It’s Loud in Here

I’m a bit…. energetic. Especially when I’m excited about something. I’ve been this way forever. If you’ve met my dad, you know where I get it.

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My dad has always been the type to have eleventy-frillion things going all at once. He worked as a physician, but has had many hobbies — among them woodworking, flying model airplanes, piloting an airplane, maintaining all of the family cars, amateur radio, kites, camping, water skiing, snow skiing, just to name a few. The man can fix just about anything. Mom had to institute a rule when we were growing up that he was required to sit at dinner for a minimum of twenty minutes or he’d inhale his food and then run back downstairs to continue whatever project he was working on. The rule wasn’t for us, mind you — it was for DAD. And she had to give him a fifteen-minute warning before dinner was ready so that he could get to a stopping point. Otherwise, he’d say “I’ll be right up” and the rest of us would be finished and dinner put away before he managed to get there. He always tried to go to bed “when something was drying,” so that he was at a point where he couldn’t do anymore until it had fully dried. I totally understand that mentality.

If you’ve met his mom, you know where Dad got it. Nana’s 100 now, so she’s not in constant motion like she used to be. But I still remember.

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I remember growing up and going to visit my Nana Helen. She never ever sat down. Ever. If she wanted sliced turkey for sandwiches she’d roast an entire bird. Boxed cookies? Never. Nana made the best sugar cookies on the planet. My brother Pete and his wife have now taken on that task and run a very close second, but Nana’s will always be the best. Cinnamon rolls? From scratch, with pecans pressed into the bottoms of them. She taught me how to bake and she taught me how to repot flowers and she taught me how to sew tailored (!) garments for my dolls and I was convinced she was magic.

And now I realize I have a lot of the traits of both of these energetic, unstoppable people. We wear people out. Our brains go a mile a minute and we require less sleep than most people. And we’re moody, but at the same time generally happy, optimistic people. But we feel things deeply.

All of my life, I have been asked “What’s it like inside your head?” … mostly because my thoughts jump around a lot. And I remember a lot of little factoids that most people don’t bother to keep. These little floods of thinking used to spill out of me with great regularity, inciting that question on a more regular basis than I hear it now. But I still get the question.

One thing I’ve noticed is that when I’m in a low place emotionally, be it because of stress, or sadness, or whatever, I start to feel out of control, unplanned, and I tend to be drawn to a color scheme that isn’t really in my usual repertoire. After the fire, I started piling up fabrics that seemed to want to be together whenever I came across them in my sewing room as I unpacked. This little stack sat in a plastic bin on the ironing board for months. And then it moved to a shelf. I took it back and forth to a few retreats and did nothing with it. And then last April, I decided to start cutting into it. No plans, just cutting and sewing.

I had read Create Your Own Free-Form Quilts by Rayna Gillman and been very inspired by it, but I hadn’t tried her process yet. I decided to go for it.

I was just making components with no plan, and I liked the direction it was taking. So I kept going.

I hadn’t ever sewn something together this way, and it was a new and exciting experience for me.

Deciding how to assemble all of it was a challenge, because when I sewed pieces together, the piece wasn’t large enough to cover the area I wanted to cover anymore. I auditioned several of the fabrics that I had already been using to fill in these gaps, and none of them really spoke to me. And then a piece of text-print fabric landed on my cutting table.

It was perfect for filling in the gaps for some reason. I didn’t really know why, but I liked it. So after that choice was made, the rest of the quilt went together very easily and miraculously laid flat.

I thought it was interesting that the text print pieces all seemed to be located in a diagonal line through the piece. That wasn’t intentional, but I did like the effect.

But then I didn’t know how to quilt it, so it sat. Several weeks ago I layered it to get it ready for quilting, so that I could just quilt the silly thing and get it finished and out of the queue, which has gotten too long again. My machine started acting up when I was working on a piece that required white thread and curves, so I decided to see if the problem was the thread and switched to this one, which I decided would be mostly straight-line quilting.

Because of this quilt, I was able to identify specifically what was wrong with my machine, because certain directions/motions caused the thread to shred and others did not. But I had a lot of fun quilting this piece and let it tell me how it wanted to be quilted. It had told me what it needed all this time, so it did again.

It’s quilted very densely, with thread that matches the background fabric. The only sections I left unquilted are the text print so they’re a little puffy and stick out from the rest of the quilt. To me, they’re the thoughts spilling out, the ideas that are escaping.

So my answer to the question about what it’s like in my head? It’s Loud in Here. 

This piece reflects how chaotic I was feeling in April of last year. Some things stacked neatly and some things collapsed onto each other in my life, and sometimes my thoughts leaked out and I felt out of control.

When I finished quilting it, I decided the top 3.5″ weren’t adding anything, so I cut off that section.

I hope that this piece will remind me that even when I’m feeling out of control, I can find some beauty in the chaos. My hands know what to do, if I just allow the art to become meditative like this was. And sometimes a strange discordant fabric finds its way into a quilt and adds just the right touch as the text fabric did.

And sometimes a quilt doesn’t tell me how it wants to be quilted until I have a technical problem and just need to see if I can fix it. Because this one was small and on the top of the stack, it was the one I grabbed, and I honestly think that the tension problems I was experiencing with my machine as I was quilting it just add to the piece, because the entire thing was really about my own personal tension problems as I was assembling it last spring.

That discarded strip is long enough for me to make into a belt. Maybe I will.

 

“It’s Loud in Here,” started in April 2013 and finished in February, 2014.