Melissa Averinos

Artist: Melissa Averinos

Title: My Brother’s Jeans
Modern Quilt Guild

The denim in this quilt is from my brother Michael’s work jeans, which I rescued from the dumpster after his suicide in 2009.
I’m OK  talking about it and it’s important to do so. There is still such a stigma around suicide and depression so I try to do my part to make it approachable and not scary. I didn’t intend for the quilt to be a statement. I am just open about stuff and it would have been weird to not say where the jeans were from. I don’t think all quilts, or all modern quilts, need to have a story to be beautiful or powerful, but when they do intrinsically have a story, why not tell it?

Instead of choosing the ‘good’ parts of the jeans, I was more drawn to  the stained and the torn parts. I’m a lifelong artist and maker so I come to sewing with a different background from many quilters. I use fabric, thread and a sewing machine like I use any other medium. I work from my heart and see what happens. When I paint, I don’t draw it out first—I just dive in with my colors and brushes and see what comes up. I quilt the same way. I love improv piecing, it’s the only kind I do. Following a pattern is not fun for me. I’m in it for the process of figuring out how to make it as I go and seeing what happens naturally. We all quilt for different reasons and they are all valid. We should make the quilts we want to make, and respect other quilters for doing the same.

I improvisationally pieced the crosses, which resemble a variation on the traditional nine patch. Grid quilting creates echoes of the cross motif, as well as references my brother’s work as a tile installer. This quilt was a joy to work on, as I love worn materials and find beauty in forgotten and discarded things.

As with my paintings, I’m not concerned with perfection—which is why it never occurred to me that I would win any quilting awards

Melissa’s quilt, My Brother’s Jeans was honored as Best in Show at QuiltCon 2016.