Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Stitches in Time

Quilting came to me after I was diagnosed chronic, when I was at my lowest. It was a gift from my grandmothers.

I had lost my words and become fat and my hair was falling out in clumps. I had gone to a gray building filled with gray people and told them that I was not competent to ever work for money again. They believed me.

Until you have spent weeks gathering reams of evidence to prove that you are utterly useless to the world, you cannot understand how horribly and completely that hurts.

My mother had given me a nifty sewing machine a year or two earlier and I had taken a quilting class with a friend. For a year or more, the only quilting activity I worked on was collecting fabric. Then one chronic day when I was lower than low, the fabric called to me. I spread out my fabric, rejoiced in the beauty of it, and started cutting it into little pieces.

Quilting became my life raft. On days when I was drowning, when pain ruled, I could still fondle my lovely fabric and look at the books filled with photos of stunning quilts and dream of a better day.

As I said, quilting is a gift from my grandmothers. Meemaw was born in 1891 in Indian Territory Oklahoma. Granny was born in 1886 in Arkansas. Life was hard back then. Little girls learned to stitch as soon as they could hold a needle.

By the time I came along, life had gotten easier by far, but both still made their own clothes and clothes for my sisters and myself and quilts to keep us warm.

They let me go through button jar and play with rickrack and stack up the little scraps of fabric. Granny even let me pump the treadle to her old sewing machine while she stitched long, straight seams. They gave me quilts to wrap in, to be warm against long, cold Texas nights.

They taught me to love fabric, the look and feel of the stuff and the myriad ways it can go together. I forgot that lesson for many years. But when I was in need, it all came back.

Quilting saved me. It has become my passion. I am slow and not terribly good, but I love the way you can make something perfect and orderly. I also love how you can make something wild and free.

Thank you Meemaw. Thank you Granny. Once again you have wrapped me in quilts, warm and safe against the long, cold night.


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