Picking Up The Threads

Thinking Out Loud…

Right after I retired I completely reorganized my studio to reduce clutter, and generally make my work space more friendly to my achy joints. I was also wrestling with a deeper issue—was it time to let go of my long arm quilting machine, Millie.  For some 15 years, Millie had been my steadfast partner in making my quilts.  Millie gave me the ability to densely quilt my work so that it had the sense of intensity I was striving for.  But, a quilt had been sitting on Millie half way quilted—untouched for nearly 2 years.  I couldn’t bring myself to work on it, partially because maneuvering Millie across the surface of a quilt was painful, very painful, and partially because I no longer felt connected to the piece.  I no longer knew what the quilt meant to me.  I didn’t know what it was saying.  I didn’t know what I wanted to say, or IF I had anything left to say.

I removed the quilt from Millie, deciding that it would be a sacrificial transition piece (whatever that meant…) to help me find my way from then to what would come next. I decided to hand quilt it in big loose stitches, letting all the “bits” show, all the steps.  This seemed like a good idea, an interesting idea, but after a few weeks of working on it, I lost interest.  I pinned it back up on the design wall, and there it rested until last week.  

It felt like it was time to ask the questions again—“What is this about?  What do I have to say?  What does it mean?”

Regret, conflict…Talk about conflicted

Between what I feel,  and what I think I should feel.

Between what I want to do, and what I actually do, and what I think I should do.

Then there are the different sides of what I feel about this one thing—the rough and smooth, the tangled, the tight and loose, the hidden, the exposed, the raw edge left alone. 

No wonder I like knitting.  It is simple.  You take a strand or two of yarn, a couple sticks, and you fiddle your way to make loops, through loops, and you get a hunk of fabric that holds together.  It stretches, it bounces back.  You can pierce it, but if you cut it, it will come undone.  If you pull a loose thread one way, it will tighten, if you pull another way it will unravel.  It’s about the loops, always the loops.

Who invented this stuff?  What a mind that took, what thought, what vision and interpretation—to see such possibilities with a simple loop, repeated, repeated, with sticks.  Boggles my mind….

Loops.  Loops of thought.  Some things just keep coming round, again and again.  I think I have that figured out, and here it comes again.  We think we have made progress, and here it comes again.  We have made progress, but we are not done yet, it is not totally fixed.  Here it comes again, I have to deal with it again.

Layers.  There are layers and more layers.  As quilt makers we deal with layers.  We bind them together.  We have lots of ways of doing this.  Sometimes parts are hidden, sometimes revealed, sometimes tight, sometimes loose, sometimes purposely and apparently careless, sometimes with painstaking accuracy we hold those layers together.  I love that about quilt making.  I love that about my own quilt making.  

I am amazed I just said that…I haven’t felt that way for a long time.

By gum….it is still there.

8 thoughts on “Picking Up The Threads”

  1. I liked your blog and your thoughts because I’m also at a point where I don’t know where I’m going with my work and don’t feel that motivated to sew anything. I’ve been away for most of February and am going home tomorrow. I don’t know what I will do when I get there, but perhaps I just need to give myself time to find a new direction. I’ve made so many quilts already that it doesn’t matter if make more, but I’m not quite ready to stop forever either.
    Your blog fits in with my rimunations at this time.
    Thanks for posting.
    Donna Radner

  2. Ah… Cynthia…. it’s never gone ya know. Buried perhaps, maybe misplaced, or hidden, but never really gone.
    My trip to college was, in fact looking for something different….. perhaps a new way to express myself. I found printmaking and loved it…… loved the process. The more I did it…. the more I drifted toward my love of working with fabric. And so….. as you know, I didn’t give up on the fabric art…. just learned to love it more.
    Best to you as you continue your journey

  3. Cynthia,
    I have been tumbling your words around. There is a lot to unpack- letting go stands out the most to me. Wow, that is tough to do.

    Also, I want to touch that piece so badly. It looks like love.

      1. Love reading about the process, the work and art and how it reflects life. The inherent struggles with all of it. This is what fascinates, so thank you for putting this down and letting us read it.
        I’m really at the beginning of my exploration in quilting as artistic expression, but am no stranger to the struggle you describe, in other mediums. It’s always the same questions for me – where do I go now? How much farther down this path do I want to go? What do I need to say?
        I love listening to you Cynthia.

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