Friday, July 16, 2010

Finishing My Quilt

“Welcome every morning with a smile. Look on the new day as another special gift...another golden opportunity to complete what you were unable to finish yesterday....Today will never happen again. Don't waste it with a false start or no start at all. You were not born to fail.”

- Og Mandino

In February of 2007, I began a small wall quilt. At the time I was questing to heal from a very bitter winter by learning some new skill and trying to embrace a new art form. The winter of 2006-2007 was one of little light: a miscarriage, followed by a brief respite, followed by my Uncle Eric's untimely death. My mind and heart needed new outlets to heal themselves. I turned to music, Gone with the Wind, quilting, and gardening. I put on my happiest face during my hours in my classroom and tried to compartmentalize the sadness I was feeling, but it was I who became the student that winter: a student of the tragic side of living and what must be done in order to pull oneself out of darker places.

I had no quilting skills whatsoever going into the project. I immersed myself in it completely and used my sewing machine for the first time.

Here are a few pictures of the start of the project in 2007:

Sewing some of the squares together. (This picture was taken at our old home, and I am struck by several things, including the Wizard of Oz figures on my bookshelf that Katie would come to love and the mythology textbook from school propping up the bottom of my machine).

Cutting out the fabric and laying out some of the pattern.

Finishing the top of the quilt.

It wasn't long in 2007 before I had the quilt assembled and began to quilt it by hand. I worked on it steadily.

Then I began to grow disenchanted with myself and with the project. I began to notice every imperfection and see only those: inconsistent stitches, places where the fabric puckered, etc. I put it aside for awhile.

I got pregnant with Katie.

My quilt beckoned from the corner of our room, but it sometimes happens that when we put projects off to the side, we're afraid to look at them again and to have to grapple with what we might find.

It is easier to ignore our imperfections, yes?

I gave birth to Katie in October of 2007. I never dreamed of taking on another project, though now I realize that there were plenty of moments when she was asleep and my hands were idle. In the past few months I have given up most television, and I am amazed at the projects I am able to complete. Yet adjusting to motherhood, I let my quilt sit...and sit... At some point, when I realized it had been years since I picked it up, I wondered how I would ever bring myself to complete something started so long ago.

Recently, my mom convinced me to finish it. Since finishing my cross stitch earlier this month, I have spent almost every morning quilting while my husband and daughter sleep. I have had to let go of the worry about imperfection...and finish what I started.

I have also spent the hours of hand quilting reckoning with this quilt, a symbol from another era in my life. Can something that was started in pain become a item that I want to see everyday? It turns out that it can. I reflected on the hours I spent sewing it while listening to Uncle Eric's music. I thought about how I began it with hopes that I would one day have children, but unsure that it would ever happen. Working on the quilt---and finishing it---has bridged two eras of my life. It is also relevant that I have finished it while pregnant with my own Eric. It has been a project that has completed a cycle.

Many times in the past weeks I have thought about how I was so ready to give up on the quilt's imperfections, and yet we should never give up on our personal imperfections or flaws. Finishing the quilt was somewhat symbolic of my own journey: we cannot just quit when our flaws are difficult for us to deal with. Should I put myself in a corner, unfinished, or do I need to see myself through until the end?

I finished quilting it yesterday. Today I attached the loops and found a rod and displayed it on the landing of the stairs. It is a small quilt. It is a first quilt. It has flaws, but it is finished. And in finishing, my stitches did get better. It is the symbol of two stages of my life. It takes some courage even to hang it or put it up on this blog, knowing that people could look at it and judge.

But then, it also takes courage to display and be who we really are, too, does it not?

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The finished quilt on the staircase landing.

A side view, coming down the stairs.

For me, this quilt will always be more of a symbol than it will be a decorative item. Everytime I pass it, I will remember the importance of embracing my life's journey, for better or for worse, and in all times.