Thursday, July 8, 2010

What I did on my summer break, Part 1

An astute eye will notice that the quilt is upside down in this picture - it's hard to get a good angle when it's so big! The picture is flipped below if you want to see it right side up.

I just finished reading Quilting Lessons, a book by a woman with a PhD in Native American Arts who is also a quilter. She suffered from writer's block many years ago and turned to quilting at the worst of it. This book describes how quilting actually helped her get out of the writer's block. I felt that it was hard to get into, and at the beginning I could only read it in bursts. Towards the middle, it was exactly what I needed to hear. I could have practically written one of the chapters on finishing (or not finishing) projects. The metaphors in this book are so rich! Below are some thoughts I wrote mid-way through reading.

I am a good shopper, planner, and starter, but not so good at the finishing process. That is why I made my word of the year “finished”, so that I would actually get some projects done. So far, I have finished four of my 16 items. One quarter of the list, but the year is halfway done. I have been feeling frustrated, trying to articulate why I can’t finish projects and trying to pinpoint my motivation. What I read today helped me see that I need to recognize the creative cycle and pay more attention to what I am getting done.

This book talks about how finishing in writing is a lot like finishing in quilting. There are spurts – times when you feel really amped about working, and get a lot done in what feels like a short period of time. And then there are lags, times when you put it aside and don’t come back to it for a long time. That is part of the process, something you come to expect and even rely on. Your project gets better in each of those stages, even though you wish you only had the spurts of productivity and not the long lags of putting things aside. I have put a lot of projects aside in the past and I am trying so hard to bring on a burst of productivity, but it is a slow process and I am easily frustrated.

On top of it all, I have been feeling 'meh' about the green border that I added to my Russian quilt, something I did in a recent bout of productivity. I was so excited when I found the fabric, but then not so excited once I saw it on the quilt. But the author gave me a new appreciation for that too. I started that quilt when my mom was sick, with fabrics in my mom’s collection, particularly the Russian troika fabric that she had purchased with me in mind. I picked the pattern a long time ago (8 or 9 years ago!), the fabric a long time ago, and committed to taking it on a long time ago. The bulk of the quilt is grounded in the past.

I did not choose everything though. The outer border, the binding, and the backing were still outstanding. As I finish it up, I have had to pull together these outstanding pieces at a time after a lot of loss and growth, maturity, and at a point where my tastes have changed, and I feel less into the act of quilting. This green border is a metaphor for all of these things, and a symbol as well. It is a lighter, brighter fabric that contrasts the dark toned fabrics in the main part of the quilt. Just like I am at a lighter period in my life, happier than during my mom’s illness, or the period after her death, and more at peace with where my life is going, the path before me, and the decisions I have made. It is a "scrapbooking" fabric, made by a scrapbooking company (Basic Grey) for Moda. So it also blends in my interest in scrapbooking that has grown since I started this quilt. It has a modern "grunge" feel to it, which contrasts with the old world feel of the troika fabric that is reminiscent of Russian lacquer boxes. Thus my dark, heavy quilt is contained by a light, modern border. I have emerged out of that point in life.

The backing comes from the leftover pieces from the original planning that I did. My mom’s excess in quilt fabric purchasing saves the day, just as she herself did so many times before. It is a reminder that my mom still provides for me, even a decade later, when I really truly need it. She will literally back me up in all my endeavors.

And the binding. Again from my mom’s stash, but not in the set of fabrics that I originally picked out. The perfect color combination that pulls all the fabrics together. A weird, wild, untraditional print, that looks like cells, the foundations of life, but a statement on the new growth that is beginning with the finishing of this quilt. Not something I would ordinarily pick out and certainly not something I would purchase for myself. It is symbolic of the unexpected that is to come. A reminder that what holds us all together is something unpredictable, outside of our comfort zone, but the perfect fit nonetheless. (Doesn’t that describe the future perfectly?) And it is also a fitting tribute to my mom who was definitely weird, wild, and untraditional in many ways.
I chose to go with the fabric on the lower left side.

I am trimming threads and pressing this week, with the goal of sending this quilt off for quilting by the end of the weekend! It will be the third quilt I have ever finished and the first top I have completed since my mom died. I am so energized by finally completing it, that I feel motivated to finish a lot more. Let's see if I can become a finisher.

1 comment:

  1. Love the whole story, and the quilt looks fabulous! So happy for you for finishing it! And YAY for your mom's fabrics working!

    Those lags in quilts or any projects are so hard to get through -- so often I get bored with a project, even though I know I will love the outcome. I'm actually sort of bored with a current project I'm doing but I have to have it done soon AND I love it -- it has just been on my design wall for too long!