Thursday, November 10, 2011

Making quilts...

I have always loved to sew.  My Mother put a threaded needle into my little hands when I was only two, and I remember my Aunt "B" showing me how to tie a knot into the end of the thread for the first time.  My stitches were long and crooked, but I was very proud of my first "seams".  My only problem was the thread was too short, so when I got to the edge of the cloth piece I was "making" into a blanket the sewing line puckered up and gathered the material into a bit of a bunch.  I was not pleased with the result - which says a lot when you remember how small I was.

When I was only four my Mother started to allow me to begin using the old Ford de Luxe sewing machine; a neat old electric model that had an external motor with a rubber belt on the flywheel.  She would tell me to sew "along the lines" on the lined writing paper sheets from old school notebooks, no thread, an old needle, and nimble little fingers needing something to keep me out of trouble as she chased after my toddler baby brother and awaited the birth of my youngest sister!

Mom created  the most amazing things with that machine in quick order; Hallowe'en costumes from what ever she had on hand, like burlap sacks for buckskin; coat-hanger wire to add "ribs" to a vampire cape; lace or other beautiful fabrics made over from adult sized dresses to pint sized ones for us; seams let out or taken in for a better fit.  I learned mostly that you can do what you want with fabric and you are the best judge as to whether or not you reach your goal. I would sew clothes for friends, make costumes for parties, coats for the pets, Barbie dresses... whatever I decided was good.  Then I discovered patchwork.

I realized very quickly that it was something I loved!  I actually used high school Geometry lessons in the real world to create the angles and lines that would morph into something more like art than home economics.  I made simple quilts at first for my first nieces and nephews; a puffy flannel cloud with stitched trapunto faces, little gingham triangles in soft colours, fun fabrics with ruffled borders.  I planned beautiful scrap quilts and laid them on flannel sheets to roll up and save until I had a place to work with enough room, and wished for a little more time while the kids grew... I saved fabrics, planned on teaching classes, kept notes on patterns, colour pallets, even began hoarding lengths of cotton - now known to most quilters as a "stash" - and realized my delight in looking at the colour, feeling the weight of the quality cottons, testing the thicknesses on the flannels, and understanding that I am a "Fabric Addict", a "Textile Hoarder" or a "Quilt Whore"... and laughing about it.   I volunteered to teach hand sewing to grade schoolers, helped preschoolers make patches for baby quilts when their teachers were taking leave to raise their own newborns, created many quilts to raise funds for class trips and class projects, learning to better my techniques and trust my instincts on colour and form.

And then I stopped.  When my world fell apart and my life lost it's flavour I had no desire to create.  The fabrics were whittled down and put away, stored for "later"...

So when a friend explained in the Fall of 2010 that they were looking for donations to raise funds for charity I offered to crawl out of my hole and make them a quilt.  I worked for over a month, immersing myself in the colours of the fabric at the waning of Summer and the first few days of fall.  I stacked reds, russets, oranges, yellows, greens...  cream and deep indigo...  and began to feel alive again.  I completed the project as planned, sewing right up to the deadline, and it was offered on silent auction - my best work to date.  I loved every little square, every stitch, every line and colour.  And my friend told me to "make quilts" to bring me out of my darkness... "make quilts"...

I have revived my love of the creative process again.  I have been asked on more than one occasion for commissioned work, but so far I have stuck to gifts and charity.  At this moment, when I am again being dragged back into the mess and drama by a discontented "ex" I am taking time to keep my joy alive by creating something that will make a difference to another human being; matching "twin" squares for an international pair of quilts to raise awareness and help raise funds to combat ovarian cancer.  After that I will concentrate on quilts for our "littlest" recipients...  there are several new little "stars" in my Universe that I want to be able to fold up in a blanket of love...  and thanks to friends I have rediscovered my "love" to be able to create. 

So I'll be cutting and sewing for a day or two... and in the meantime I'd like a cafe mocha vodka valium latte to go... just don't spill it on the quilt!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Learning the hard way....

My lawn is cut, Hallowe'en is over and I have taken all the candy and given it away - some to friends, some to family, and the remaining sack full went to the Foodbank this afternoon during my round of errands.  I have new leashes for my dogs, a new jerry can for the lawnmower, and a new direction for myself.

Go ahead.... laugh....  I moved back into the upstairs.

This time I moved most of it on my own, one box or bag or bin at a time, up and down the stairs every day, over two weeks, until my back refused to lift or my knees refused to climb.  With a little help from my son "J", his buddy "C" and my nephew "P" I got all the important stuff into place; the waterbed (ah... scooshy bed is back...), the couches, cupboards, freezer, dining table, filing cabinet and heavy carved dresser;  everything else I either rolled up, muscled up or dragged up.  I am sore, sweaty, my hands ache, I have bruises in stripes on my arms and shoulders, my knees are complaining, and I'm happy - almost elated really - and down about 10 lbs.!  It took two weeks, and I still have to clean up the carpets and floors in the suite, but the pets have resettled nicely, and I have the rooms organized to my personal satisfaction! 

I now have a studio!  The fabrics for my quilts have shelves to be displayed on and windowed cupboard doors to keep the cat off!  I have open shelf units for my boxes of thread, a wall to hang my flannel workboard all the time, a window for light, and the photos of my most loved children, nieces and nephews to look at whenever my mind wanders from task.  There is a spot for works in progress, niches for upcoming projects, and closed storage bins for my seasonal crafts - notably the Ukrainian Pysanky I love to create in the spring every year.  There is even a special place for the last remaining instruments I decided to keep and play, with their portfolios of music beside them, and my vocalize and Arie Antiche for those moments when I feel joyful and want to sing.

The computer is put away in it's own office where it will not be a constant distraction!  The files and budget papers, lists of assets and expenses, legal documentation, orders, consents, in short the "paper monster" has finally been tamed and caged.  I spend a little time writing or catching up, checking email, playing "poke" on facebook with friends, and then I walk out and close the door.  No longer my only companion.  I spend my best time now taking care of my home and garden, pulling a few weeds, making sure the trash is sorted and gone, running my little robot vacuum and smiling.

The kitchen has come back to life; butter chicken fragrant with fresh chopped cilantro; slow cooked oatmeal thickened with ground flax meal;  scallop and bacon chowder with saffron in the broth; grilled cheese sandwiches loaded with warmed, shaved honey ham; there is shortbread dough in the freezer, candied fruit marinating in brandy; a whole shelf with my wonderful wine collection; there was even a  party on Hallowe'en where little kids ate hot dogs with me and watched "Hocus Pocus"...  in short, I have my life back. 

I never realized that I was the one who just handed bits of my life to anyone who asked. Those who did take it didn't value it. It wasn't theirs to take, nor was I obliged to give it to them. I find I have become a little more cynical, no longer trusting blindly as I realize now the only person who I should ever truly trust is myself.  I have been screwed over more than once in the last couple of years, taken advantage of, learned to see other people in a more realistic way, and I have to say I am no longer QUITE the naive person I was at the beginning of the journey, but I still need the advice of good friends to keep me from screwing myself up again!

So now it's time to live with fulfillment, enjoy each task and complete each task in order, take on new projects, achieve in new ways, and remember to let Karma take care of the rest; I don't need to get even.  Because living well really IS the best revenge... and I'll have a cafe mocha vodka valium latte to go... please...