Karen writes about life as a Quiltmaker in Austin, Texas; surviving in an empty nest, marriage, cooking, gardening and (did I say?) Quilting...

Monday, December 18, 2006

Quilting as Meditation - Reflection on Life & Death

This past weekend, we euthanized our 9 year old Blue Heeler, Sarita. Though the event itself was quick, and relatively untraumatic for our dog, (who had been very ill for three weeks) we suffered greatly. It was a hard decision to make, and one which, I'm sorry to say, we agonzied over much too long. Hoping that the dog would recover, we kept trying different remedies, even though, I think from very early in her illness, I knew that this would probably be it. At any rate, a wonderful mobile vet arrived on Saturday early afternoon, (it truly was very quick for Sarita), and DH left to bury her at the deer lease camp ground.

So, left with our small dog buddy, and old cat OLOK (Our Little Outside Kitty) I turned to my quilting as a means of grief and recovery last evening.

I think that quilting, as it was done many years ago, may very well have served as a respite for many women. A quiet time (when done alone, as opposed to in a group - an altogether different experience), giving the hands release to work and create while the mind has time to reflect, wander, or focus.

Becoming a meditation of sorts, the work, whether the relatively thoughtless and routine stitching of the quilt sandwich, or the more challenging work of piecing, the working of the quilt provides a steady background for the work of the mind needed to recover from stress.And indeed, I can think of nothing more stressful than dealing with the loss that only comes with the death of a loved one. Even the death of "only" a pet provides the avenue of thought down which we must confront our own mortality. Something we do so reluctantly, and rarely. It is, after all, the only sure and certain thing in this life.

Converting the grief, into constructive, and non-threatening, even a life enhancing direction for our meditation is difficult, at least for me, and I am sure for most.
The focus tends to drift back again and again to the recent, the illness and loss, rather than back, to the happier times that formed the entire span of the relationship - if we were lucky. With Sarita it was so very true. - many, many happy memories will remain behind, after the grief subsides.

But, I also had a fear that I might quilt my grief into my existing hand quilting project, or, at a minimum, be unable to quilt well.

So, it was that I worked last night I tried playing with Eleanor Burns wonderful Flying Geese technique. I bought her book yesterday, during a visit to my little brother (another tale of woe, as he fell off a ladder, and suffered some painful, though minor, injuries on Saturday...). Fortuitously, the pharmacy was, well, in the same shopping center has Joann Fabrics! And that 50% off coupon was burning a hole in my purse!

I knew the technique involved sewing squares together, in a special way, to result eventually into the old classic "flying geese" patch.
And, the technique is indeed VERY simple - recommended highly for any beginner.
But, the book only gives sizes for a single, overly large geese patch - something to be easy for the beginner, with only a few needed to make a big quilt!

So, a small bit of math was required, to downsize a bit, so I could make some small patches. I'm happy with the result, though the project involved some consideration of the math involved. The graphic artist in me wanted to downsize proportionately.... however, that created serious problems with the need in quilting to have that never changing 1/4" seam. This first effort was the result of calculating the proportions exactly, and converting the decimals to inches.... It worked, in a way, but there was not enough seam allowance... too close, so the square up in the end was, well just not quite precise - off by 1/32nds in places...

It sewed up OK, but certainly not as precise as the original technique - which is VERY forgiving, the resulting geese have enough extra in them to allow for a nice neat square up... For some reason, I have a real OCD type need to learn ALL quilting techniques....
The first try, posted (in my first attempt to insert directly from my new Photobucket album... sorry if it isn't quite working right...)

The final assembly resulted in some lot points for those geese (maybe more like ducks?), and not a perfect result. More practice needed.

Tonight, I will try by working backward from a completed patch, adding the seam allowances, etc....

Overall, a good distraction from a weekend of sadness.