Reclamation Project I: Woman

Reclamation Project

Discussion, Quilts

Inspiration Song & Lyrics

Sarah McLachlan’s “Possession”

trying to find an honest word to find
the truth enslaved

Uncomfortable in My Own Skin: Reclamation Project I

Censored Heavily
Viewed my feelings as weakness
Tried to be a man

Reclamation Project I
Reclamation Project I

I worked hard to boil my inspiration haiku down to the elements that really matter, but there is a striking omission: the pronoun. I believe that leaves the poem open to your own interpretation, especially when viewed in context with the mini quilt that accompanies the poem. However, I want to be clear that the pronoun as intended when I wrote the haiku is “I”. I am uncomfortable with the idea of being a woman, so I censored myself heavily. I viewed my feelings as a weakness, and I tried to “man up”. These were choices I actively made.

The first photograph of the quilt (above) was taken with the mini quilt on cracked stucco. As I was making the quilt, I was also thinking of others. I believe that men are asked to conform to an image or standard that is very confining and rigid, hence the extra quilted lines boxing in “MAN”. These internal struggles and stresses are hurtful and result in cracks in our facades.

Reclamation Project I
Reclamation Project I

I used my walking foot to quilt curved lines between the letters. On the left hand side of the quilt, I used a 50wt Aurifil #2000 (light sand) thread that blends in to the Kona Oyster background. On the right hand side, I used a 50wt Mettler #675 (imperial blue) thread. I wanted the vertical lines to interplay to evoke a sense of personal interactions and wave reflections that lead to distortions. I love the spaces left unquilted; they remind me of arches in grand cathedrals and speak to me of sacred, of space, of reflection.

Reclamation Project I
Reclamation Project I

The thoughts and emotions behind this process are raw, so the letters are raw edge appliqued down. I used Pellon 805 to fuse the letters to the background and applied Pellon 931TD on the backside of the fabric to help stabilize everything before blanket stitching around the letters prior to quilting.

Reclamation Project I
Reclamation Project I

I did not bury my threads. I chose to pull them to the top or bottom, tie them off, and clip them short. Again, I wanted this to have a slightly unfinished and raw feeling.

Reclamation Project I
Reclamation Project I

There are two layers of batting underneath the letters so that they puff out and away more than the rest of the quilt. I quilted pretty densely over the black line using a 50wt Mettler #003 (black) thread to smash down that area and have the “WO” puff up more and be softer around the harder lines surrounding them.

Reclamation Project I
Reclamation Project I

I sized the mini quilt so that it would hang on the wall just in front of my sewing machine as a reminder to embrace all of myself. The mini finished out at 19 inches wide by 16 inches tall.

Reclamation Project I
Reclamation Project I

Fabrics Used

  • Background and Backing: Kona Oyster
  • Letters and Binding: Kona Marine
  • Strikeout: Kona Black

Thread Used

  • 50wt Aurifil #2000 (light sand)
  • 50wt Mettler #675 (imperial blue)
  • 50wt Mettler #003 (black)


  • I don’t know your man story. But I lived the majority of my life attempting to be accepted as “one of the guys”. When I became a mother, I gave up working out in the world. I had been a millwright and welder. It was a difficult adjustment. It was not until I became a quilter and found an outlet for my creativity that I began to again feel like a person.

  • This is a great post. What a meaningful mini. I can definitely see this turning into a series and displayed somewhere, showing both the quilts and the haikus. Are you planning on continuing this vein?

  • Very powerful message in such a cute mini. I think every woman has a point or time in their lives where they try to downplay their female side. For me, it was when I was a professional stage manager. During rehearsals and with my actors it was okay to be more myself but once we got into the actual theater, my union crews were always all men, and usually much older than me. I had to “man up” in order to be taken seriously and respected. I think that’s why they were always so shocked on opening night to see me dressed up for the red carpet style opening night party. That was always one of my favorite aspects of working on a show – reminding my crew that I can deal with all the crap they try to dish out but when it’s all said and done, I’m still a girly-girl underneath!

  • I spent 40 years working in the insurance industry which is second only to the banking industry that is predominately male at the upper levels. There were many times that I was reminded that I was just a woman. I wish I had had the strength (and support) to fight harder to make my goals. In the end, I feel that I have extracted my revenge by raising two awesome and strong daughters who are succeeding where I did not.

  • This is art Yvonne. Making with meaning and personal at that. Add on some masterful, THOUGHFUL design and construction. Well it doesn’t get much better then that. Look forward to seeing and hearing more about where this is rooted for you. Are you feeling exhausted or liberated? Meaningful making sometimes makes me feel both. Bravo, my friend-more please


  • What a lovely bathtub! Our house has only a shower in the master and we hate it, I dream of having a relaxing, inviting, calming space like yours! I love the level of detail and thought you put into this quilt, every aspect as meaning. I think most women, especially in professional environments, can relate to it–the pressure to be more assertive, strong, less emotional and sensitive. But there is such a double standard–when women act more assertive and less emotional they are perceived as a bitch, or over compensating. I really like how you boxed in ‘man’–our society definitely tries to define men as always strong, even through emotional situations. My relationship with Matt is often opposite of the norm–where I am the less emotional, more assertive one and he is the more emotional and sensitive. I have a highschool friend that is currently going through a gender change from he to she, and it has been fascinating to see (through FB posts)–like puberty all over again, something I dread the thought of. Your quilt reminded me of her, and the lack of pronouns, and how the quilt could be remade with the WO fading ombre style into the MAN. I love your use of thread to bring focus to the words and create interesting lines and texture.

  • a beautiful, meaningful work of art. there are many interpretations of the struggle to fulfill the societal image of a “woman” so many can relate, especially me. thanks for this. and i look forward to more in the series. xo

  • This says so much. Beautiful work, and I am obsessed with your quilting. As someone who has always been taller than many females AND males, and as someone who doesn’t mind voicing their opinion, I can very much relate.

  • Wow! Great post, Yvonne! Very thought provoking and the way you translated your haiku into a mini is so seamless! Thanks for sharing and I can’t wait to read more in your series!

  • Very thought provoking. I have never wanted to be a man or manly. I once had a fake tattoo (think paint) and it was the Japanese character for woman. I am woman, hear me roar (or clap politely as Hillary suggests).
    Brilliant work as always. I am off to ponder this more deeply.

  • Story of my working life … mining engineering = man’s world … I had to learn to converse, but I ended up converting … but trying to be more of a lady now that I am a mother of girls. Swings and round-a-bouts.

  • Love your quilting on this, how its mirrored works really well in the lettering. I’m a mechanical engineer and used to being the only female or one of 2 in meetings! 4 girls graduated out of class of 80+ in my year!

  • I have been thinking about this post since Saturday. It’s so thought provoking! Your creativity astounds me and inspires me to be a better quilter. I’m going to read this again and I’ve got some more thinking to do…..

  • I’ve never felt I needed to deny my feelings, but I know that some members of my family viewed (or still view) me as weak because I’ve always shown my emotions – so it’s not necessarily just a man/woman thing. (Cause I’m a girl, you see.) Funny thing is I’ve always known that I was strong. To me, being able to share feelings and show emotions takes a lot more strength than denying or pushing them down, although timing and self-control are important considerations, and things I did need to learn to be aware if as I was growing up. I view my husband as an extremely strong person, but I fell in love with him on our second date, when he cried at Field of Dreams

  • So inspiring, Yvonne! As the STEM fields are so heavily dominated by men, I think its easy to feel a little out of place as a woman. I don’t think having those feelings makes someone week, on the contrary, expressing our feelings and thoughts makes us more powerful and certainly more interesting! I love how you were able to express your thoughts with this quilt. The thread play is brilliant. Thanks for sharing your story!

  • Oh yes, that thing. I get so irritated when I call someone about a problem and get a “no” or an “I can’t do anything about it,” but when my husband calls two minutes later he gets results. It really infuriates me. As a teacher I didn’t run into it much at work (although women have their own kind of competetiveness, which is a different subject) but because teachers are typically women, we all know the pay is crap! It’s too bad you felt you had to hide your femininity – but we do know that things change slowly. I do believe it generally gets better with each generation but only in increments.

    Your mini is quite lovely, love the quilting.

  • As your full story I don’t know and what made you always want to ‘man up’… but I do know that I have always been more of ‘one of the guys’ considering I grew up really close to my brother and my father was all about sports and ‘manning up’. Lets just say when I crashed my bike into a curb when I was about 5… I came back to the house unable to move my right arm and was crying; my dads response was, “Want me to give you something to cry about?” I laugh at it now as I understand he was frustrated with being unable to help me, but unfortunately growing up with that mentality has led me to allow anger, fear, yelling and all of the above to control my thoughts and feelings. You’re having such great reads! So uplifting! I hope you are finding your WOman self as you are beautiful and extremely talented! I think in the world we live in as we all try to live equally it is hard to define sometimes a MAN vs. WOMAN and their roles anymore.

  • Beautiful and powerful design. As a women in a traditionally male dominated field (engineering) I have felt the way you describe frequently. I am fortunate right now to work in a department of 15 people, only 3 of which are men. I must admit it took some getting used to.

  • Now this is making my original starting point, your Crave mini, more interesting still. I think a lot of women will emphasise with this post, and possibly men too. The phrase ‘Man Up’ has to be one of my most hated phrases. I think ‘Woman Up’ would be more appropriate, though still not one I’d much like! To me, the female race is incredibly strong, emotionally and physically, in so many ways. But I do think we have a lot to answer for – in not believing this strongly enough and perpetuating the ‘Man Up’ version of the sexes, we have to stop passing this down to our sons and daughters! This is definitely a Soap Box issue for me, and your mini has set me off, must be a sign that it’s successful! I hope your reclamation is working and you no longer feel that you need to ‘man up’.

I really appreciate the time and thought you take to comment, and I look forward to conversing with you. :)