Note from Lorie: Hello friends, today’s blog is actually an excerpt from my new book, Love, Loss, and Moving On. I use it because it discusses an important life lesson – accepting the things life throws your way. I also use it to promote the new book! If you like my blogs, you will LOVE my book. Paperback and Kindle editions are available on Amazon.
November 13, 2015
A Slice of Life: A Monthly Column
I Accept What Is
PLEASE DON’T RUN when I tell you that today’s column is about how to design a quilt. Instead, be assured that whether I am writing this column, making a quilt, or just sitting at my kitchen table drinking coffee and reading the newspaper, I am always hunting for life lessons to share. In the quilt design process, I promise to tell you a few. Here’s one now: When life gives you scraps, make a quilt. Sew far, sew good? Then come on along!
Let’s start by talking about my kind of quilts. First, they are wall hangings, not bed covers. But more important is the fact that they have words pieced into the design and the words are spelled out in capital letters, five inches tall. When one uses all caps in email, it is considered shouting, and maybe I am shouting here, but the person I am shouting at is myself. It is said that we teach best that which we most need to learn, so the words on my quilts are all lessons aimed at me.
Today’s quilt starts with the fact that I have struggled with the death of my friend, Big Irv, for months. Had I been the one to die first, I know exactly how Big Irv would have dealt with my death. He would have explained the unexplainable to himself by saying, “It is as it is,” and then he would have moved on. I like these words. They are similar to an expression from a book called The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. Hoff uses Winnie the Pooh to explain the basic principles of Taoism. Thus Pooh says, “A fly can’t bird, but a bird can fly…Things Are as They Are.” Liking this general idea, it occurred to me that I could use Big Irv’s expression or Benjamin Hoff’s expression on a quilt. I was all cranked over that idea for a couple of days until I realized it was too benign. Knowing that “things are as they are” is one thing, but accepting that “things are as they are” is quite another. Thus, I arrived at more powerful words for the quilt: I ACCEPT WHAT IS.
Often in a quilt, I use words to frame the design, and if I divided the four words in this statement in half, and then repeated the statement twice (because the concept bears repeating), that gave me four border sections with which I could surround my design. The words “I Accept” would be the top and bottom frames, and the words “What Is” would frame the right and left sides of the quilt.
OK, so I had the word frame for my quilt, but what design could illustrate the words? With the work of M.C. Escher in mind, I decided to find quilt blocks that tessellate. Since tessellations are shapes that fit together without overlapping or leaving gaps, they are ideal for my message: Things are as they are; they fit together perfectly. I chose a star pattern called Milky Way for the center of the quilt and a second tessellating block called Snail’s Tail for an outer border. The finished quilt will be fifty-six inches square.
I was pleased with myself and with my quilt design, and off I trotted to the quilt shop to buy fabric for my project. I bought gorgeous yard goods in the colors of rainbow sherbet—orange, lime, and raspberry. Once I had the material at home, I spread it out on the floor around my bed so I could see it in all sorts of light and was thrilled when I loved the fabrics morning, noon, and night. But a couple of days into this love affair, I had misgivings about the new-ness of the fabric because it wasn’t in keeping with the message of the quilt. Like most quilters, I have a vast supply of fabric in my stash, and it suddenly occurred to me that for this topic I needed to make the most of what I already had on hand. Isn’t that accepting what is? I need to take what I already have and figure out a way to make it work. I have to make the discordant harmonic.
It is scary to do a quilt this way. My stash has lots of fabrics but mostly leftovers from other projects, not big chunks of material. Thus, this wall hanging will be a scrap quilt using lots of different fabrics, and it looks like yellow will be the background color solely because I need a lot of background fabric and I own so many yellows. It’s intimidating to make design choices in this manner. The many fabrics I have pulled out have a carnival feel, but is it a happy carnival or chaotic one? I don’t know. And I’m afraid. Like that bell ringer game at a carnival, I wonder if I am up to the task.
As I look for encouragement to cheer me on, I am reminded of the great quote from spiritual leader Emmet Fox, who said, “Do it trembling if you must, but do it.” I am also reminded of the great quote from a favorite film star of mine, Bill Nighy, who said, “Don’t panic and show up.” And of course there are always the wise words of my high school swim teacher, Mr. Stricker, who said, “Close your eyes, pinch your nose, and jump!”
Are you convinced by any of this? Me neither. So here’s my plan: I think I am just going to start sewing. I’ll take one of those yellow fabrics and sew it to a green one—my favorite color—and see what happens. And sew on and sew forth, one decision will lead to another until I have a quilt. And with some perseverance—not luck—I plan to hear the ding! as I win the bell ringer game of life.