I often say that quilting is my therapy. It’s a common sentiment, people will say, their hobby or craft is their therapy. But even though I say that all the time, I didn’t really mean it. I mean, sure, I know that sewing helps me relax, but therapy? Nah. I’m not sewing with reverence or seriousness. I’m not excavating my inner world, I’m just sewing cute fabric together. I mean, you know? There’s nothing deep going on here. It’s fabric. It’s pretty. I like it. I sew it together. That’s it. Nothing to see, just move right along.
I have this quilt. You’ve seen it before, this bright pink explosion of vintage-y color. I started it last June, in the middle of the hardest summer I have ever experienced. My Mom, incapacitated with a broken neck, my Dad, sick and on his way to dying, me, having lost my job of three years, my daughter, having asthma to the point of going to the emergency room at three in the morning, all of us, ill for weeks off and on, we still don’t know why. Everything coming down like a tidal wave.
And I sewed. When I wasn’t caring for all of the people in my life, I sewed. The seven weeks between my Mom’s fall and my Dad’s death seemed relentless and unending, but when I was sitting at the sewing machine, I was making something better. Something lasting, something loving, something good. One piece at a time.
I had other projects going on, but in June I had a wild inspiration, chucked everything else to the side and started cutting this bright pink and orange fabric into 4″ squares. In July the top was nearly done, In August I pinned it and quilted it. It’s not a master of workmanship, it’s a wonky, funky disaster if you look closely. But that wasn’t really what I cared about right then. I just wanted a quilt to cheer me up, to make my studio a happy place. To keep smiling. So, I jammed the squares and rows together, shoved on a back and batting, and quilted it.
Then it sat.
I just kept avoiding it. I did eventually put it in the hoop to add the yellow ties, but then, as it got closer to being complete, I kept inventing reasons to put off the end. I decided it needed to be bigger, so I unpicked two of the side seams and added more fabric and batting. I filled in the quilting, filled in the ties. The last thing I was going to do was go back and add more quilting, filling in the spaces. But some dear friends said it looked perfect being simple and to just leave it the way it was.
Just leave it. Be finished. Complete. Done.
Suddenly I was angry and upset and I realized in that moment that I didn’t want to be done with this quilt. I didn’t want to be finished. I wanted to jump up and down and say, “NO! I don’t want to! I don’t want to! I don’t want to!”
I don’t want to move on to other things.
I don’t want to be done with saying goodbye.
I don’t want to let my memories of my Dad pass into the vast clutter of my past to be lost among the dusty, insignificant memories of unimportant things.
But as sure as he was standing beside me, I could imagine exactly what he would say.
“Angie, I know you miss me. But this is how life works. We all have to die sometime. I was lucky. Before I died, I had a long, full life. I lived my life, now you have to live yours.”
He was always practical.
Life continues to flow forward and so must I. He never wanted me to live for him, he wanted me to live for me.
Yesterday afternoon I dug up the binding I had prepared last summer, and put it on. And washed the quilt, and dried it. And showed it to my husband, and told my story, and had a good cry. My husband he helped me take the quilt outside to get some pictures in the fading summer light so that I could be finally, truly, done.
It’s funny, this quilt has caused more tears than any other project I have ever created, and yet, it still makes me feel a bubble of happy joy inside whenever I look at it. It truly is The Happy Quilt.
When I say that quilting is my therapy, apparently I really mean it.