Friday, March 24, 2023

The Extra X / Beauties Pageant 209


As many of you know, I have the privilege of raising a son with Down syndrome. This past week, on March 21, my family and I celebrated our special guy, along with the rest of the DS community, for World Down Syndrome Day.

I introduced the quilting community to my personal experience raising a child with special needs back in 2018, when I shared my 47XY+21 project. And, really, I thought that was the only quilt I would make on the subject. When I was designing the PDF pattern for my Still Pretty Simple Jelly Roll Quilt, however, I realized that the blocks could be arranged to form an X, and that sparked an idea for a second quilt.

Down syndrome is caused by a genetic anomaly at conception (or very soon thereafter) that causes an extra chromosome on the 21st pair of a person’s chromosomes. Chromosomes are often depicted as Xs because they take on that shape during mitosis, so this quilt and the large X on it pay tribute to my son’s bonus chromosome.

I suspect that’s what many people who meet him first see: his disability and how that plays out in his life. But the message of this project is found in the quilting. In a process detailed here, I FMQed 20 different words and phrases over this 62-inch by 70-inch quilt:

  • Son
  • Brother
  • Grandson
  • Nephew
  • Friend
  • Neighbor
  • Student
  • Classmate
  • Reader
  • Explorer
  • Comedian
  • Animal lover
  • Music lover
  • Dancer
  • Basketball player
  • Bowler
  • Mini-golfer
  • Train aficionado
  • Trick-show enthusiast
  • Child of God

The quilting was my way of telling the world that you don’t have to look too hard to see that there’s much more to my son than his diagnosis. He’s a son, a brother, a friend, a student, and many other things that enrich both his life and the lives of those around him.

It’s important to me to shed light on what it’s like raising a child with special needs. I never would have self-selected for this challenge, but my son’s birth and diagnosis have been some of the best things to happen to me. Raising this child has changed me as a wife, a mother, and a person. And the world is a better place with my son in it. 

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  1. I'm linking to a post from a couple days ago where I had a finished top. I didn't know you had a son with Down's. I have a cousin and wife who are raising a son as well with Down's I can see he gives them and all around plenty of joy in their life's -

  2. That is a spectacular way to share your important message about the person your son is. Thank you.

  3. This is a beautiful tribute to your son and your love for him. What a beautiful quilt, and the words - they are the best!! I love that you see him

  4. I love that you prompt us to look deeper, Michelle, and I am the better for knowing you. <3

  5. What a beautiful way to spread that message! Really impressive quilting too. xo

  6. I saw this on Instagram and think you did a lovely job of paying tribute to your son with Down Syndrome. What nice attributes to recognize, and keep as a remembrance. You've demonstrated yet another way that quiltmaking is a special art and craft.

  7. What a wonderful quilt Michelle; I LOVE the quilted-in words. For 15 of my 30-odd years of teaching, my classroom was beside a special needs classroom, and it was eye-opening and heartwarming to be so situated. What you wrote about only seeing a person's disability is so true, and really resonated with me. Last night while reclining on the couch (migraine), I stumbled upon a new show on CBC called 'Push'. It's the first show in Canadian history in which disabled persons star; every one of them is in a wheelchair. And it's filmed in my hometown of Edmonton, Alberta! I'll be streaming the episodes I missed. Also you mentioned proceeds from a pattern going to a Down syndrome (maybe Jack's Basket) organization. Can you let me know which one/what post please? I went back through a bunch of yours and couldn't find it. Thank you!

  8. What a brilliant idea Michelle. You do such an awesome job communicating special messages through your quilts!

  9. Thank you for sharing your story and your quilt is an amazing way to convey your message. Well done


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