Just before heading up to my office to write the backyard beckoned me. The late evening sky showing off it’s depth and beauty, stars twinkling, planets seem as though they’re pulsating, the gentle breeze keeping the mosquitos away and a quiet in the air awaiting that time to contemplate and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. Thoughts flit back and forth wondering if we are someone else’s star, do they wonder if we have milkshakes, and sunrises, and quilting. While I do think, and wonder deeply this brought the last prayerful post for the Forty Days of Prayer for Quilters into sharp focus.
I’ve oft given consideration to a quilt lecture that focuses on the endless possibilities in quilt making, highlighting the options and choices we get to make, and how what we do is unique and inexhaustable, and the order in which we do things isn’t always:
culminating in Z, a quilt complete with binding, sleeve, and label with all the pertinent information.
Quilt making is much more like pickup sticks that were held with all the colors sorted together before dropping them and figuring out how to pick them up by individual color. Or like the old Dewey Decimal card files with many drawers, leading us to many books, in a library that is ever mysteriously expanding making room for the more because there’s room for both the “what’s been done” and the “heres something fascinating from this other perspective over here.”
As we begin the first quilt, not even knowing if we’ll like the whole quilt making thing we make choices based primarily on cost, not fully understanding how quilt making will become part of the whole of our life, quite akin to breathing. The thing is though, we are beginning, crawling, taking steps, and finding a way to connect with people who express their own uniqueness in the work of quilt making. WE don’t know at the beginning that quilt making is a multilayered skill set that has the potential to grow exponentially in how we zoom in on one area that brings us great life, freedom, and joy.
The talk, in my head, often begins with what comes first the fabric or the pattern. I can almost here the knowing, “mmmhmms” of the quilters attending this imaginary talk. Hand piecing, or machine piecing. More mmmmhmmmms. What needles, what thread? What about backing and batting? How do I do the decorative stitching, again by hand or machine and then, what do I do for design? How far apart can I do the stitching and have this sucker hold together through multiple washings? Do I really need to add the sleeve and label? And the teacher with the knowing where all of this is coming from, and a wee twinge of guilt says yes, add the label. I wasn’t happy with my first quilt either however just like we post every work of art a small kid makes on the fridge adding with great pride the name and year, our quilts, deserve that simple honor. Please don’t tell anyone I think about being that unnamed quilter from wherever circa 2021. It’s not that I don’t want to own my work, I do, but like so many others there is a deep sense in me that these will one day hold value in a way that would right now make me cringe a bit, and there is the deeper truth that 100 years from now I will be dead (unless God needs me quilting at 147 because He knows I’m certainly not finished making the quilts on the shelf let alone the quilts in my head.)The talk continues with some stories I’ve share of experiences working with newish quilters, quilters who’ve been told by some “well meaning but clearly . . . ” I think I won’t finish that sentence, who tells the quilter that they may not use this or that color, or that quilts must be pieced by hand, using scissors to cut out the hand drawn patches, drawn with pencil using carboard templates.
Every once in a while I love busting the myth that quilts are “traditionally” pieced and quilted by hand with a well, once sewing machines were widely available quilts were quilted on those treadles. Take that! Please pardon me while I go have a stupidly self-righteous moment.
Part of the story of how I ended up where I am as a free-motion machine quilter and teacher is weird. I looked at a quilt, that I’d been hand quilting for nearly four years at this point and thought I am Done! I can still remember the trip to the sweing machine dealer to purchase that first machine quilting foot, getting not the best advice for machine quilting and doing some really bad machine quilting. Quilting which is by the way still in the quilt, that I show with great regularity, because every single one of us start somewhere in our quilt making hike. It took a long time for any real skill to develop & grow, and in a greater sense become my own. And yet not really mine as what I do doesn’t really belong to me, it belongs to those to whom these quilts bring joy, cause them to think, or really don’t like them at all. I do make them because i have to, but I also make them to continue discovering where I’m going. See this is all part of the talk wherein I remind us all that quilting is a beautiful and complicated art. Quilting is useful, and quilting is frivolous. Quitling is brown and green, and purple, and pink and chartreuse, and indigo, and raisin, and sunset and sunrise and tree, and forest, and waves of grain and for her and him and comforts the aching and distressed, and offers the opportunity to help us to think about the big things in our society. Quilting can bring people together and it can drive them apart. Quilting can help us get through the hard times, and can be a celebration of the joyful times.
If you’ve read this far, hey it’s great to see you!
The correlation to faith runs deep. The more we dig into our faith the better we get at it. Faith like quilting is a practice. It takes time to learn and become and know who we are, and who we aren’t. It takes time to learn to pray and to figure out if hand quilting or machine quilting is our thing. It takes time to know how to pull colors together for our quilt tops, and for us to learn how to read Scripture, and books of Faith, and books without Faith and make the connection. It takes time to get to know the one who is LOVE and respond deeply to that Love in a way that honors Him through better relationships with others, and a willingness to listen. It takes time to know how different weights of thread add ot the texture over the surface of the quilt, just like it takes time to know how going to worship with one Community through thick and thin will change us, hopefully conforming us closer to the One who loves us. It takes a long time to buy and try all the notions to find out what works for us, just like it takes a long time to learn to be completely and fully loved by our Creator in a way that we really do love our quilts even knowing where all of the hiccups are, that these are the places where our quilts have character, and that the LOVE is complete.
Sometimes faith like our quilts seems a whole lot of hooey! I think about Apostles and how they questioned Jesus, frequently. How when fishing all night were told to cast their nets on the other side (in quilters terms both try again and try this new to you thing) and caught so many fish that they nearly sunk the boat. I think about the quilter who said to me, “you’re hiding your quilting” with a gentleness that got me thinking about how to take that light out from under the bushel basket and let it shine so that everyone can enjoy it. Thus offering me the opportunity to take a different path. I’m still discovering where that path is leading. As a woman of Faith that which I’m reading is offering the same opportunity. I would love to be able to put into words what this means at this moment, I’m not sure though. As long as it leads me to deeply loving people, walking with them in their Faith Journey in some way, and Loving God more deeply, it’s all good. All things work together for good for those who love the Lord.
As I quilt, as I work towards growing Faith I can’t help but think about how quilting and Faith are at once about the individual, and about community. In both my heart’s desire is to grow as a human being and slough off those things that detract from the beauty. In both my heart desires that we each pursue with Reckless Abandon, like the Father of the Prodigal Son running when he sees his kid returning home, restoring this kids to right relationship. As I typed this I can’t help but see that this kid examined his life and conscience, confessed his sins, and was forgiven restoring his place within the community. While his brother was none too pleased it is my great hope that the brothers heart was softened in his Father’s mercy and generosity.
God of all Creations, Lover of all people into being, I seek to listen to your Holy Spirit, Your very breath. Help me to dig into your Word, to let go of those things that are not of you, to say no to those temptations that continue to build a wall between me and You, that your wind can remove whn I say Yes to You. Show me the way to use this gift of quilt making, of listening, of sharing taht wich makes me unique. Help me to be open to speaking a word for the weary, encourage the downhearted, to respond to needs as You call. Open my ears to listen and hear You. Let my hands to the work You would have me do. May each stitch I take lead me to loving with Reckless Abandon. Help me to see when I am veiling myself with the the expectation and demands of others. Amen
The possibilities in quilt making are endless, offering each of us to make quilts as unique and individual as ourselves. Dig into making those quilts, and like Karen Carpenter, “don’t worry if it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear (see).” Your quilt is as beautiful as you.