Gratitude is abundant

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Not to sound like I’m having a cheesy Oprah moment where I’m “making the connection” or generally having a eureka moment, but I thought I’d post about gratitude being around me.

I’m on a bit of a philosophical kick right now because it’s just the sewing machine and me all day while my family is out at school and work. And lately I’m doing a TON of strip piecing, which is just like sewing down an Alberta highway–a zillion kilometers of 1/4″ straight seam allowance at a zillion kilometers an hour. Not that I’m complaining. It’s just that one gets to thinking about other stuff while doing that.

I’ve gotten to the issue of gratitude. Initially when I started quilting (when I was pregnant with Bronwen, so about 5 years ago) I relied a lot on my basic sewing knowledge that I’d gotten through formal lessons as a kid. Yep–my parents put me in proper garment sewing lessons at the age of about 9. They let me use mom’s 1960s era made-of-Detroit-steel Singer at home to finish my projects. I made a shirt, some neon pink sweat pants (complete with elastic waist), a neon green draw string gym bag, you get the idea. It was the early 1990s and all things neon ruled my world!

Fast forward to 2008: I had a new (plastic housing) Singer sewing machine (I still have that very basic machine and would like a new one, hint hint to my husband!) and a book of baby quilt patterns. I was feeling, well, maternal. I was just about to be pregnant and wanted to get into a domestic, yet creative and artistic hobby that could benefit my new family. So quilting made sense. And I thought I felt great!

I made the cutest cloud quilt that was the best introduction to piecing because it called for only two fabrics and was made mostly with strip sets. Great! Of course, not too many points matched up because I didn’t have proper cutting technique (I didn’t realize there was this nifty tool called a rotary cutter) and I had no idea about how to get 1/4″ seam allowances. They were closer to 1/2″. And that’s when I was consistent.

baby cloud quilt

baby cloud quilt

And then the part I looked forward to most–hand quilting! I have been a cross stitcher and embroider-er for enough time to know how to make pretty stitches. But I didn’t know one needed batting with NO scrim. Nor did I even think about basting. So my hands were pretty torn up and the quilt has virtually no quilting on it. But it still works. I am also proud of the fact that I mitred my binding!

mitred on my first try!

mitred on my first try!

Anyway, why this foray into quilting history? Well, my local quilt shop, http://clothcastle.com handed out a form to say they were holding a quilt show for log cabin quilts. There was a small entry fee and whomever won the contest got to keep half the pot and donate the rest to a cause of their choice. I like a challenge and I did have a hankering to make a new quilt. I knew I wouldn’t win (and I didn’t) because I didn’t even know about rotary cutters, come on!

But one thing they did was to say that we were to make these log cabins our own. Well, I made a ridiculously bold quilt, that’s for sure. It had needle turned applique, embroidery and hand quilting.

I finished it in the hospital. I managed to get the machine piecing finished at home but felt it was still lacking something despite its alternating blue and orange palette. (Both fabrics were prints too, so it was super busy already.)

I wish I could tell you that I was in the hospital for something easy like my gallbladder, which happened about a year later, but one morning when Bronwen was four months old, after I finished the bottle ritual that had worn me thin, I opened the cabinet to take my now large cocktail of anti psychotics, SSRIs, and anti anxiety drugs. The bottles were very delightful looking plastic vessels that shone in the sunlight. I had amassed many pills. I had amassed many horrific thoughts. I knew I was about to do something very wrong but felt my body acting in spite of any rational thoughts that were trying to break through. I swallowed every pill I had, excepting the Prozac. It was meant to make me happy and I didn’t feel like that drug would help my cause of death.

I went upstairs and wrote a lengthy letter to my husband and daughter outlining my reasons for leaving them. I tried, most of all, to address my daughter to tell her that in no way was this her fault and she should never feel like that.

I closed the letter, getting very groggy and clumsy with the pen now, with the final lines from Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”: “And miles to go before I sleep/And miles to go before I sleep.” The doubled line really drove home the length of my sadness, I felt. It didn’t matter that I needed to quote someone else to express it.

I woke up several days later in an emergency ward and was shipped off to a mental hospital after being deemed “stable” in the medical sense. While convalescing on ward 4A I had managed to bring in some fabric and had gotten my portable sewing kit out of lockup. But what to do? Embroider! But what? All the names of the patients on the fourth floor with me that I knew. So I set to work.

The result was a crib sized quilt with tons of names on it.

craaaazy busy quilt!

craaaazy busy quilt!

When the quilt show finally came, I’d finished the quilt. I went and saw just how amazing some people with more experience were. It was great! At the end of the show, after the winner was announced, we were to collect our entries. I’d written a blurb to go with my quilt, explaining this story that you just read. And when everyone saw that I was the maker of this bizarre and busy quilt, I got so many hugs. Total strangers were lining up to hug me and wish me the best through my journey of a mixture of post partum depression, existing depression, and a rough personality disorder. They all saw my baby in the stroller and adored her.

This post is for them. They shared a wealth of knowledge in that quilt show–not just of technique and possibilities, but that it’s not always necessary, even in our crazy stiff-upper-lip culture, to keep even our most deepest sorrows to ourselves. Just go to the quilt shop. Hugs abound!

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