300 Quilts · Red, White and Blue · Shine: The Circles Quilt

I Hear America Singing

I finished the red, white and blue version (top only) of Shine: The Circle Quilt and I did it by the time of the Inauguration of our new President, my goal.

This is not my first red, white and blue quilt, nor my first Inaugural quilt. In 2005, I attended the Inauguration of President Bush while we lived in Washington, D.C.

It was a really cold day that day, and being from California, I wore long johns underneath my pants, two sweaters, gloves, a hat and scarf and I was still frozen as I spent most of the day in the 20-degree cold. When it came time to find a bathroom, that chick in the red coat behind me accosted me, admonishing me for leaving this site while the Inauguration was going on. Okey-dokey. Fevered believers, everywhere.

Fancy ticket from my Congressman, but then I scored a better one, thanks to my Congressman’s staffer:

Waaay less fancy, but lots closer to the action, as I was in North Standing, which meant I was in front of the Capitol Reflecting Pond. Unfortunately it also meant that I couldn’t see much of anything because of trees, but it was very cool to be there, anyway.

Two quilts came out of that time. The first one was a quick flannel quilt which I spread out on the floor of our apartment in Virginia and tied together while we were watching the returns come in from the Bush-Kerry political contest.

Flannel Squares on Point, quilt #58

Really stunning (haha), but I use it to this day.

D.C. Dots and Dithers, quilt #60

And this one, D.C. Dots and Dithers, which you can read about here.

But this post is about finishing the quilt top for my red, white and blue version of Shine: The Circles Quilt. I’m really happy to be at this point, and already have the backing picked out.

Because I knew I wanted to write about this on Inauguration Day, January 20th, 2021, we took it down to the most traditional government building we could think of: our very own Riverside County Courthouse. Some skate-boarding teen boys gracefully cleared out when we showed up.

I titled it after Whitman’s poem of the same name, where he asks us to listen to America, with its varied carols, and then goes on to identify the different workers he imagines, all building this great country of America (and which is always under construction). Yes, in the poem there is someone sewing, but I can imagine many more songs and carols in 2021.

Whitman probably couldn’t have imagined a female Vice-President in his day, nor women in Congress or the Senate. He wouldn’t have thought we would have women doctors, as they tend to covid-19 patients lined up working hard to breathe, a rhythmic straining that populates too many places these days.

We have carols of discord, tunes of tumult and shouting. While some of this has existed in my own home when the teenagers lived here, it feels harder when this cacophony surrounds us in our public lives during a pandemic. When it’s this noisy, it’s hard to put my head down and stitch a seam, concentrating on my own tune of color, patches and cloth.

We have our own carols, we quilters: the whir of the machine, the click of the scissors, the slice of our rotary blades through the cloth. Whitman’s genius of a poem is that he stretched to include all different kinds of work and workers, yet give us an insight into their lives, with “each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else.” Yet in our singularity, we are drawn together, “blithe and strong” all of us with our “strong melodious songs.”

I honor our tradition of presidential inaugurations. When I was there in Washington DC in person, there was a sense of excitement, of an event, of something happening that was bigger than my own tiny quarrels in my life. Being there all day made me lift my head, look around and see all those people and to realize that we can come together whether our guy won or not, and commit again to this great experiment of democracy.

And that’s why I made a red, white and blue quilt.

from here

I Hear America Singing

by Walt Whitman

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

I scanned that North Standing-Green ticket and used it as part of my label on that quilt.

18 thoughts on “I Hear America Singing

  1. I love your patriotic version of Shine : The Circles. It’s wonderful !!!!!
    Could you suggest me some lines of fabrics to sew my own quilt ?
    I wish you a very good day on 20th perhaps in Washington for the installment of your new president.
    Thanks for answering.

  2. Beautiful quilt and an expert quilt holder. Please extend my congratulations to your staff. 😊

    Because of your post I started thinking about Whitman and his attitude towards women. Given the era in which he wrote and his engagement with the abolitionist cause (indeed, engagement with progressive politics generally), I wondered about his attitude towards women’s suffrage and traditional women’s roles in the world. This question led me to a brief article from which I draw this excerpt:

    There can be no convincing critical work on Whitman and women if the ties he had with the woman’s rights movement are not taken into account. Because of the woman’s movement and the women in his life, Whitman became more sensitized to the issue of women and American democracy. Beginning with the 1856 edition of Leaves, Whitman’s poetry and prose become much more radicalized in terms of his stance towards equality. “The Primer of Words” (an 1850s manuscript published in 1904 as An American Primer) and Democratic Vistas (published by Whitman in 1871, after two of the segments had already appeared in the Galaxy) provide eloquent insights into the woman’s rights cause. Also of importance is the extensive oratory carried on by activists for woman’s rights in the decade of the 1850s. When one notes the importance that oratory played in Whitman’s mind and writing, the presence of such orators-activists-friends as Price, Davis, Rose cannot be ignored.

    Citation: https://whitmanarchive.org/criticism/current/encyclopedia/entry_746.html

    This is what what you get from a fevered, under-engaged brain of a former academic. 😁

  3. Shine is beautiful! Cindy expressed my thoughts too as I always love reading yours. Hoping for a new year where everyone’s ‘songs’ can be heard.

  4. Great story behind the scenes – bet you would have liked to be there today! The Whitman poem and Amanda Gorman’s poem today are both wonderful. And I love your Shine blocks, even if I probably will never make on. So enjoy your photos and your sharing of your thoughts/feelings.

  5. Elizabeth, this is beautiful. You do such a good job of finding the art all around us and making it relevant.

  6. A lovely quilt – congratulations! A lot of work went into that! Also a wonderful story well written. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Another masterpiece! Your work is amazing. Thanks, once again, for your eloquence and bringing these perspectives to us.

  8. Your patriotic version of Shine turned out beautifully, and your on-location photo site is absolutely perfect! I’m glad you have been able to attend an inauguration, cold as it was. No doubt you enjoyed Wednesday’s as well. I’m happy for you.

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