Common Elements of the Tommy Quilts

Mariner’s Compass is the name quilters use to refer to star designs that radiate from the center of a circle. They typically have 16 or 32 points like the compass card on a magnetic compass or map. Barbara Brackman says that the mariner’s compass is one of the earliest named quilting designs in America. It is one of the earliest quilt patterns and represents the early navigational instruments of mariners. *

The Mariner’s Compass reminded me of the star that Tommy had drawn in one of his school notebooks which has become the logo of The Tommy Fuss Fund, a private foundation established by his family to advance knowledge and research in the area of neuropsychiatric disease research. It symbolizes our search for knowledge of more accurate treatments.

References to some of Tommy’s Favorite Things:

  • Tomburgers with lots of ketchup and grilling
  • Star Wars 
  • Lost 
  • Jack Bauer and 24 
  • The Simpsons 
  • Hummers

Tommy’s tan winter jacket with the orange stripes. No one else had that jacket and it was easy to spot him around campus.

Everyone’s favorite tee shirt – the brown shirt with the Buddha saying, “For Good Luck Rub My Belly.”

The image of Tommy taken at lunch with friends at Grendel’s in Cambridge.

Bowling: Tommy and Danny learned to bowl with their cousin at the Madison Plaza Bowling Lanes. Years later Tommy was instrumental in resurrecting the bowling club at Belmont Hill School.

The Empty Chair: Whether in the classroom or at the dining room table.

The Belmont Hill School logo.

Tommy insisted on being a Jedi Knight for Halloween in Fall 1999. Pieces of the costume are combined with Simpsons’ fabric in each quilt.

Inspired by a classmate’s wood carving of a group of kids huddled together in an embrace, I created my own “we’re in it together” square. Using nine different shirt fabrics, an inner square of eight triangles is “embraced” by an outer border. I “assigned” a shirt to each of the nine individuals in the two quilt groups, symbolizing how they embrace and are embraced by others.

The “we are connected” square was inspired by the Twister Block/Playing Games Quilt in a 365 Day Quilting Calendar. Placed in an attempt to “connect” two adjoining quilts, these squares represent our individuality and our connectedness. 


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*Design & History from Judy Mathieson