Life in Stitches

This is not a quilt that needs to be made.

It was started during a class at Quiltcon with AnnaMaria Horner, and by the end of the class I managed to reach my tipping point on it – that place where finishing is no longer an option, rather it’s a psychological imperative.

I have no plans for this quilt (though Oswin begs to differ as she’s planted herself in the middle of my work more than once), there are no beds or couches in my house left uncovered.

But what quilt needs to be made anyway?

We’re not of the days where women made quilts out of need, patching and piecing bits of worn out clothes, fabrics from feedsacks and household leftovers, even scraps from wedding and christening gowns. There is no longer any tangible, material need for handmade bedding.

Our needs are deeper, more subtle, yet more complex.

My need to finish this quilt comes from the fact it’s made from Anna Maria’s scraps. Not scraps of her fabric line, mind you, but scraps of her actual collection of fabric that she owns. Her personal fabric stash. In her house. The off-cuts of quilts she has been making for her family.

Yikes, that’s pressure!

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Heady stuff, right? I’m working with the bits and pieces AnnaMaria put together for her kids. She brought the scraps to class and since I’d failed to bring any of my own fabric (call it a beginners oversight, shall we?), I had no choice but to borrow heavily from what she provided, supplemented by a generous classmate and a quick run through the vendor hall at lunch.

So although I had no plans for what to do with this quilt (I toyed with the idea of letting the dogs use it in the car, AnnaMaria has two labs and might actually appreciate that) but both Caty and Aster say they want it, they think it looks like the Minecraft game. I find that intriguing.

Regardless of what happens to it (I’m undecided yet) I still feel a strong compulsion to get it done. GET. IT. DONE. Not in a bad way, definitely not in a rush-through-just-to-finish way, but in a “I need closure on this experience” way.

So it wasn’t until after kickboxing, after dinner, after sitting at the table giggling with the kids, after sweeping the floor, that I got to sandwiching the layers (quilt back, batting, and quilt front) and securing it with pins. It was already past 10pm by that point, time to start thinking about bed. Not time to start the long process of quilting a quilt, not at that hour.

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But the desire to sit and quilt was overwhelming at that point and I did not resist. I marked my first line and took off from there. I wondered to myself exactly why it was so satisfying to sit there, silently stitching row after row, guiding, slowing, shifting, guiding, slowing, shifting. Repeat and repeat and repeat. What about this could be pleasurable? But everything about it was pleasurable.

Monotonous by many peoples’ accounts, but not by mine. Repetitive, yes, but also reflective. I wondered if the quilting pattern I chose (simple straight lines) would complement the quilt layout as I hoped it would. I wondered if this piece would be better served by hand quilting which more readily shows the human touch and limitations, rather than by machine, but quickly ruled out that option for lack of efficiency. And I reflected on having the privilege of deciding for myself which way to finish the quilt. In my heart and head I admired how hand quilting really captured the spirit of the quilter – her life, her strengths and weaknesses, the ebb and flow her daily life. The thousands of tiny stitches and how evenly or wobbly they were put in is a direct reflection of the world around the maker at the time. What would my quilt say?

Stitching, guiding, slowing, shifting, stitching, guiding, slowing, shifting. As I pushed my rows through the machine, they were not perfectly spaced, and that suited me just fine. And then a thought popped into my head, a recollection that earlier in the day someone had asked me if Winnie might be interested in writing an article on raising service dogs for the state-wide homeschooling association. I looked up and yelled to Winnie in the other room, asking if she was interested.

And my stitch line wobbled.

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Life happened, and it’s now reflected in my quilt.

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Maybe things haven’t changed as much as I originally thought. And I really hope AnnaMaria thinks I’ve done justice to her scraps.

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