It's A Bird, It's a Plane, It's a Super-Quilt from the Past

comments (22) June 25th, 2008     

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MichaelaMurphy Michaela Murphy, contributor
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This superhero quilt, made by Jill Snodgrass, was more than thirty years in the making.
That Superman curl slays me every time I look at it.
Check out the Dare Devils muscles.
This superhero quilt, made by Jill Snodgrass, was more than thirty years in the making.

This superhero quilt, made by Jill Snodgrass, was more than thirty years in the making.

Photo: Gregg Snodgrass

When I first met my boyfriend's mother, Jill (I like to call her my mother-in-law-ish and she likes to tell me she's waiting to drop that last hyphen), it was like meeting my crafty godmother. My own mother hated to make anything (including dinner), but it was because of her that I took my first sewing class at age nine (she had dropped out only to discover that there were no refunds so she sent me in her stead) and that sewing class changed my life. My mother would watch me sew with a mixed look of maternal pride and total confusion that anyone would ever want to actually make something when the mall was right down the street. I knew I had created something special when my mother would gasp, "Oh, you could get top dollar for that Kayla!"

I always envied my prom-mates in their handsewn one-of-kind gowns, while they regarded their dresses with shame and coveted my off-the-rack-and-on-every-girl-in-America prom style. So when I met Jill, an ardent omni-crafter, I was thrilled. We both knew, from direct experience, just how much work went into the other's creations and we looked at each other with a mutual crafter's respect.

One day Jill casually asked me if I had ever seen the Superheroes quilt? When I told her no, she went on to tell me that when my boyfriend, Gregg, was about five years old he loved to draw and he especially loved to use his superhero collection as inspirational models. Jill presented him with several pieces of muslin and some permanent marking pens and had him create portraits of his faves. When he was finished, the muslins sat in her crafting room for months until she stuffed them into a bag and then deep into a closet. Cut to thirty years later, Gregg had a new daughter of his own and Jill was going to give him cash for Christmas but wanted to make him something to open—that's when she rediscovered the superhero drawings. She made a simple nine-block quilt, using the squares from thirty years ago. When Gregg's daughter, Elliott, saw it she fell in love with it and it has been on her bed for the last few years. Now that I have seen it (and completely swooned, analyzed, and adored it), we all regard it as a family treasure. Well... Elliott and I do. Gregg seems shyly amused that we love it so much. He remembers his mother handing him the markers and how deeply the word "permanent" impressed him. "I didn't want to make any mistakes because they would be forever." I love hearing that, because to me it is the "mistakes" that give the quilt its charm.

Recently I asked Jill if she ever imagined way back then that she would end up making such a cool present to give years later. She laughed and said, "Oh, it really was just to give Gregg something to do and keep him busy during school break. After, I couldn't get rid of them, they were so sweet, so I just held onto them. I had no plan or idea until I saw them years later after Elliott was born. I wanted to remind him that he was once a little boy and it's nice because it just worked out this way."


posted in: superhero

Comments (22)

sarahsmith82110 writes: Beautiful story Michaela :)
Posted: 2:22 am on August 28th
BestFriend writes: This is a great story. I've known Jill for many years and had not heard this story. It is "typical Jill" to (once she had the idea for the quilt) seek help at a quilt shop and carry through with the project. Although she is a very accomplished seamstress, quilting was new to her. "Can't do" is not part of Jill's vocabulary. She has been blessed with the determination and the ability to accomplish anything she becomes interested in doing. What a great way to remind Greg that he was "once a little boy".
Posted: 12:50 pm on July 5th
brquilter writes: I love the superheros! Way to go Jill! I started this summer off with my 6 year old grandson drawing pictures of things we are doing. He is just using his washable markers on paper that I cut to 8" square, the size I want to use for the blocks. I will scan them into the computer and then print them on fabric. I thought it would be easier to toss a piece of paper if he didn't like what he drew, than a piece of fabric. After scanning, I can change the size if I want to. He has already chosen fabric to use with the blocks, I think we will make some nine patches to go with the pictures.
Posted: 8:30 am on July 5th
MistahKurtzHeDead writes: That's a beautiful story and a fantastic quilt. But is it washable? Is it completely "permanent"? It's such a great idea to have kids design their own whatevers.
Posted: 3:12 pm on July 3rd
sukilover writes: i just went on the Craftstylish website and read the
article...well done!
this is the best reminds me that i
have the best mom in the entire world who paid such
great attention. and that Gregg was the sweetest boy. i
can see him at the dining room table drawing. he was
always drawing.
and he was adorable...still is!
thanks Michaela for interviewing Mom and bringing back
great memories!

Posted: 2:39 pm on June 27th
MarySw writes: Jill, you just gave me permission to save my "stuff" and not feel guilty if I don't get around to finishing it for a few years.
What a great gift for your son/granddaughter!
Posted: 6:35 pm on June 26th
coll214 writes: That's so cute!! I actually made myself 2 years ago a T-shirt quilt out of my old concert t-shirts and i love it. Its my pride and joy of my projects so far!!
Posted: 2:57 pm on June 26th
hillsy writes: I had to send this to my mother-in-law (she was my mother-in-law-ish for a long long long mother even called my now husband her sin-in-law) as soon as I read this. My husband had a huge and ever growing pile of t-shirts he couldn't part with, and his mom made a great quilt out of them. And it's not just perfect squares of t-shirts cut out...there's lots of asymmetry and non-angular shapes, and toasty flannel on the back. It has everything from his little league shirts to concert shirts from the 80's to shirts from various jobs he has had. It really is a little like "this is your life" and clarly made with a whole lotta love, and for some reason, that makes it all the more warm and snuggly! And already our almost 5 month old seems really drawn to it, so I hope it will span the generations like Gregg and Elliott's quilt. Great story, Michaela.
Posted: 1:05 pm on June 26th
MissMaggie writes: Wow, what a lovely article and such a neat project. Way to go, Jill!
Posted: 12:46 pm on June 26th
Rachel_P writes: What a cool story. Its so nice that something that Greg did when he was six can be passed on to his daughter now . This storys very inspiring it shows us that even the simpelest things like drawing on a piece of paper can lead into something extradonary later. Also major props to everyone involved in this, especially the editor Michaela Murphy .
Posted: 10:25 am on June 26th
MaeveQ writes: I've been checking out this site from the beginning, but when I saw this quilt I just HAD to comment. What an amazing story! I love how this adorable quilt has such long history--and that it keeps on going ! It made me cry to read the posts from the two creators! This so cool and thanks for doing it like this. I LOVE to make things and it is great to hear the 'backstory' as well as see the project. I am going to try this with my nieces. Thanks Craftstylish, and Jill and Gregg and Micheala
Posted: 10:03 am on June 26th
MarySw writes: Jill, you've just given me permission to keep "stuff" and not feel bad if I don't get around to working on it for years!
What a great gift this was for your son and granddaughter.

Posted: 6:38 am on June 26th
jillsnodgrass writes: How see "my" quilt on a GREAT web site. When I had Gregg draw these super heros,it was my intent to make a quilt, but I think I was afraid to try it as I did not know where to start. At that time, quilting was kind of a "lost art" from my Mother's generation. When I finally had the nerve to do it, quilting was everywhere and it was easy to find a quilt shop and get the help I needed. Superman w/"the" curl....what memories to see it again. It was almost like Gregg's trademark. Michaela, with her gift of writing and a way with words has created an article that has pleased me beyond words. Thank you both....
Jill Snodgrass
Posted: 1:18 am on June 26th
Karleen writes: Jill and I have been best friends since High School. She has never spoken to me about this quilt but it does not surprise me at all that she would have saved these pictures so she might later turn it into a quilt for Elliot. I am thrilled to be able to see it.
Posted: 12:39 am on June 26th
bklynboy writes: Wow!
It's about time my mom received some props for the awesome projects she's accomplished in our lives. The quilt was a pretty cool X-mas gift. Total mind blower.
But this project almost never happened. At six years old, working with the unfamiliar elements...(fabric v. paper, permanent marker v. pencil) thinking back, I was pretty intimidated by the permanent marker and the "mistake factor". That's a lot of pressure.....a PERMANENT mistake....and I'm six.
Thanks again, mom.
And thanks for the article you guys!
Posted: 11:32 pm on June 25th
madeline_mcrae writes: Oh! I LOVE this project (and the way it tells a story--so cool!) and Jill has given me a great thing to do with my kids this summer. I've never quilted anything before but this would be the perfect gift for my parent's fiftieth anniversary later on this year. Imagine a quilt made by me and their grandkids? And we were thinkging a big screen TV! Thank you Jill and thanks for posting this!
Posted: 11:04 pm on June 25th
MichaelaMurphy writes: Thanks, I am so pleased to hear that Jill's quilt has served as an inspiration. I encourage you to try your hand at it--and then I hope that you'll post your finished piece in our gallery!By the way, there are some great quilting starter projects and tips for newbies in the quilting section. Plus, Mary Ray has a beginner terrific project post there. Let me know if you have any questions.
Posted: 10:49 pm on June 25th
minimax writes: A very interesting story about this quilt and to think I can call the quilter a friend. I have another friend that would frame pictures her children drew.
Posted: 9:16 pm on June 25th
ShiningStar writes: What a sweet story. The quilt is adorable. It's so funny how Jill had a great idea but didn't realize it.
Posted: 3:44 pm on June 25th
Skymom writes: I love this! Wonderful story, fabulous quilt. And it gives me a great idea or two, also: I have a son who loves to draw, and now I think I'll see if he'd like to make some of his funny little characters permanent, too. This would give me impetus to make my first quilt. Gulp--I've avoided quilting so far. It only seems fair, though--his little sister gets more than her share of custom-made things in the way of pretty dresses and doll clothes. I can bite the bullet and make a quilt, right?
Posted: 2:01 pm on June 25th
Asia_Tatiana writes: I agree with Jen W. What a great thing to do with the kids! Your story made me LOL.
Posted: 9:53 am on June 25th
Jen_W writes: Cutest. Thing. Ever.
Posted: 12:30 am on June 25th
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