Resilience: an exploration of quilting craft

Some of you may have read about my first exploration with quilting here. I created a small quilt for my five year old daughter. I hand-stitched all the squares but decided to hand-knot the quilt instead of quilt stitch…as it would have taken me forever and the quilt had already consumed a year of working on it off and on!

It is very clear why quilting bees existed for our ancestors (well, and they survive today in certain, special pockets not bowled over by modernity). Quilting bees allowed women to gather and work on a quilt together. Many hands make light work would be the theme of such gatherings.

Because I hand-knotted the first quilt, I wanted to have an experience with actually quilting a piece. I decided to try my hand at a wall hanging. I stumbled upon some lovely dandelion fabric at a local quilt show and was provided inspiration and some direction for this project.

As an herbalist, dandelion reminds me of the spirit of resiliency, persistence, and determination. I’ve written about it here. This is the very spirit I wanted to infuse this gift with for my daughter. Hopefully, this will be something she keeps with her even when she has outgrown it.

This project took me about four months to complete. I used a mixture of conventional materials and materials that I had plant dyed. The patterned fabric that I bought was interconnected with fabric that I had dyed with cochineal (an interesting insect that infests prickly pear cactus) and dyer’s chamomile (grown by a local woman). The embroidery yarns were wool and some were conventionally dyed while others were dyed by me…the gray-blue is made from ripe olives…the golden yellow from Mexican marigold (or cempasuchil).

This piece reflects back to me a few things… My work with plants…what I have learned from our local fiber arts guild…some of what the land offers up here…and memories of visits to our local art/craft reuse store/organization. Lots of good memories! The bamboo rod was also harvested locally near our first family home here in Santa Barbara.

So, the quilting part. I chose a cotton batting and then quilted front, batting, and back…all together. Wow. That took a lot of time and patience. Finishing each row of stitching fueled my journey, though. Looking back on each square that I had stitched was deeply satisfying.

Writing about quilting makes me want to wax poetic a bit. While crafting my quilt, I pondered on two forces that I see at work in life. There is the ‘tend and mend’ energy and the ‘destructive’ energy. Tending and mending is the work of love. Destructive energy is the work of hurt love, and if that remains unchecked for too long….it becomes hate.

One heals, revives, calms, collects, repairs… The other confuses, destroys, traumatizes, separates, destabilizes…

What I am seeing in modern times is that the ‘tending and mending’ energy is overwhelmed by all that there is to repair. So, it becomes frozen.

I’m also seeing that there is a lot of hurt love creating more hurt love. This is creating more and more of a destructive energy…completely embodying hate and ignorance. This hate becomes blind to its own actions.

What to do?

Tend and mend what you can. I think crafts like this remind us of what we can do with our hands and our hearts. If we can craft something with our hands…we can craft something from our hummingbird heart for our family, for our community, and for our region. Crafting may be a gateway drug to stitching together the soul of the broken lands we inhabit. At least, it’s a start.

I like the anarchist slogan, ‘do not harm, take no shit.’

Believe it or not, that’s what I find myself thinking about while I quilt… Yes, as I pull my thin, cotton thread through each layer over and over and over again…I’m thinking of what I can tend and mend in this fiercely fragile land with the detailed movements of my two hands…

3 thoughts on “Resilience: an exploration of quilting craft

  1. I resonate completely with how you are mending our world … I also feel this when I restore and old piece of furniture … ❀️😊

    • Hi there Colleen! I appreciate that you are restoring old pieces of furniture and giving them new life… Yes, that is a precious and time consuming…and very satisfying process, I am sure!

      • Yes, maybe the time-consuming nature of quilting and furniture restoration is an important part of the process…training and retraining our nervous systems with patience…I wonder! 😊

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