Saturday, September 17, 2011

Little Projects Carry Big Impact

Several pillows I have made plus the
blue ribbon embroidery pillow that I dream of making, Note
the angel pillow in the foreground. It is the prototype using
 Linda Goodmon Emery's design. 

It seemed that my family, even extended family, was complete before I was born. I came late, born four years after my cousins; seven years after my brother. An after thought always trying to catch up. One of those change-of-life surprises that was too little to do whatever the other kids were doing.

Two female cousins, Deb and Mary,  both four years older than me, had fun playing house with me when I was a baby and endured me trailing after them for the next decade or so.

Then we all graduated, married, went our separate ways and raised our kids. Sadly the next generation of cousins are all strangers to one another. And my generation had become separated until about ten years ago when the three of us discovered each other on email and began corresponding. The timing couldn't have been better. Suddenly age didn't matter and we were all empty nesters facing similar challenges.

We emailed daily and thought of ourselves as angels -- we saved each other from the trials of our lives. Just days after connecting with another cousin, Mary's older sister and sharing a bond that the years had prohibited in the past, she died. The three of us leaned heavily on each other to survive the shock and loss.

Death, relocations, illness, husbands, kids and more. When Mary was diagnosed with colon cancer we were all devastated, but tried to be supportive and encouraging via email.

Emailing, using words,  wasn't enough and one day while sewing, I decided to make us each a small angel pillow. I cut 8-1/2-inch squares from a cotton muslin fabric and drew a primitive angel shape in the middle -- just a triangle with a circle on top and a line for a halo. And of course the angel wings. I added batting and backing and stitched the outline and then some background filler. It was intended to be primitive, unpretentious, a symbol of a simpler life.

At the time I made them, I only knew the old-fashioned way to sew trapunto. So I cut a slit in the back of the angel and added some stuffing until the angel had a satisfactory plumpness. After stitching that slit shut, I sewed this square to the pillow back and made a pillow form to put inside of it. The back was made of two halves that overlapped so it would be easy to take the cover off and put it on the pillow form.

Mary took her pillow with her to the hospital.

The day of her surgery, I lit a candle. Prayed, paced, wished I wasn't hundreds of miles away. And tried to have a normal day -- laundry, cooking, cleaning and writing. Her daughter had promised to call as soon as they had something to report. The phone rang and her daughter was crying. I was crying and then she said, "No, no, I'm crying because I'm happy. No cancer. They found NO CANCER!"

That's been about seven years ago. Our angel pillows have gotten us through several major life crisis since then. Someone wiser than I noted that life is a series of crisis and events and should be expected. They are part of the journey. But nowhere is it written that we must face life alone. 

I've made a few angel pillows for friends and other family members as they face tough decisions or life events. I won't say the pillows have magical powers, but so far they have a high rate of good results. Maybe its the love with which they are made, the prayers said over each stitch, or maybe just the good wishes I send with each pillow. Of course it could be none of the above.

Free pattern for personal use.
But, I'm a firm believer that little gifts can make strong ripples in the universe of friends. Recently Mary emailed her news -- I have a pollup that must be removed. We're dusting off our angel pillows.

Life and its tests and challenges never stop, do they? Maybe, just maybe a little soft pillow will cushion the blows a little. I've been feeling the need to make some small projects and the pillows were at the top of my list. I have a few ideas I want to try -- include a sachet inside so they are scented. Maybe some lavender? Also I'd use Karen MacTavish's technique for trapunto and I'd like to practice my machine quilting.

I come from blue collar roots where everything must have a purpose and work is what is valued. So to practice my quilting or any technique, I must be making a useable object. Thus the pillows are excellent practice pieces for all kinds of techniques. A friend who is a master knitter said that knitting children's items is how she 'practiced' new techniques. They are small, take less yarn and give her a chance to practice, practice, practice. The pillows are along the same idea -- nothing goes to waste and they are a great way to use up small pieces of fabric or scraps of trims, mismatched buttons -- whatever you feel like using. Even a good way to practice your painting.
If you need a pattern for this little angel, I drew upon Linda Goodmon Emery's "A Treasury of Quilting Designs." Or here's a free angel pattern with a little heart, too.

A book recently sent to me from AQS offers alot of perfect quilting patterns for small pillows as well as other projects that are nature inspired. Quilting Designs from Nature by Lone J. Minkkinen is a delightful combination of a main element surrounded by easy to machine quilt motifs, drawn in such a way that they can be stitched without lifting the needle. And it is downloadable as well as in print.

I realize I have been not added to this blog in far too long. I hope to pick up where I left off. There are a few glitches in the downloads, etc. I guess the technology used here is out of date and won't accept new, so I'm not sure what that will mean.

Daily, I try to post comments and sites that inspire me on the Subversive Stitchers facebook page. So please drop by and chime right in! The more the merrier!


Anonymous said...

Dawn, I read your comment on ArtQuilts......And your Charlie Brown quote - I wonder - are you someone who might be living a parallel existance to me? I desperately avoid during the one thing that makes me alive - create - Hugs are a big lack in my life. I would dearly like to correspond, if not too intrusive.

Leslie Tucker Jenison said...

I love what you said about little gifts having big ripples in the universe of friends. What a perfect way of expressing this idea!

Dawn said...

Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! It means so much to know that it is reaching people who enjoy it and take something away from it. Karlee, we are not alone in our struggle to create, to overcome our own resistance to being creative, even when it is the one thing we really want to do. It is strange how some of us commplicate our own lives.

And thanks so much Leslie. I'm always thrilled when I get the words right. :)

nightsmusic said...

I'm so glad to see you posting here again! I have a facebook page. I don't think I've visited it in months. It's either email or blogs for me, I guess.

Hope all is well with you.

Dawn said...

Theo! Sooooo good to hear from you! Hope all is well with you! Email me sometime!

nightsmusic said...

I actually did a couple of times, but I understand that there have been several times my emails haven't been delivered. Could have something to do with the fact that we've changed ISP's four times since January...

But I will this week :)