Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Get the tissues, honey

(Note, this post has copious instances of "the f-word," as well as quilty representations of same.)

As most of you know, my mom died in December of 2013. Her death hit me hard, coming just a little less than a year after the death of my brother. I was fortunate to have a wonderful relationship with my mom, and her absence has left me still struggling to figure out what life without her looks like. My mom was one of the funniest people I've ever known, and when I started writing quilting humor professionally, she was always my intended audience. If I thought it would make my mom laugh, I knew it was good.

Earlier that same year, the first Quilt Con happened in Austin, TX and Chawne Kimber's Give A F*ck quilt was on display there. The reaction to this quilt on social media was, shall we say, all kinds of fucked up, as people got offended, expressed their offense, started accusing each other of being terrible people and bad mothers, all while the world kept on turning and no one ever died from a "fuck you" to the head but you wouldn't know that from the way these people reacted.

In response to all this folderol, a group of people got together, inviting other like-minded quilters they knew of, and formed a bee, using a Facebook group as a way to organize. We each made blocks based on our favorite curse word: fuck. It was our way of supporting Chawne's work, stretching the creative muscle a bit, and having fun with new people.

The group held together beyond the making of these blocks. Some members went to the next Quilt Con together. Some came to Maryland last December and had a sew day here in my studio. Our closed (and secret) Facebook group is a place where people can bitch about problems or just celebrate being one of a bunch of fucking weirdos.

I didn't know it at the time, but shortly after my mother died, the other members of the group started talking about making me a quilt. They knew my favorite colors were purple and orange, so they started there, each person making a block or blocks of her choosing in that color scheme. The resulting blocks were set in a gray background. And then—


A giant, glorious, beautiful OCTOPUS

I can't even imagine what it took to draft that beast, to cut it out, to make sure it fit properly. But look at it. It's perfection.


This was, remember, in early 2014. After the top was finished, it was given to a longarmer for quilting.

And then it basically disappeared. I can't give more details than that, but suffice to say it looked as though it would never be returned, and there was even some fear that it had been destroyed. But there was no way to know.

Roughly a year later, the group decided to tell me about the quilt.

It was truly the most overwhelming thing, finding out that these people had done something like this for me, something so personal, so tailored for me, and at a time in my life when I needed comforting DESPERATELY.  And it was lost! All that work they had put into it, all the planning, and all they could do was tell me about it and share what pictures they had. 

I was so angry and hurt for them, that someone could treat something so meaningful so cavalierly. And bless them, they never stopped trying to get it back. I even contacted people I thought might be able to help, all to no avail. Until November of last year, when one of the group was able to make some headway and the quilt top was finally returned. 

That same member of the group did the longarming herself and it was sent off to another member to bind. FedEx delivered it yesterday.

This story, hiding as many details as it does, doesn't really express enough about the two-year+ process of making, "losing," and recovering this quilt. And it doesn't really express much about how awesome and funny and unfuckwithable these women are. And it sure as hell doesn't express how much this quilt means to me. It's not just that I can't find the words for it—I don't think there ARE words for it.

I have withdrawn from social life a lot in the last couple of years, and that includes social media, and, by extension, this group. That sense of not quite knowing what my place is in the world anymore without my mother has turned this already introverted person even farther inward. Health problems this past year haven't made that any easier. Colon surgery. Then a frozen shoulder (still frozen, by the way; still hurts—I'm told it can take a year or more to resolve). Now a hernia. And an ovarian cyst. Oh, and some kidney stones for good measure. It's hard for me to be the person I used to be, because I basically hurt all. The. Time. (And I'm allergic to narcotics.) Every time I think I'm moving forward, I get kicked back a little bit. Thankfully, nothing is life-threatening, but I know it has made me somewhat difficult to be friends with.

So, what I really want to thank them for is that, despite all of that, despite me withdrawing and not communicating much and basically being a big giant bummer and not the funny-ha-ha Bitchy Stitcher, they kept loving me anyway. They kept fighting to get that quilt they made for me back, so they could finish it and send it to me. So I could wrap myself in it whenever I feel lonely or weepy or any of those feelings that make me want my mama so bad.

So thank you, Paula FleischerJanet MeaseSam Hunter, Kimberly Brandon RolzhausenAdva Weinstock PriceLinda PayneMelissa KirkMelissa ZawrotnyCaz NowisMaddie KertayFlaun ClineJean MarieMegan NullKim LapacekTrisha Priewe FranklandAlice RidgeChelley Smith BlackBarbara MontejoDeborah Gipe. And Tama Blough, who passed away last year.

Now, if you'll excuse me. I have something in my eye.