Thursday, December 03, 2009

Survival Quilting

This quilt is NOT my normal style, but it’s got a good story to go along with it. In fact, I considered doing the quilting by writing the story with the sewing machine in the wide blue strips. (I don’t even like blue!) However, the opening in my machine would not allow scrunching the entire quilt in there to write the story lengthwise so I’ve opted to just quilt it fairly normally and then print the story on fabric and appliqué it to the back. This is me holding it up, partially quilted.

In the spring of 2007, we sold our house and bought a new one. The only problem was that we had a six week gap between leaving our home and taking possession of our new one. For that period of time we put most of our things in storage, taking just what we needed for the duration with us to our temporary home. There were piles of boxes to go to Goodwill, stuff to go to the storage unit, and other stuff to go where we were going to be staying.

Luckily, my husband only made one mistake on deliveries of these boxes, and that turned out to be a good one. The place we stayed was with an in-law, who was working in camp and had two tenants looking after his place but he was good enough to give his room to stay in while he was gone and we were transient. However, the different “mentality” of the tenants, their visitors and the living conditions turned out to be quite stressful for both of us. There were oil drums stacked in the driveway. They popped loudly every morning when the sun came up and again every evening when it cooled off again. Our poor cat hid in the bedroom for most of the full six weeks. Our dog was adventurous enough to enjoy the nearby bush, but for me….the tenants were heavy drinkers and were quite often extremely talkative but not sensible. The washing machine made horrendous noises and drained under the trailer. I got yelled at for leaving a teabag in the sink. They didn’t like my alarm going off in the morning so that I would get up for work! They complained about the meals my husband cooked, at our expense, because they were not ready on time for them to go to the pub. There’s more, but I’m sure by now you get the idea.  If it hadn't been for my friend Ang living nearby, and walking with me regularly, I doubt I'd have come out sane!  It was certainly an education in how quickly the human spirit can lose hope of ever having a better life.  I knew I had my new house to go to.....and still I began to doubt it was ever going to happen!

But....luckily I had my sewing machine with me (I always do!) And by now I’d found this box of fabric strips that had been meant for Goodwill and landed with us instead. So I set myself up in a tiny little room at the end of the hallway – little more than a closet actually – and I escaped to that cubbyhole and sewed strips together. I sewed every evening without thought of what I was creating, it was just therapeutic to sew. I just reached into the box, took out the next strip and stitched it to the next. By the time we moved into our home, these chunks of stripped piecing were many and colorful, but I had no idea what to do with them.

This picture is of the squares "in the making" where I had cut and sewed them back together, and was trying out different widths of sashing.  I had taken the big squares to one of our retreats. At “Show & Tell” I told the story and showed them the pieces I had put together rather mindlessly. Everyone enjoyed hearing how sewing had been my therapy, and one girl there came over with a terrific idea; she showed me how to cut the pieces I’d strip pieced and then reassemble them so that they made this pattern. It was great fun because it didn’t require accuracy, just cutting, turning and more sewing! In the end I put it together with other fabric I didn’t ever intend to use in a “serious” project, and a backing of fabric I likely never would have used either. So it’s truly a “use up what you’ve got” kind of quilt!

So now I have the quilt….”Surviving the Summer of 2007”, colorful to the point of garish, but will be cozy as can be and a great one to take on a picnic or put on the floor when the grandchildren are over. Not a piece of art, but a reminder of how much simple sewing can do for one’s mental stability in times of stress, or any other time for that matter. I’ve been eternally grateful to Bob for making that “mistake” in delivering my box of scraps to the wrong place!