Of Monsters and Quilts

Early this year, before cancer 2, I had a dialogue with someone dear to me about fear. Her self-talk reminded her to look at Jesus instead of looking at her fear. Brilliant! I had in mind a gnarly monster approaching obliquely from behind while hearing Jesus gently tell me to look in His wonderful face. He would take care of both the monster and me. Little did I know at that moment what a powerfully helpful image and tool that would become the very next month.

There are so many monsters. Some of them are tiny, no big deal. Others threaten to hack and slash everything. Either way, none are welcome. And these particular cancer monsters do deliver on their promise, they certainly make life miserable. That fear, dread, foreboding, was entirely justified. In the many days of waiting between diagnostic and treatment decisions, good news was almost non-existent.  Doctors are still talking about cure, and “not-likely-to-die” is objectively good news. However, the journey through not-likely-to-die is not the same as not-likely-to-suffer, not-likely-to-thrive, not-likely-to-have-other-body-parts-in-need-of-attention, the list continues.

Anyway, after my last surgery (March 6), I experienced . . . Knitter’s Block? Is that even a thing? I’ve used kitting for decades to cope with all kinds of life situations, and I couldn’t pick up my needles. Huh. Deploy Quilting Friend. I was on serious weight restrictions, so she came over promptly when called to dig through my stash, an impressive one, to find fabrics for hand piecing a quilt. I’ve never pieced a quilt that way. Takes a long time. Well, I have nothing but time available and lots of waiting. English Paper Piecing it is. I’m doing nothing fancy with it, just stash busting. But here’s the thing. In collaboration with my posse, there is so much in this quilt that is still an expression of groaning, hope, add your own idea to the mix. I’ll be closing out the piecing soon to prepare for the hand quilting process. I have a frame ready to go and my goal is to have it loaded or prepped in such a way that by the end of July (more surgery) I will transition to that phase of the process. Maybe that will carry me through radiation? Who knows.

Quilt progress at the end of May

Gram’s Quilt and artist statement


Gram's Quilt, 2006

Gram’s Quilt, 2006

*The artist statement was written at the time I presented her with the quilt.  Evelyn celebrated her 100th birthday this past spring and welcomed her newest great grandaughter who was named after her the same month.  (JAB 10/24/2015)

When my grandmother, Evelyn Pike, asked for a quilt to use that would make the bed in her study look less like a bed and more like a study, the pattern “Snail’s Trail” immediately suggested inteself.  This pattern illustrates Gram’s life.  It depends on intertwining of contrast, etics and emics, in color. We remember Gramps because Gram is most fully understood in the embrace of the man whose life and work she shared.

The blues in Snail’s Trail echo the heavans who declare that God is glorious; his care for us and his majesty are expressed by Psalm 19:1-4 in four different languages significant in Gram’s life – French, Spanish, English and Mixtec.

The main body of the quilt has more than 50 fabrics and is constructed with 48 blocks, each containing 20 individually sewn patches (960 total).

The backing, not pictured here, uses Guatemalan textile motifs, significant to my life with Gram, as she introduced me to the world beyond Michigan as a young teenager in Guatemala in 1985.

It was said of Gram’s father, “Papo,” that he was a man of God who shone like the stars of the universe.  In his honor, and because her daughter carries his love of God’s people, her pillow top coordinate is quilted in stars using metallic blue thread.

It has been my joy working this quilt for Gram.  With each step in the process I experience her grace, remember her courage, celebrate her life, pray for her continued blessing from the Lord.