The Roller Derby Quilt

Contemporary embroidery art via Mr X Stitch

Those of you who know me will probably know that I am a fan of Roller Derby, it is a fantastic sport to watch, and by all accounts it’s a blast to play. So you will have to indulge me this week as I showcase the Roller Derby quilt.

The Roller Derby Quilt is a collaborative project for roller derby skaters, refs, volunteers, and fans around the world. The goal is to get squares representing individuals and teams from every league worldwide. So far there are over 80 squares.

The quilt is being curated by Dreadnought, from Boston. This is her statement about the quilt:

I spend eight hours a week attacking other women on roller skates, throwing myself at them and knocking them to the ground. I spend nights chasing down and check-blocking my opponents, and I endure bruises, broken bones, and the threat of far worse every time I lace up my skates. This is my favorite part of every day, the source of the deepest pride I have ever felt, and the single hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I play roller derby.

“This work is inspired by the community I have found since joining the Boston Derby Dames in the summer of 2007. I started the Roller Derby Quilt only a few months after becoming a “freshmeat” skater and I will continue it until I retire. It is a wall of collected cloth built from discarded uniform scraps, booty shorts, team jerseys, and shredded fishnets. It is filled with sweat and memories and a tiny bit of blood. The quilt was born from hundreds of hours’ worth of stitching, pinning, ripping, beading, ironing, and hand sewing. Over a hundred women (and a few men) have added their stories to the quilt by donating blocks, mailing me materials, and quilting sections to form the piece. Hundreds more have accepted my emails and forwarded them to their friends, teammates, and leagues.

“Those who are a part of the roller derby community may cross the pink lines and gently touch the quilt. These people are a part of the project and it belongs in their hands. Those who are not are encouraged to read The Game and to take a bout flyer so that they may discover the world that we in the derby community have built together.
This is my tribute to the sport that has changed my life, and continues to reshape me as I strap on my helmet three times a week. It is my love letter and my thank-you card, my archive and my record. This work is my monument to my family on eight wheels.”

There’s a massive amount of history about quilts being used to reflect communities, I’m sure we’ll have a post about them from Penny Nickels sometime soon, and it’s great to see the tradition being upheld in a contemporary context.

I think this is a terrific project and one that will leave a valuable legacy about a new community of sportspeople. For more information about the quilt, including the specifications for making your own patch, visit the Roller Derby quilt blog, and give Dreadnought some big love for a job well done!


The Cutting (& Stitching) Edge is brought to you in association with PUSH: Stitchery, the contemporary embroidered art book curated by Jamie Chalmers. Featuring 30 textile-based artists from around the world, it’s a must have for needlework fans.