I don’t know if I should be embarrassed to admit this
but I started the hand quilting on my first quilt over a year ago and I am nowhere near finished. This project has lived in three different places, and is about to take up residence in a fourth as I prepare to move again. There is a comfort in this, beyond the inherent comfort in quilts.
This project is an anchor, a conversation piece, and at some point I think I stopped believing I would ever finish it. I’ve grown accustomed to it in its rope basket, with a clamshell pouch of thread and needles in the corner of my living room. Laying it on my lap for a few stitches is almost like wrapping up in it. Almost.
But not really. It is a strange thing, because I am, generally, a project finisher. I like to plan and I live in a small space, so I tend not to let projects pile up. Even with my knitting, where I once had many, many works in progress, I have diligently maintained only 3 projects at a time this year.
There isn’t anything wrong with having lots of things in progress. You are beholden to no one except yourself. But I realized, for me personally, with the goals of working through my fabric and yarn stash, I needed to be a little more selective and slow with what I started, so I could have a greater chance of enjoying the process and of finishing my projects.
And yet, this quilt project lingers
I have cut out and started piecing another quilt since. I won’t be surprised if I finish it first.
I feel no rush, though. No pressure. I like taking my time with the hand stitches. I am doing a baptist fan pattern, which required a lot of marking and tracing before I even began, and now requires quite a bit of concentration, since I am still new. I have stopped expecting perfect stitches. What would be the point of doing it myself if that was what I wanted? But I try to be careful, and go slowly, so that my stitches are fairly even, and fairly evenly spaced.
Yet I know that I could have finished this project already if I worked on it the way I do a sweater. That is to say, with reckless abandon, and singular focus, staying up late, knitting during breaks and meetings, generally ignoring all other projects and activities for the sweater.
I can’t really say why I didn’t take that tact with this project, but I have reached a place where I am glad for its slowness. Glad for its perpetual in-progress status. I don’t have this feeling with many of my projects, I realized. Even if I space out garment sewing over days, I usually only take a week at most on a project.
The thing about something being in-progress is that it carries so many memories and seasons in its creation
Some of the sweaters I have knit feel this way. I have a particular favorite one from a few years ago, when I was new to sweater knitting, that I began on the day I had my heart broken.
You’d think that would make it sad, but I love how wearing that sweater reminds me of how much I felt, and how, with the help of making things, I got through those feelings to a new kind of happiness and self-knowledge on the other side.
My quilt is like this too
But to an even greater degree. I started it just after I left not just a job I’d had for many years, but academia itself, and moved away. Two weeks later the pandemic began in earnest. And almost a year later, I find myself in the northeast, preparing to move back to the south, getting over another breakup, and buying my first home.
The stitches of my quilt hold all of the memories and feelings of this most unusual year. Everytime I wrap up in it I will think of who I was and who I am. I will think of who I am still becoming. All of those things take a lot of time. They cannot be rushed. Just like my quilt.
I hope to finish it soon after moving into my new home. A perfect end to one chapter, and the start of another. That is my favorite kind of ending, after all, one that arcs back around to a new beginning, that presents vast and open possibilities in the stitches that hold it together.