DIY: NBC Making It: Crafting, Competition & Quilts?

August 6, 2018

I’ve crafted on television before but nothing really prepares you for crafting in a competition…on television…on a show with Amy Poehler…and Nick Offerman…and two judges who will decide your fate. Yeah. Nothing prepares you for being on NBC Making It.

When I arrived to the set of Making It, I thought for sure I’d know at least one of my fellow craftmates. I think I was sort of hoping to know someone. The same way you hope one of your classmates goes to the same summer camp as you  – so you won’t have to eat lunch alone or go to the pool on your own. Because, let’s be honest, there’s nothing worse than wearing your new bathing suit in front of a bunch of summer camp strangers, right? Well, it turned out that I knew exactly zero of the Making It cast members and instead of sporting my new summer two piece, I would be displaying my DIY know-how for all to see and all I could think was: “This group is surely more skilled and talented than me. I mean, Billy looks like a jack of all trades, I overheard Jeff saying something about paper quilling and Khiem has a tattoo of a film strip on his arm, which definitely makes him the most ride-or-die creative person I’ve ever met.” I’ll spare you the remaining internal monologue but I’m sure you can fill in the rest. Moral of the story is this: when you land on a crafting competition show, there’s a palpable nervousness in the air as you prepare to show all your cards…or in this case, your crafts.

By now, you’ve seen the premiere episode of Making It, where Nick and Amy challenge us to first, create a 3D animal representation of ourselves (our Secret Beast) and later, create a modern interpretation on a family heirloom quilt and photo album. Yeah – just your average, everyday timed crafting challenge. No biggie. Are you sensing the sarcasm here?

Fortunately, nothing forges friendships faster than being confined to a barn with a group of likeminded makers who’ve been issued the same challenge. But even as the jokes and stories fly across the room, you’ve gotta stay focused. In my case, that meant staying focused on one particular paper quilt that just wouldn’t quit. Through the beauty of television and for the sake of your sanity, hours of quilt crafting were trimmed down to mere minutes (I can assure you there is nothing riveting about thirteen hours of cutting and embossing square pieces of paper) – but if I know you like I think I know you, there’s a part of you that is curious about the nitty gritty details of that paper quilt. You want to talk shop about that quilt and how it came together. Or maybe it’s just me and my chronic need to overshare. Either way, we’re about to dive deep into paper quilting, because when else am I going to have a chance to talk about the time I made a paper quilt on NBC.

Nothing forges friendships faster than being confined to a barn with a group of likeminded makers who’ve been issued the same challenge.

When we were given the assignment to make a quilt, I knew paper would be my go-to. It’s the material I’m most comfortable with and I knew I could add some cool texture to it. The design of the quilt would be inspired by an heirloom quilt created by my great-aunt who died at the age of 107! Her original quilt had bright colors (it must run in the family) and featured a few key quilt block patterns. The blocks on her quilts were quilt codes used on The Underground Railroad – with one code representing a “safe house.” I have to assume that this particular pattern was passed down from her family, who were owned as slaves.

(can we all pause for a brief side-eye for the captions on this info-graphic! Is it me, or did they manage to make the Underground Railroad sound like a game of choose your own adventure!?)

It would have probably made for great television if I’d told this story on Making It, but if there is one thing I know, it’s this: you cannot, I repeat, CAN.NOT. be the only black person on a show and start talking slavery in the first fifteen minutes of the premiere episode. You just can’t do it. It’s basically lesson one in the Handbook of Being Black on Television.

So without saying anything about it on camera,  I cozied up to a stack of cardstock and got familiar with my craft knife for the better part of 8 hours to create a modern take on my aunt’s heirloom quilt.  It was a challenge unlike anything I’ve tackled before. Each piece of each paper quilt block had to be cut by hand and assembled like a puzzle. After that, I used a manual die cutting/embossing machine to emboss each block – that’s what made the paper look like fabric. I’m still pretty obsessed with how these turned out. On the show, I stitched the entire quilt together with gold thread. I loved the way it turned out but let me go on record now as saying I will never do this again. If someone asks me to do it, I will promptly ask for her social security number, her mother’s maiden name and her left ovary.

I used an…embossing machine..that’s what made the paper look like fabric

Now that it’s been some time since I created that paper quilt on national television, I did muster up the chutzpah to give paper quilting another whirl – but this time on a smaller scale.

This time around, I created nine blocks and placed them in a frame. I used the same cutting and embossing technique as I used on Making It, but dialed back the time commitment significantly. If you’re itching to create your own paper quilt, I’d suggest picking out five or six colors of cardstock and sticking to that color scheme throughout. This will give your project a cohesive look .

Pick out five or six colors of cardstock…this will give your project a cohesive look

If you’re looking for an even easier solution, you can create a knockoff version of this paper quilt by grabbing your Cricut machine and downloading a quilt block SVG on Etsy.  Just search “quilt block svg,”  upload the file into Cricut Design Space, and cut it out on your machine. The result won’t be quite as colorful or intricate but you will have saved a lot of time!

Search “Quilt Block SVG” on Etsy to get a similar effect in less time

Never did I think I would (or could) make something as time consuming and intricate as that paper quilt, but I did it and loved it. I guess that’s what Making It really boils down to – challenging our creative minds to do the unthinkable.

…or maybe they just wanted to see what happens when eight strangers are picked to work in a barn to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting crafty…or something like that.

15 thoughts on “NBC Making It: Crafting, Competition & Quilts?”

  1. I watched the show a second time last night. This time with my husband. He liked it! I loved your quilt. When you mentioned here about the underground railroad I immediately thought “why didn’t she say that on tv?”. So now I get it.

  2. I’m curious, did you all have any hints before the show what the challenges were going to be? I only wonder because the lady brought those pillow cases and everyone brought family photos.

  3. I love your project so much! Thank you for sharing the Underground Railway story. I wish you’d shared that, but I totally respect your reasoning.

  4. OMG what a lot of work you put into that quilt with the embossing, stitching, etc! It was so beautiful and a wonderful tribute to your Great Aunt. There’s no way the viewer gets the hours you put into it by the short amount time you have to present it. You did great, and I can’t imagine the pressure. I did not know the story of the quilt codes on the Underground Railroad. I was fascinated to learn that story, but at the same time it makes me sad that you weren’t able to share that. Some day…….

  5. Wow. I’m practically in tears. Thanks for sharing the story behind this amazing heirloom. You were great, and I loved all of your projects!

  6. While watching the show I thought your quilt was Awesome! Now with the history you provided it is infinitely greater! I had no idea they used quilt codes! Your great aunt must have been an amazing lady! Apparently AMAZING is in your genes. 🙂
    I am looking forward to the show tomorrow evening! I can’t imagine what the next challenges will be! But I know you will be great!

  7. Amber , when I saw the commecials/preview of the show…..all I could say was i know her from her blog and Create.
    I was amazed by your projects and can’t wait to see what’s next. I wish you all the best!

  8. Oh Amber, thank you for sharing this piece of history, I totally understand why you did not share it on T.V. It is a wonderful tribute to your Great Aunt and a true labor of love. I don’t blame you for not wanting to make another one so intricate and appreciate you scaling it down for others to give it a try. I just rewatched the episode. Love the unicorn and the fun box album. Cannot wait to this weeks episode! Thanks for all you share!!

  9. Wow! This is a great story. Love your quilt even more now. Sad that you weren’t able to talk about it’s meaning on the show – that sucks. You have a wonderful way of making it humorous and understandable to all, so maybe there will be future stories you can tell? Hope so. Can’t wait to watch tomorrow!

  10. I love the quilt and definitely want to try making a wall piece for my home. We should be at a point where we can be comfortable speaking freely about the realities of African-American history on a craft reality show or not. You are a rockstar and I bet you could’ve told your Aunt’s story with grace and class. 😉 But as a black female technology engineer…I totally understand your hesitation; but often we are the only ones around to speak up.

    I can’t wait for tonight’s show!

  11. Congrats on the badge girl. You are doing a great job. I just found out about the crafting during commercials bit and will be watching for the next episode next Tuesday. Keep up the great job.

  12. I actually missed the very first episode, but caught the next one.

    I
    Love
    This
    Show!

    I had no clue about the quilt block meanings for the Underground Railroad. Amazing & fascinating.

    Your paper quilt v2 is really cute.

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