Living A Prayer Quilt – Sewing My Story

I don’t know how long I’ve sat here, fingers on the keyboard, unmoving.  There is so much to say, that I can’t seem to say anything.  The vice around my heart and stomach has spread to my tongue and hands.  How do I write it, and write it well?  How do I honor the best and worst, both?  I have sat here like this, countless times, over more than a year, and written nothing.  Today I cannot walk away.  This quilt began in heartbreak but ended in hope – a cycle we all live frequently, I believe.  So, today, because I feel heartbreak but NEED hope, I’m sharing my Living A Prayer Quilt.

There was a moment in 2019 that is burned into my memory.  I knew, in the moment, that I would never forget it.  It’s an image of one of my children in what felt, at the time, like a tragic moment.  And while we got through it, and have since lived through much better and much worse, somehow this moment was a visual representation of ALL of it.  If I was a painter, I would have run for my brush and splashed dark colors across a huge canvas. But I am a quilter, so I started sewing instead.  And every time the anxious worry returned, I made another block.  (I do that a lot now.)

You know the difference between the hard things you keep private at home, and the public life you live outside, or the life others perceive you to live.  We all have hard stuff, and, appropriately, not all of it is for sharing.  Some of it is just our private struggle to work through.  But sometimes that private struggle takes us to deep, dark places, particularly if it involves mental health, addiction, or personality/development/behavior disorders.  I have come to call it “the ocean beneath”, because we may see the surface of it, but have no real idea how deep it goes or what exactly goes on down there.  Unless we’re in it, for ourselves or for someone we love.

In this quilt, the dark red blocks represent what goes on beneath the surface.  I chose the colors to represent pain, urgency, heaviness, darkness, discouragement.  They are set on point, to depict the edgy, prickly nature of it in comparison to the neat stacking of the pastel blocks above.  It’s dimensions are a little disproportional – too narrow for how long it is.  I did this to convey the depth of hard places.  Several fabrics appear in both the top and bottom sections, to depict the back and forth of life.  The seam where the two settings and color schemes meet represents the threshold of my home. 

The pastel blocks represent the person I appear to be when I’m at the grocery store, greeting a friend, being part of my community, etc.  They also represent the lives I am tempted to compare mine to, which seem to be tidy and pretty.  There is definitely urgent and serious challenge in that world (alluded to in the darker red pieces on the right in the top pastel blocks), but it appears to me that problems are dealt with more quickly and effectively without the added muddle of mental health and other similar issues.

I want to live in the pretty pastel blocks.  But the truth is, real life is BOTH.  For all of us, no matter what our challenges are.  The ocean may go deeper for some, but we all know this duality.  A friend of mine, who deals with a personality disorder in her family, does not speak freely of the challenge because it would mean betrayal to her loved one.  Sharing the burden would destroy a precious relationship so she focuses on the positive and on what she can control.  She is not pretending all is well; she is doing her best in difficult circumstances.  It stings when people say to her, “I wish my family was like yours.  Your life is so amazing.”  They are comparing their deep dark places to the pretty pastel blocks they can see.  

Sometimes I look at this quilt and think “that pretty world is VERY far away right now”.  Sometimes when I’m out in that world I feel like a stranger there, and wonder if people can see it.  But I belong there, just like you do.  I have to just do my best.  One day my friend asked me, “Am I living a lie?” My heart ached at the sadness in her voice.  And somehow, before the words were in my head, they were out of my mouth, “NO.  You’re living a prayer.”

It’s true.  She’s living a prayer.  It’s an act of faith to get up, go out in the world and function in healthy, happy ways.  It’s also good practice.  So this quilt is titled Living A Prayer.  I made it to work through the contradictions and sadness in my own life.  I made it for my friend.  And I made it because, no matter what our ocean looks like, we can make it.  We must.  The Living a Prayer quilt is a quilt about heartache.  It’s also about faith, believing in good things to come.  Be grateful for the lessons your ocean teaches you.  Use them to serve others.  Get on your knees.  Pray with all the energy of your heart, for guidance, faith, mercy, strength, grace.  Then get up and go to work.  Believe in better days ahead.  LIVE YOUR PRAYER.

I’m right there with you. 



My Heart, Today – A Finished Quilt

I keep thinking about last year at this time… driving my kids to school, busy as ever, getting ready for a quick trip to QuiltCon.  The coronavirus was just a whisper, and I was working on my little daily blocks or pieces of fabric as a visual journal of sorts.  I realized a few days ago that somehow I never shared what became of that quilt top, so here it is – My Heart, Today – a finished quilt.

I quilted it myself and tried to have fun as I went.  Inside the heart I used red thread, and either echoed the design in the fabric or did some simple design.  It was great practice.

I still love looking at this, even after a year, and remembering all the reasons why these particular blocks and fabrics ended up together.  The good days mingled with the tough ones.  Proof that when they’re all put together something beautiful and unique happens.  I never tire of these reminders.

I switched thread color to a soft gray when I quilted the background, and tried a new design.  It’s sort of a flame pattern, which I like.  I was also drawn to it at the time because it reminded me of both a refiner’s fire and of a candle lighting the way.  Both of those images resonated with me and paired beautifully with the story of this quilt.

I made a lot of mistakes as I quilted, but overall it worked.  The pattern provides a lovely texture to the background.  Learning, learning, learning – that’s what it’s all about, in life AND in quilting!

I had some of the incredibly soft and beautiful Outback Wife cotton/wool blend yardage in my sewing stash.  When I auditioned fabrics for the backing, it won.  Right now this quilt is on our family room couch and we love how soft it is!

This creative exercise, this daily journaling in fabric, is so fun and rewarding.  I think I could do it over and over again – collect and sew little bits that capture highs and lows.  Every time they could go together in a different shape or design, and it would be like volumes of journals.  In quilt form.  My Heart, Today, is the story of the winter of 2019-20.  I still feel some of it, but I’ve also come a long way.  Life is crazy, but oh, so good.  And I really love this quilt!

HOME – My First 100 Day Project

I have always wanted to try a “100 Day Project”.  It’s an invitation to choose something you will work on every day for 100 days.  Most of the projects I’ve seen are creative:  sewing, drawing, painting, and so forth, but you could choose anything.  I have a short list of ideas I’d love to try.  While I have no idea who decides when it starts, a fresh 100 days kicked off on January 31st.  And since I can’t stop smiling at the cute tiny 4″ house is from my new HOME quilt pattern, I decided to make 100 tiny blocks.  So here is the start of my first 100 day project, HOME.

Guess why I’ve never jumped in before?  Two reasons, the first being fear of failure.  I don’t want to commit and then quit.  The second reason is that I can’t settle on a single idea, especially one that is realistic for 100 consecutive days.  

So far, I’ve got six HOME blocks.  I thought my first tiny one was cute… until I made an even smaller house inside the same block.  That littlest house is just over 1.5″ wide – so cute!  They are a lot of fun to make, but I may not make one every day.  I decided I will be ok with that, because even seven of these adorable little houses is better than one!

So my first 100 day project is NOT going to be about perfection, but it will be all about fun.  And tiny houses.  Honestly, I’m not sure I’ve got time for it, which is why I’m keeping my expectations low.  I’m using all scraps for this project, brights with a light/dark pattern in each house, and all the white/off white scraps I can find.  I thought I’d have plenty of them, but I’m burning through them faster than anticipated already.  Therefore, I’m giving myself permission to pivot and change things up if I choose to.

For now, though, aren’t these adorable?  Want to make one?  The pattern is available HERE!

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