Artists and Students Document Inauguration in Fabric

January 20, 2009

Download Story

People all over the Chicago region celebrated the inauguration in different ways. Some students and artists chose to remember it permanently, with needle and thread.

Follow all of our coverage from yesterday's Inauguration.

Sound of sewing

Taylor Sims bends over a sewing machine, stitching strips of red, white and blue, next to a screen print of Barack Obama's face. One of his sewing club leaders, Maggie Weiss, coaches him to keep his seams straight.

WEISS: Taylor, somebody donated some lame that's red, white and blue stripes.
STUDENTS: Oh, shiny fabric.
WEISS: Yeah, so that would make a cool Obama quilt.

Sims and several other students at Nichols Middle School in Evanston made small quilts of President Obama. They're part of a display of quilts at the Evanston Public Library to celebrate the inauguration.

Several of the quilts are red, white and blue, with images like fireworks. Others look to boldly colored African and Hawaiian fabrics, and designs of dogs, to mark Mr. Obama's heritage – and his quest for a puppy.

Sims is proud to take part in this.

SIMS: I think it's pretty cool, I'm being around to see the first of history happen. And so you don't get to see this everyday – you won't ever get to see this again.

Weiss had the idea for the quilt, and it's spreading. People in several states now have the silk-screened blocks of Mr. Obama's face that the Sewing Club made.

WEISS:  To me, it broadens the audience. If I needed an essay, that's much harder for everybody to do. But if all they have to do is assemble a very simple quilt block, anybody can do it.

Weiss says she spent Inauguration Day watching the ceremony with friends. She says she cried tears of joy like she did on and off the week after the election. She turned to quilting to express the emotion of this moment.

WEISS: Just about anything else I can think of isn't as emotional as art can be. This has been a very emotional campaign. And I think we have been stifled for the past eight years, in both expressions of disagreement and also celebration.

Weiss has a friend who's attending an inaugural ball Tuesday tonight. And she's hoping that friend can get a quilt square to the new president.

Lynette Kalsnes, WBEZ.