My friend, who has once again decided to take up quilting, (Landmarks) has shared with me more of her observations, not only about her challenges with this craft, but of her revelations about how her experiences reflect the challenges we face in our lives.
Quilts were traditionally created using scraps of materials that would have otherwise gone to waste, but were instead incorporated into blankets to keep one warm. Some were put to wondrous new uses, such as the telling of stories or the documentation of historical events and milestones. A patchwork quilt could reflect the story of a person, family or even a nation. Quilt making also became a communal activity and many traditions evolved around them. Quilts can present us with a lovely analogy for our life’s journey, from the gathering together our many and varied experiences, to the loving way in which we can patiently stitch them together into a wondrous “end product.”
This friend told me that she had decided to tackle a quilt that she had started 20 years ago for her then, 8yr.-old son, but had found that the pins holding the unfinished binding in place had rusted into the material. She was faced with the choice to either give up on the quilt or to arduously rip out the fine stitching, to take the fabric back to where the material was clear of rust and to start over again. Her observation, during this task, was of how we must sometimes do this same operation in our lives.
She also shared with me her thoughts about the journey of life that came to her as she undertook the renewal of this quilt, and of how, that sometimes you just need to go back to that space before things went wrong and address what needs to be rectified before you can move forward. As in everything, if you truly wish to correct or heal things properly, you need to work your way back to the root of the issue in order to effectively clear away the problem. This time though, she observed, you have the benefit of applying fresh insight from your years of experiences and lessons learned.
I asked my friend to put her thoughts to paper so that I was sure I had “got it all.” Here are some of her key observations that she shared with me:
“I started this quilt as gift for my son when he was 8 and life got in the way. It was stuffed into the closet for 20 years. I was frustrated as I didn’t realize that my quilt project was far too “ambitious” for a very beginner when I started. Twenty years later, I have more patience and many new advances have been made in quilting techniques that allow an individual to quilt by themselves, rather than relying on hand sewing within traditional quilting circles……..
I’ve soon discovered that the original fabric backing choice that I had made (muslin) wasn’t going to be strong enough for the normal use a quilt will receive. Also, to machine quilt, I was advised that the original polyester batting chosen was not designed for machine quilting as it is too thick. The new type of batting is much thinner, but denser, and will fit underneath a machine foot and is designed for machine quilting. What started out as an effort to finish a quilt before my son turns 65, was turning out to be a major and expensive undertaking!
What have I learned so far:
I spent 3 hours a day, for 6 days, carefully unpicking my work on the original pieced top and, during those moments, I started to reflect again. Why on earth am I doing this, when it is so much easier to just throw the whole thing out and start again fresh?! I chose to unpick the stitches rather than just cutting out the damage, which was infinitely a more time consuming and frustrating method.
Revelation…! Life is so much like this unfinished quilt.
There are parts of our lives that have been pieced together, but not yet quilted together (a fabric sandwich held together by stitching). We can’t go back and throw out those parts of our lives, (cutting out) but we can take out the unfinished parts and make it better. It means we have to salvage what we can; add new fabric to make it stronger and use our “wiser” selves to make it better, not perfect!
Like my quilt for my son, I will have to do it in slow stages. I have to wait for the next sale at the quilt store before I can afford to purchase the backing fabric and quilt batting. This applies to our lives as well.
When I am finished this quilt, I will be a very proud person. Not because it would win an award at a quilt show, but because it will represent a “growth” period in my life and one that I have made with love for my son. This quilt is filled with more than “batting” but love from my boys (husband and son) who realize just how much “happiness” I have been receiving in trying to learn something new as they support me in my journey. Who knew it would be more about me!”
This friend of mine delights me in the way she invests in her life, in her family’s and in society’s. She delights me in the “fodder” for thought that she provides me.