Saturday, August 16, 2014

Every Quilt Tells a Story

"Seeing Stars", 2014
The other day I was facilitating a class at our local quilt shop. I brought in some "show and tell", knowing this particular group of women would be interested in seeing my project - we share many years of mutual inspiration. 
I held up my quilt top, unfinished (no surprise there), and I was slightly taken aback when one dear woman enthusiastically commented, "it's so alive". I thought to myself, "wow, how did that happen when all the while making it I felt half dead?".
In thinking about this, I am reminded that every quilt tells a story. On the surface, the design and colour choice alone depict something about the maker's personal preferences. More telling though, the quilt may mark a significant life event, a birth, a celebration, an illness, and all the maker's emotion and passion toward the person for whom they are sewing is invested in each stitch. There is love and friendship, good will, prayer, excitement or foreboding all mixed up with the designer fabric, the tools, technique and progress. And always, the end result of the labour are pieces of cloth that mysteriously sing out stories. 
I made my quilt, for me. I remember the morning when, after weeks of not wanting to get out of bed, I woke and finally felt that maybe that day I could accomplish something. So I went to the thing I knew how to do, and I sewed. It required little effort - I had previously made this same quilt for my sister, so I had duplicate fabric waiting for its' turn to shine, and the pattern was rote.
I filled a little box with cellophane packages of carefully chosen fabric combinations. I indulged in the process of sewing perfect points (you have to be a patch worker to understand), and of waiting for the play of colour and print to unfold with each star. 
I am a woman of prayer, and stitched up with these pretty stars are all of my offerings to a God who I know hears and cares. Psalm 56:8 in The New Living translation says, "You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book."
Somewhere in the midst of assembling star blocks I knew that this quilt was about keeping a vigil. The individual blocks became rows and the rows filled a design wall with colour but my sewing was really an excuse to pray in an intentional effort to hedge and protect.

It is pretty. It does have a glow and a life of its own. Which is remarkable when I think about it because I thought my story would look worse in its telling.

The design for this quilt is straight from one of my favourite's...
     Kaffe'scolleague, Liza Prior Lucy made this quilt in 2005 while watching on television the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Her version is photographed below. She explains that her usual explosive use of vivid colour is not as evident in this creation, and that it is much more somber, reflecting appropriately what was occurring at the time and her response to great loss. 
The first quilt I made of this pattern I gifted to my sister. This version was all about celebration! Looking back, we were celebrating Christmas with family in Canada for the 1st time in 10 years! We were celebrating the 50th birthday of a beautiful, completely amazing woman! If the last was a prayer quilt then this first was surely a praise quilt!

I believe, when I finally finish with borders and quilting and binding, when it's laying across the foot of my bed, that my quilt will speak to me. Certainly it will always call to mind the circumstances that brought it to be . But it will also remind me that there can be beauty in the struggle. It will say, "remember the day you made that red block and your heart was settled?". Or, "This was the time you understood your hope to be an Anchor". "When you made me you learned to breathe out. You began to practise giving thanks in all circumstances."  Seeing Stars is a beautiful Story-Teller. 

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