On Cutting, Sewing and Putting My Life Back Together.
My life, My quilt and My Next Phase...
I’m in the middle of stitching my life back together-and each block of the quilt I’m making is helping me tackle the largest project I’ve ever tackled: Getting to know the new me.
My life unravelled when I got COVID in early 2020. Most of the last year had been dealing with medications, doctor visits and countless meetings with specialists. More bad news piled on before Christmas, and by March I had grown weary. Rolling from bed was hard, everything seemed grey, and my creativity was toast. Like a quilt, I manage to stitch together good days, hour by hour, week by week my new life begins to take shape.
My quilt won’t stay flat for long. My plan is to turn the quilt into a jacket, a worn reminder that even though things are pretty great one way, they can be even better when they take a new form. When I put that jacket on, I will be warmed knowing I can do hard things, I can adjust and repair- and as so many of my seam-ripped seams have taught me, my patience will pay off in the end.
A trip to the fabric store with my mom was the first step. To be surrounded by that many colours, patterns and joy! I knew what I wanted to do.
Selecting fabrics became an exercise in filling my heart with joy. The purples, the pinks and some golds for flair. The florals and geometrics all together to create something that was me. I couldn’t help but touch my pile the entire way home. My background fabric? Subtle and white, but with a shimmer to make the colours pop. My soon-to-be-quilt looked like everything I wanted it to be.
Covid symptoms have made it hard for me to follow instructions, so I read and re-read the pattern at least 10 times to make sure I was doing it right.
The three days it took to cut the pieces were filled with tears. Thanks to the virus, my hands tremor now, so my cuts weren’t perfect. Numbers and fractions don’t register the same way they used to, and words get lost on the page. There were lots of “measure three times, cut once” moments. And lots of touch-up trims with scissors to get pieces closer to perfect. Through the struggle of learning my new hands, the pile of squares and strips grew and all that was ahead of me was the sewing.
I learned the difference between 1/4” seams and a scant 1/4” seam... There’s wiggle room when you want things to come together perfectly. I sewed the seams, created each point and pieced the nine patches together. Proudly announcing and showing off each completed step to my parents-who maybe figured out what was happening with the quilt before I did.
Slowly, over the course of a hundred hours, beyond the frustration of getting started; after miles of sewing, ripping seams, burns of the iron and many naps when I was too tired- my fabric became a quilt.
Late in the middle of one night, almost unexpectedly, there were no more seams to sew, no cuts left to make and no blocks left to press. I finished.
Alone in my mom's quilt room at 3 am holding my quilt, I cried into it. A year's-worth of tears welled up from deep inside. The tears of frustration because my hands no longer work the same, the sadness for missing my old hobbies, and the joy of having finished the hard thing, in the middle of the hardest year of my life. My tears sizzled as I pressed the hot iron over my seams. The hard work over, everything where it should be.
In making my quilt, I’ve learned to let go, and settle into my new body. It doesn’t work the same way, and it’s still okay. Like in quilting, in life I’ve learned to look for the helpers around me, to use the tools I have to make things easier. To pause when I need to, and be intentional with what I’m doing.
I snipped threads with my mom's scissors, she keeps them nice and sharp ready to nip at the tiniest of stray threads. Trimming with her scissors reminds me of the way she’s been keeping details straight and helping me remember what questions to ask, and what doctors I need to see. She’s best at keeping things tidy, so they don’t become a problem later. Without her, I’d be a mess.
I asked math teacher friends to help with block placement because my brain couldn’t find a way to get the blocks in the right place. Without hesitation, they sent 4 solutions and a video showing me it can be a very complex math problem. Now, I’m okay with reaching out asking for help to keep my house clean.
I sewed some seams three times, ripping them twice- a lesson in patience, but also in trying again and again to get the right result. Time flew at that machine, and things came together. I’m trying to see if it works with walking. Each day, I head to the end of my block and try getting just a little further each day. With time, I’m hoping my persistence pays off.
My quilt is big-Too big to hold up and show it off on my own. Old me would climb on a table holding it solo to show it off, but now I have no choice but to ask someone to hold it with me to show the whole thing. There’s pride in showing off what you’ve accomplished, and it’s even better when others can celebrate with you. This year may have been the hardest of my life, but I’ve managed to create something gorgeous that will last forever. People are shocked when I tell them I'm going to chop it up to make a jacket. Those same people were shocked when my life unravelled too. They weren't used to the new me, barely able to make it through a day, the new me that slowed and ached all over. Grabbing the scissors and cutting a beautiful quilt up is not something everyone would do. But in making that cut into something I've learned so much while making, I'm in charge of what's next.
I’ve paused the process between quilt and jacket, mustering my courage and gathering supplies for the next part of the journey. It’s going to be magic watching the quilt go from flat to something I can wear. I’m excited to reach into the closet and wear it, tell people the story of my coat, the work and learning that went into it... While I wait, I’ve quilted a patchwork heart to place inside my jacket, a reminder that’ll sit on my heart whenever I wrap my jacket around me; I have the tools, I’ve learned the lessons and I have the support to make my new life, and I'm in charge of what's next.