Monday, August 23, 2010

Grief and a Return to Free Motion Quilting

Some of you are probably asking, did she "leave" free motion quilting?  One would have to leave in order to return, right?  It's a good question.  Since my dad's sudden and unexpected death on August 2nd, I tend to think of everything in terms of "before" and "after".  My parents, paternal grandparents, and I all lived on the same piece of property (the rest of us still do) and my dad's sudden departure was a devastating blow to all of us.

Quilting has always been my refuge; my escape from the stress and annoyances of life.  This time quilting really couldn't be a refuge for me, at least not at first.  There were two reasons for this.

The first was an unwillingness to let go of the intense pain, as if keeping the wound fresh would somehow keep me better connected to my dad.  Through research on grief and eventually through my own experience, I learned that although this is a common reaction, it is a misconception.  Living in the desolation only keeps a person tied to her loved one's death; not his life.  In fact, intense grief actually interferes with the brain's ability to call forth memories about the departed person's life.

The second issue was the association between our quilting machine and my dad.  It was my dad who encouraged my mom and me to splurge and buy the Juki.  (The Juki isn't the most expensive on the market by far, however it was a huge step up from our Wal-mart Brother sewing machine.)  I'd been enjoying showing my dad what I'd been able to learn and do with free motion quilting "before".  I finally had the realization that if I waited to feel truly good before I tackled free motion quilting again, I could be waiting for a very long time.  I decided if I was going to feel miserable, it was better to feel miserable and do something productive rather than feel miserable and do nothing.

I tried doing some free motion quilting, and to my surprise (although in hindsight it makes sense), I found I felt a greater connection to my dad than when I'd been shunning the machine.  I'd been doing a disservice to his memory.  Grief is complicated.

So with the preamble out of the way, on to the free motion quilting itself.  Since I last blogged about my FMQ endeavors, I've finished 3 more blocks.

The stippling you see on the block below is the first I've ever done.  Yep, I sometimes tend to do things backwards, like learning to make feathers before learning to stipple.  In some ways stippling wasn't as easy for me as the feathers.  While it's true that it's not necessary to be too exact when stippling, having to think where I'm going next while paying attention to my stitches took a different kind of concentration.  With the feathers once the spine is stitched, the path is pretty well set.

The next issue I found myself faced with was my purple frames.  I'd thought I would leave them un-quilted, hoping they'd "pop".  Instead, unless the quilt is laying perfectly flat, they just wrinkle.  So I decided I needed to quilt something in the frames too.  They are only one inch wide.  I ran across these free motion leaves and decided to give them a try.  I'm pretty pleased with the result.

Each block seems to present new challenges.  I love the plaid fabric the quilter used in this block.  It was a perfect mix of colors to match the pansy focus fabric.  But how to quilt it?  I finally decided on feathers because I've been getting a lot practice since I'm using them in the sashing.  However, the feathers are buried in the plaid and really aren't noticeable.  Perhaps a more experienced quilter would have come up with something better for the plaid.

I mentioned in my last blog on free motion quilting, that quilting the pansy focus fabric was giving me trouble.  The vibrant pattern does weird things to my brain and the curved pansies mess up the curves I'm trying to quilt.  However, I decided to give it another shot, because these corner squares are not very big and I thought maybe I'd do better working in a smaller space.  HA!  As you can see below, that's not true.  My "petals" are pretty warped.

I was whining  discussing the issue with my mom, and she suggested I just outline the pansies themselves.  This worked much better.  (If you make the photo bigger, I think you'll be able to see the stitching.)  The focus fabric is quilted, and the pansies kind of "pop".  Moral of the story--work with the fabric.

Progress is being made on all fronts, and at this point, it's all anyone can ask for.


  1. You did a great job!
    I need to start practicing my skills, I have 3 quilts ready for me to tackle. Ugh!

  2. Michelle, your quilting is coming along so nicely. I really like hearing about all the different things you're trying and practicing on this quilt. Although I really like the leaves you're doing in the purple triangular areas, I agree that working with the pansies was the way to go in those areas.

  3. I am glad you have been able to research and find positives in and through your grief.
    I am really enjoying your thoughts on your quilting. It is interesting to see the thought process behind it, and I can see how your quilting is really progressing. I might just attempt my own quilting one day....maybe. Now I can refer to your observations, when I decide to give it a go!

  4. Michelle, again, I'm so sorry about your dad.

    Your quilting is looking really nice. My favorite is the little leaves you did in the purple borders. That is really a nice touch. Your quilt is going to be so pretty when you get it done. I think the quilting is really adding a nice touch to it.

    xo -E

  5. Good for you Michelle, your work is looking really good. Quilting saved my sanity totally after our son died and it is always for me a soothing experience.

  6. I'm sorry to read about your loss ... I lost my dad 3 weeks after my wedding and it was very difficult. I'm glad I still had my mom and we helped each other during this rough time. That was almost 27 years ago and I still miss him, but have many fond memories. BTW, I think you did a great job on the FMQ!

  7. It is hard to work through loss, but you are doing a great job. Your quilt is lovely and the quilting on it is really coming along. You will have fond memories of this quilt, both of your father and all of your quilting lessons.

  8. Love the outlines on the pansies. Just think how proud your dad would be to see what you discovered as you quilted! You're in my prayers....

  9. Oh, I am so sorry about your dad. Each of us has to work through our grief our own way. I am so glad you decided to go to the machine. I like what you did in the purple border and your mom had a great idea about quilting around the flowers. Good job.

  10. What a powerful post, Michelle. Sounds to me your Dad was the sweetest!

    Your FMQ is coming along so very nice. I am so proud of you! Keep quilting. :)


  11. I'm sorry to read about your dad. your quilting looks beautiful...i have not tried free motion quilting yet

  12. I love your quilt blocks. They are beautiful. It sounds like your dad was happy you had this amazing outlet for your stress, and he would be happy to know you are utilizing it to create such beauty.

  13. I hate grieving, I do. I despise everything about it from its intolerable depths to its predicted eventuality and it pains me that yours was as unexpected as it was.

    That being said, I created an RSS feed from your blog so that it automatically shows up in my Friends List on Livejournal:

    I'll never miss another post!

  14. Grieving has to take its time, and it seems to me you're coping well by going on in life.
    You are doing great on the FMQ! It's only about practicing, isn't it. I got the books you recommended, but haven't put it into practice yet.

  15. I'm so pleased you're free motioning again. It's been free-ing for you in more ways than one. Loving what you're coming up with through your quilting. It's beautiful.

    Thankyou for sharing these very personal thoughts with us.

  16. so sorry about your dad. It's great that we can quilt especially during hard times, it helps.
    Your free motion quilting is coming along so well! You are going to be a pro before you know it! I love the leaves in the lavendar border. The only free motion I'm good at is stippling. I want to do what you did when you outlined the pansies...I have tried it and boy it is hard!! good job!


Your comments brighten my day. :-)