I’m crazy proud of it.  It’s heavily quilted.  I wanted to quit so many times but kept going.  I learned a lot and got better at what I was doing.  It was an awesome experience and I LOVE how it looks.


In fact, I think this is the first quilt I’ve made that I would call an heirloom.  It’s the first quilt I’ve set out so I can look at it every day.  I usually roll up my quilts and add them to the bucket in the family room for snuggling.  I’m ok with them getting spilled on and being loved.  They become part of the fabric of our family life which is, as I stated, messy.  Not this one.  It hangs on a ladder in my room and I see it every day and smile.  It reminds me that I’m in.  No matter how hard it feels, I’m in, and we’re going to make it.  I love this quilt.  There will never be another just like it and it’s totally, completely, ME.


I pieced one more arrow block and embroidered it for use as a quilt label.  It says:

Life Story Medallion Quilt – Jennifer S. Harrison begun January 2013, finished February 2014 inspired by modern medallion challenge of Utah County Modern Quilt Group I usually finish my bindings by machine to avoid aggravating an old elbow injury, but this one I finished by hand.  And of course, it had to be a black and white binding!


It’s done.  Someday I hope to take better pictures of it, but for tonight my heart is happy to have these photos and to share it here.  It’s a great way to sum up the year and say good-bye to 2014.

Life is great, isn’t it?!
Jennifer Previous posts about this quilt:

Lone Star Block Tutorial Arrow Arrows Border 4 Medallion Border 5 Modern Medallion Progress Medallion: Pluses and Arrows Medallion:  Arrows and Orange Medallion Quilt Top Collecting


  • Dawn Nelson

    She’s a lovely piece of art and am certain she will be very cherished as she lives out her life with your family. Gorgeous and worth the effort.

  • Anita

    Love your quilt! It’s definitely an heirloom.

  • Alana

    Your quilt is wonderful. I love all of the colors. There is so much going on, and it all blends together in a beautiful way.

  • So pretty! I love it, and I love the back so much too. I hope I can learn how to quilt like that from you. I have no idea how to do free motion at all. I love you. It will all work out in the end. xo

  • This is so inspirational! It is so hard to find modern scappy quilt ideas. I really like that you added the second arrow border. So cool!

  • Shelley

    Love your medallion star quilt. Also like or love many others you have made. Yes, it would be nice if everything would go as smoothly as planned, but then we would miss al the learning experiences given to us in life and the opportunity to grow from them.

  • Hi Jennifer ~ I absolutely love the quilt! It is beautiful!! The story behind how it came about is heartwarming. Keep up the work, and as I’m told, imperfections make the quilt that much more special!

  • Cala

    It is a beautiful thing to be satisfied with who you are and where you are at any given time in your life.
    In Afrikaans there is a word for this satisfaction…TEVREDE….and that is the name of my house 🙂
    Love your quilt!

  • I love this quilt (and as a general rule, I’m not really a fan of medallion quilts) and I love the story of it (and see so many similarities in your life’s story…)
    Congratulations on such a lovely finish and beautiful heirloom. (and your beautiful, lovely, crazy, full life)

  • Your quilt is just exquisite. My website hasn’t been updated since my brother passed away almost a year ago but your quilt has given me the impetus to start again. Thank you so much. It’s absolutely gorgeous and I want to make one like it.

  • Fran MacPhail

    Lovely quilt and your story in it is heart warming. What a moment that was when you realized how much was in the quilt. It really tells a family history/story. Many thanks for sharing that enlightenment.

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