Four bulbs brighten my studio, giving ample light to work by. Yet as I press, cut, and sew, shadows darken the corners. The shadows hide spectres, whispering my name, nudging my attention their way. I turn, blinking. Sometimes I see nothing; sometimes I catch a glimpse of days gone by.
The spectres buzz quietly, muttering just under my hearing. Like lines of poetry, their words swirl slowly in the air, finally pushing their way into my consciousness. Many of the words are names, but the names all have their own stories, each story a memory.
The spectres and their memories arise as I pull pieces from my stash. Made from new fabrics and old, yardage and scraps, quilts are more than shape and color. A quilt becomes a literal scrapbook, full of memories both happy and sad. Each shadow of the past is firmly stitched in, just as Peter Pan’s shadow was re-attached with a few snug stitches. In this quilt a memory of shop-hopping with friends; in that a fabric used in a grandson’s baby quilt. As I include scraps from older projects in new ones, the memories continue to build.
Most remembrances are happy. The creamy background of two quilts celebrates graduations for Son and his sweetheart. Besides the celebration, I remember finishing Son’s quilt during a very dark time, and sadness permeates the remaining scraps.
Similarly, the finely etched toile of a wedding quilt lives on, despite the death of the groom’s fiancé prior to their marriage. The beauty of the fabric does not hint of the ugly parts of the story, but the spectres remember and whisper tales as I work.
Creating a quilt transforms shapes and colors, wild ideas and rigid planning. The metamorphosis converts old fabrics and new into a new form, more than the sum of its parts. Those parts include the spectres’ stories. Research has shown that good memories can supplant bad. I need no scientific proof to know it is true. With each new quilt and each new brighter memory created, the darker ones lose their power. That fine toile carries death, rejection, and pain. But when the same toile is matched with joy, with new thoughts and happy circumstances, it throws off its shadows again.
The full complexity of life shows in my quilts. Happiness is woven with sadness, birth with death, weakness with strength. The contrasts give vitality to the whole. If you know how to read my quilts, you can read those stories, too. We step into a new year, not knowing the stories that will be written in it, or written on our quilts. But the beauty will come from remembering the past, in all its dimensions, as well as in creating something positive for the future.