“Sewing and quilting have been a part of my life since I was seven years old. My mother started to teach me because her mother had taught her. Through the years, I developed those skills, becoming a teacher and designer. Each and every project utilized the same basic skills, but regardless of the project or student, they were all unique and required trying new things. Medicine is similar. Much of what is taught occurs from an experienced physician to a novice. As experience is gained, many of the daily tasks require the same basic skills, but the need to continue to improve and better care for your patients continues to push you to try and learn new things.
In my nearly two decades of learning new sewing skills, I had never learned a technique called paper-piecing. This technique is considered to be an advanced technique used to create sewn objects with many pieces of various shapes. Without the skills that I have honed over time, I would have failed in attempting this technique for a project. Because it was a new technique, I asked a fellow seamstress to explain the basics to me. Once she did so, I attempted the technique on my own, making many mistakes along the way, but improving and becoming confident by the end of the first section of the heart quilt. Two weeks later, I was able to help my own mother, an avid paper-piece quilter, continue to refine her own skills. I realized that this mimicked the method of education in medicine—see, do, and teach.
The quilt increases in meaning based on the materials that were chosen. There are four generations of fabric. The first is a piece of fabric that I inherited from my grandmother. My grandmother was a force to be reckoned with, receiving a college education in an era where women did not. The second is fabric from my mother. The third is the fabric that I bought for one of my first solo design projects. The fourth-generation fabrics were all used in projects for various nieces and nephews. These fabrics are different fibers, different weaves, and different weights, increasing the difficulty of the project. Regardless of the background, each fabric was an essential part of the quilt.
I had hoped to learn paper piecing. I not only learned that skill but learned that medicine, just like sewing, is based on heritage and the desire to improve. This project, just like the art of learning medicine, was not easy. Mistakes are made, it takes time, it takes effort, and it has physical tolls. But, the benefit far outweighs the difficulties. This quilt symbolizes the many different facets of medical education and of being a physician.”