I have always wanted to sew my own quilt. Ever since I can remember I have dreamed of having the patience to be able to sit and piece together a beautiful homemade blanket that could cloak me through decades of winters. Two days ago I decided that now, at 42, I have the patience, will and desire to see this project through. I finally made a start.
A few years ago my grandmother moved out of the family home and into a care facility (where, by the way, she is thriving!). I was gifted with two suitcases full of linen - doilies, tea towels, table cloths, handkerchiefs, lace, and embroideries that have been made through several generations of women. The loot is big and mostly beautiful but there are a lot of pieces that are stained, or worn, or just a bit ugly, and yet I can't bring myself to throw them out. I had been wondering what to do with these pieces for a long time and then it struck me - I would add them to the quilt!
Now anybody who knows me is aware of my love for all things rustic and shabby. I can't abide too many clean lines and fresh spaces - they just make me feel cold and empty. I like old things, things with history and stories, objects with bumps and scratches and a few wrinkles here and there. So, when it came to quilt making there was absolutely no way I was going to sit down and create a geometrical masterpiece. My quilt had to be handmade, shabby, and full of love and passion over perfection. Fortuitously, I recently discovered something called the 'slow stitching' movement and in this I knew that I had found my method - here was a sewing community that valued creativity over precision and process over perfection. Yes! This discovery was exactly the motivational push I needed to start stitching.
I have finished my first panel. It took me 8 hours of stitching. I think I probably have about another 49 to go in order to make a reasonably generous lap quilt. Oh my! It is easy for me to become overwhelmed by projects like this but one of my better traits is that I am a finisher and now that I'm committed I'm pretty much locked in for the long haul. Now, I'm not saying that my quilt won't turn into a cushion, haha, or that it may take me several years, but something tangible will come of this in due course (touch wood). And you know, slow stitching is really a process driven craft, so it would be remiss of me to focus all of my intent on the finished object. This, for me, is about connecting to the past, holding the same objects my women ancestors crafted with their hands in my hands and reworking them into something that will continue to be of use in the world. Isn't that reason enough to enjoy the many hours of labour? Yes - this labour is only of love.
Below is a beautiful documentary on the quilter's of Gee's Bend: