Member Spotlight: Jenni Grover

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When her friend suggested she try quilting, her immediate response was NO—quilting is old; it is brown, and too traditional. That is what Jenni Grover, past president of the Chicago Modern Quilt Guild, believed when her friend, a graphic designer and maker, brought up the idea. Grover thought that as an exuberant lover of color, she had no business quilting. Not too long after, Grover did learn how to quilt with her best friend, Natalie.


Jenni Grover at home with a stack of quilts she’s made. Photos courtesy of Jenni Grover.

 

“I had a sewing machine, but had only used it once,” confessed Grover. “There were a lot of basic things I didn’t know, like how to thread it, or how to insert a needle.” The two of them would meet with their friend, Brandy, who taught them quite a bit of quilting. She put together a training plan to bring them up to speed, then she led them through the step-by-step process of making a quilt. First picking the pattern, then choosing fabric, figuring out the number of blocks, learning to be efficient with the blocks, stitching, and pressing. The two friends would bring their work to Brandy and talk about any issues they were having. After creating her first snowball quilt, Grover caught what is frequently referred to in the quilting community as, “the bug.”


A pink and orange medallion quilt made by Jenni Grover as part of the Chicago MQG’s medallion sew-along.

 

Grover joined the Chicago Sewing Social and began driving up to an hour and a half to the monthly gatherings. She started sneaking away into quilting stores and researching resources to learn more online. “I really craved that community, and it was through my meeting with the Chicago Sewing Social that I was introduced to the Chicago Modern Quilt Guild,” remembers Grover. “It’s funny—my first quilt was a snowball, and I snowballed into this community just the same.”


Jenni in her home studio at her cutting table.

 

ChronicBabe was Grover’s alias online for the advocacy work she did in relation to the chronic pain she experiences with fibromyalgia. “That work was an act of creative resilience,” states Grover. “When I first received my diagnosis, fibromyalgia was considered to be a condition for older people, so when I went to support meetings as a 25-year-old, no one believed I was suffering.” Grover is now a creativity coach through her company, School of Creative Resilience. When she began making her own creative resilience plan, she started by consulting her occupational therapist. She took her sewing into the rehabilitation center and asked for posture advice to delay pain, allowing her to continue quilting with joy. “Sometimes we have to take extra steps like that so that we can take care of our body.”

 

Grover organizes her creativity by setting limits. For instance, in one sitting, she will do her best to do several different tasks so that no part of her hand is overworked. She limits herself to no longer than an hour and a half of hand sewing at a time. “I have friends who joke that if they had the same restrictions as I have, they would still work for longer, but when you have a condition like fibromyalgia, there is no prize for pushing yourself to experience pain,” explains Grover.


A Rainbow Hexie Mini made with Nicole Daksiewicz’s modern hexie method. The mini quilt was a gift for Emily Bruzzini as part of a Chicago MQG guild swap.

 

As much as pain is a part of Grover’s life—so is color, quirkiness, and a scrappy style! She gravitates towards saturated jewel tones, movement, and pushing color up against color in her quilts. “A lot of people look at my style and find that it isn’t very calming, but I find it calming.” To establish her style, Grover gains inspiration from quilters like Portland-based Jen Carlton Bailly, who is also color obsessive, bold, and full of embellishments. “I also really love Sherri Lynn Wood. She does wild stuff with improv—in one class, she will teach strong technique, and then in another, she will require that no one use a ruler.” Grover says quilting is mostly a women’s art, and women often don’t get paid adequately for the things they work very hard on. “I do my best to be a patron of good work by women.”


Epic Hexie Quilt by Jenni Grover.

 

When Grover isn’t working with other people, she is doing work that reminds her of her friends. “I’m most proud of my Epic Hexie Quilt. It was a five-year hand-pieced project, and it has 2,752 pieces made from scraps of fabric that I gathered from my friends’ stashes.” When she finished the quilt, she was in a house on Lake Michigan with some of the friends who had given her the fabric to make the quilt—they all celebrated! “There is something so calming and meditative and satisfying about following a routine and finishing something—I really like finishing a thing, an entire thing.” The project was her first hand-sewn quilt top, and it has a fantastic variety of fabrics in it. She did hire someone to do the quilting, but everything else was hand-stitched by Grover.


(L to R) Katie Cooper, Jenni Grover, Sarah Shulman, and Jen Beatty, all members of the Chicago MQG, sitting on a bench under the Epic Hexie Quilt.

 

In Grover’s book, ChronicBabe 101: How to Craft an Incredible Life Beyond Illness, she advocates for building a creative habit. A creative practice doesn’t have to be making a 2,752-piece quilt—the goal is to infuse creativity into mundane tasks. “I recently told one of my clients to go around her house and take beautiful pictures of objects in her home or to go on a walk and take photos of all the colors she could find. These small acts of curiosity go a long way.”

 

Learn more about Jenni by following her on Instagram at @hyper.scrappy or by visiting her website jennigrover.com.