Friday, October 2, 2015

stitching together our stories

So I have to tell the story of The Quilt.  

Some of you know about it from my Instagram and Facebook posts. I also share some of its story in my offering for the upcoming Inner Alchemy Circle: Earth Coven that begins October 18.  

Like the actual quilt itself, its story is complex and somewhat scattered. Or maybe that is just me. Early on I realized that it isn't the quilt that is crazy, but me for attempting it. But that is perhaps a strength of mine as well. For I have learned it is best to dive right in when the inspiration strikes. Too much research and planning can overwhelm me or dull the motivation. As a yoga teacher once shared: planning is priceless; plans are useless. There is preparation, but nothing beats beginning and learning as you go, facing and solving the challenges as they arise.

Or in my case, making it up as I go along.

You see, I've never really made a quilt before. Okay, I did buy a hunk of fabric already pieced together - vintage Bali batiks - and I added the batting and backing, quilting it using a simple yarn tie technique. It is an over-sized lap quilt and it gave me false confidence.

So a few things to keep in mind as I tell this tale which turned into my own Moby Dick/Ahab adventure. Number one:   I am not a sewer. I cannot cut straight nor can I sew straight. I swear my sewing machine needs an alignment. It (or I) veer off to the left ever-so-slightly until I run up against the edge of the seam. 

What inspired me to make a quilt - a memory quilt I am calling it - is I inherited a box of quilt squares my mother cut out over 40 years ago. I hounded her for a quilt and one summer she decided she would tackle it. She cut out hundreds - probably over 200! - squares, all perfectly even and exact. She had fabrics with coordinating solids all cut out and organized and she even began to hand-stitch! the squares into triangles which she was going to stuff with filling. I think her plan was one she hatched herself and I believe what eventually stalled her was realizing her made-up technique would not work.

look at those tiny stitches!

So the quilt was put away and never mentioned. Oh, I would bring it up and she would flash me a stern look that implied If you want this bloody quilt, then you can make it! I realize now what thwarted my mother was her perfectionism. Which is why I have learned that perfectionism kills off more creativity than any lack of skill or talent.

In other words: better imperfectly realized and manifested than perfect only in my imagination. 

A few years ago I made a story scarf with the sewing/repurposing Queen Maya Donenfeld.  I cut up a few of Cowgirl's baby dresses for that project (I would have wept but I was too busy trying to cut straight!) and I loved having the sweet prints that reminded me of our early days transformed into this personal keepsake. I still had some fabric left and decided it would be fun to use it in a quilt for Cowgirl, along with the fabric that my mother had cut out for my never-realized quilt.

Last winter I began stitching scraps of fabric together. I wasn't sure what I was doing, but quickly discovered it was soothing to spend time matching pieces together, figuring out what to place where, adding or building up strips and blocks of patch-worked pieces and then matching those chunks of patchwork with other sections to create bigger and bigger chunks. 

I had about a quarter of the top done when I put it away. This is something new I've learned about myself after reading the book Refuse To Choose: I am a scanner (although I dislike that label and prefer multipassionate creative instead) which means what may appear to others as a constant and compulsive jumping from project to project, beginning but never completing; is instead is seeking my own "reward" for starting a project or process and when I've gotten that, I  move on. In the book Sher likens it to a bee who goes into a flower to get the nectar and once that happens, moves on. I enjoy the process of figuring things out - I love jigsaw puzzles! - and sharpening my skills and learning new techniques or processes is enjoyable for me. I like to see things coming together. But once that happens, I am less engaged and am ready for something new.

Unconsciously I've somehow figured out how to push through the less engaging stage and complete projects. I mean, I am aware of the boredom and drudgery but somehow I make myself finish. Well, not somehow; I give myself deadlines like Cowgirl's birthday and usually I don't allow much time for goofing off so I have to stick with it

In three weeks time, I had to complete the top of the quilt (the fun, rewarding activity for my multipassionate creative self) and then tackle the backing and quilting (18 rows of tedious yarn ties) at which point I began to think about Moby Dick and began to refer to the project  - in my thoughts only - as that fucking quilt

But I also began to realize how the quilt was piecing together all of our stories - my mother's, mine, and my daughter's. I was using the sewing machine that my father had given my mother after my birthday (which makes us twins I suppose) and I was using fabrics that I remembered she had used to make dresses for herself and for me, along with the quilt squares she had already cut out. 

Whereas my mother's squares represented her - neat, tidy, precise,  patient, loving - mine represent me - colorful, playful, a little chaotic and haphazard but with attention to the details, to the inner stories within the fabric. The quilt embodies what I've come to realize is my motivation within everything I do and what I seek to offer: cherished creative.  

I surprised Cowgirl with her quilt - there were still 4 rows of ties to add - and right away she asked me about the different fabrics, pointing to one's she remembered and asking about new ones. I see stitched together all of our stories, three lives brought together, repurposed and reimagined. Improbable and impossible coming togethers which did happen. The quilt I wanted when I was ten, I now have made for my newly minted eleven year-old daughter. 

And so we continue to add to our story which will eventually be stitched to another generation's.



  1. Lovely. Both the quilt and the story behind it.

  2. As CT said, a beautiful quilt and story to go with it! xx

  3. Beautiful quilt and beautiful girl! :) I have a quilt I started 15 years ago still in the closet, so I really admire that you started and finished this!