Hearing Our Own Voice

My post “How QuiltCon Disturbed Me” has been a huge topic of conversation in our home and among friends this week. And thank you readers for your comments. It’s been great because we’re talking about quilts and art and creativity… and it’s caused me to start thinking about the things I do a little differently. Not as in I’m going to change myself, because I do “hear my own voice”, but maybe I’ll take a different approach when I make my next quilt.

My husband, Paul, had a lot to say about my post, so I thought I’d give him a chance to say what’s on his mind.

My wife said this on her blog a few days ago:

“…the quilts I make are mute. There is absolutely no story
behind them. Pretty, for my purposes, is what they’re all about.”
This doesn’t happen very often, but I can say that I disagree with her statement 100%. Her quilts speak volumes. Just not in the sense she was thinking about.

If a picture is worth a 1,000 words, an action is worth 100,000 words. Our actions always speak louder than anything we can say. So what does it say when you create something for someone else that you consider “pretty”? What does it say when my wife gives an expectant mother a baby quilt?

The first thing that comes to mind is that she cares enough for that person to do something for them. Most of the time that comes out as an “I know your Mother well enough and think enough of her to spend a couple dozen hours planning, buying fabric, cutting and sewing a quilt that will wrap her child in warmth (both physically and emotionally). And I care enough to make it by hand so that it is unique, rather than buy something mass-produced”. Sometimes that takes a different form when a quilt is blindly given, “I have felt a need in my heart and while I have no idea where this quilt will go, the very idea that someone needs a blanket moves me to create this and hope that is will bring comfort”.

After the hubbub happened a few days ago, Thomas posted a graphic that said, “Go Make Shit”. Why did he boil it down to this? Creating something is one of the most powerful actions there is. Period. I, personally, hold that the creation of something that we consider beautiful for someone else and giving it unconditionally is one of the ulitmate ways of showing real love to another. But just the mere act of creating changes us even if no one else ever sees it. I could spend quite a bit of time talking about creating, but even if it’s something that is just an “experiment” or an “I wanted to learn a new technique”, the message we are saying to ourselves and others is a very loud “my craft is important enough to me that I’m going to push myself to learn something new…to do something better”.

My office may be a bit strange in that almost all of my employees have drawings/paintings from their kids when they were very young on their walls, even though all of those children are now adults. Why don’t they take them down? Probably for the same reason that we sleep with one of my wife’s earliest quilts on our bed. The edges are fraying, the cloth is thinning and it’s really not a style that fits her now. Why hasn’t she made a new one or even taken the old one off the bed? Because it speaks to us. There is no mute creation, ever.

Back to me: 
I made this quilt for our bed about 12 years ago. I’m not a fan of it now because, my style has changed a lot since then. I was so proud of myself at the time, because, you know, it’s king-sized! I had to do things my way, so I didn’t take direction from the pattern as to how my light and dark fabrics should be laid out. I’m not sure it made a difference, but I sometimes wonder. 

What I notice the most is how a majority of my triangles don’t have points. I really just sewed this thing together with no real awareness of what was going to happen when the next row was sewn on. I’m pretty sure I just wanted to get it done because we needed something warm on the bed.

The best part of making this quilt, and what I remember the most, is quilting it with my mom. We moved the furniture in her living room, stretched the quilt on the frame and spent an estimated 100 hours hand-quilting it together (and probably with a musical in the VCR). We quilted diagonal rows about an inch-and-a-half apart. First one direction, and then the other. It took days and days. It’s been thrown up on by cats, snuggled under by each of us when sick and probably used to build a fort.

So, I was mistaken. My quilts DO speak. I just had to take the time to listen.

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17 thoughts on “Hearing Our Own Voice

  1. Extremely well said! I was tempted to ditch everything I'd had "in progress" after Quiltcon. I'm glad I didn't. I'm slowly finishing the few things I had on my studio table, while contemplating what I'll do different in the future. You've helped me see my work through a longer lense than just whether it's modern or not. Thanks!

  2. I love this post. Your husband saw something that not everyone sees. Everyone of my quilts speak. They were often made during times of joy or sadness and each one has a story. That's just me. But even the old quilts that come from family speak to me and the ones that my dad bought at farm auctions. The women (most likely) who made them were making them out of love or need for family or friends. I firmly believe all quilts speak. I didn't go to QuiltCon so the events that were the catalyst for this were unknown to me until I stumbled on a couple of blogposts/FB comments regarding the "hubbub". I think the "hubbub" is good because it gets people thinking and gets them creating. Now regarding those triangles……..I love them. I have never met a triangle that I could make into a perfect point. LOL! I once made a Christmas Star quilt with lots of triangles and to hide my less-than-perfect points, I just added pearls at each point. Worked for me! Keep stitching, enjoy the process and share the quilting love!

  3. Just found your blog through Thomas Knauer. Love your post,as well as your husband's. I have given away every single quilt that I've finished, except for my very first one, which is on my bed every single night. It's not perfect….not even close….but it has provided so much warmth and comfort in this home.

  4. I agree w/ Paul here. It is our actions that tell a story. I still have, not a quilt (feel free to give me one anytime) but a Leslie hand-painted flower pot bottom thingy. You gave it to me July 1999 for my birthday. I still use it in the kitchen. It is has a big chunk out of it now. I love it. It is a reminder of a dear friendship. I love your stories, Leslie. Thanks for sharing them.

  5. I agree with him, too. Wonderful that he gets it. I hope it encourages you never to undervalue what you do. There's room for modesty in this world but there's also room for having a sense of accomplishment. 🙂

  6. Wow! I think a whole bunch of quilters are going to have a bit of a crush on your husband! Who clearly loves you. And understands that almost every quilt is more than just a bit of fabric and some stitches. You two rock!

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