You won’t be surprised if you learned I have a collector’s tendency. A bit. Not in a massively life cramplingly problematic hoarding way, yet I do keep things.
Maybe it’s because stuff is comforting, like when I was a child. My room in one house was barely wider than my bed, in which was stuffed boxes, and a chair, and Dad’s old-fashioned heavy chest of drawers because it didn’t fit anywhere else.
At night, cosy in that narrow space, with the big window I could see down the hill to wonder at the thunder storms rolling in, as I fell asleep in what was probably meant to be a wood-paneled sun room.
All that aside, for decades I have kept things others would have long since discarded. But I kept them with a plan. I don’t have the skills, (believe me I tried), yet I wanted these to become something: my shirt when I was a newspaper writer, my ‘hippy’ top I wore as an undergrad, bits of orange curtain from our family’s first home, old t-shirts, bed linen from when I was a kid, scarves I liked but never wore, doilies from antique stores located between the places I lived, brown floral curtains from mum’s shop…etc ad infinitum.
Now, all the above and a lot more has become something. After several months, hours of cutting, sewing and the completion of a running stitch by hand, it is done. I have a quilt due to my friend Amy and her mother, and the skills of their foremothers before them. Thank you is not enough.
It is my history, in pieces and all at once. This patchwork is my life and family, it is about my work and study and childhood. Its creation is about a friendship that allowed me to keep and store all this, and another friendship that birthed this wonder into the world as its own entity, complete.
The first night, I couldn’t sleep for looking at it. Tracing its quilted pattern, admiring the clever juxtaposition of florals and colours and different textures. Seeing stories even in bits of unfamiliar material added to enhance the overall effect.
To strangers, it might be a maze, a confusion of meaningless colour and shapes, lacking universal significance. To me it is a labyrinth. It is a sacred path made to be traced by my hand and eye that tells my story and the long history of its genesis.
Perhaps you can see its beauty. But it’s like admiring a book without reading its untranslatable language; only I have the key to understanding. This is how it must be, because this is how each individual life is. There is only so much others can know, even those others involved in our creation.
I have my quilt. You must collect your own materials and perhaps also your friends so it all can be pieced it together and sewn into meaning, for yourself.