A friend recently asked me about my quilt design process. She asked if I start with a pattern, and then think of who might like it, or if I start with a person, and plan the quilt around what they might like. And beyond that, since many of my quilts are "just because" quilts, and not tied to an occasion, how do I determine who gets a quilt?
I muddled through my answer then, but the question has stayed with me because the more I quilt, the more I want to make all the quilts, and I just don't have that kind of time or money. You would think there would be some kind of priority, but living with a brain injury means that I don't do deadlines. I can plan all I want, but my brain works on its own schedule and creativity can't be forced. So the answer is that I have a rough list of quilt designs I want to try and occasions I want to mark with a quilt. But if a baby is born or someone gets married and I don't make a quilt, it usually has less to do with how I feel about the person and more do to with how my brain was working (or not, as is more often the case) during that occasion. And what really bothers me about that reality is that I don't want anyone who would appreciate a quilt from me to feel that a lack of a quilt from me means I don't appreciate them.
When I give a quilt, it's not just a blanket. It's an symbol of my love and well wishes. My brain injury prevents me from being as social as I'd like. It keeps me from long conversations and phone calls. It keeps me from being as involved in the lives of those I love the way I'd like. When I give a quilt, it's my way of saying, "I care about you, and if I can't be there with you, this quilt can. If I can't hug you, this quilt can." Before my brain injury, I was a writer. I couldn't not write. Now the words don't come easily, especially if they are filled with emotion. My creativity doesn't come out in words any more, but in patterns I can sew. My quilts express all the feelings that now get jumbled in letters that don't convey what I feel. My quilts are prayers that can be felt. As I work on picking out a design and fabrics, I pray. My conversations with God are harder now after my brain injury too, so I talk to him while my hands are active. As I work on a quilt, I'm thinking about the person who will receive it. I'm praying a blessing over them with each stitch. I'm hoping that with these scraps of fabric, the recipient will know that they are loved.
Sometimes, it takes me a long time to come up with just the right design, like quilt I have planned for my bonus brother. (Maybe I'll finally finish it by Christmas this year!). Sometimes, I see the recipient and pattern all at once, like Timur's Russian Heart. But no matter how a quilt come about, every quilt of mine has a story.
The story of this quilt began about in the spring of 2008 when Erin Berky and I "met" on an online forum. We were both newly pregnant. I was 36 and coming off two miscarriages. Erin was a young bride living in Japan with her Air Force husband. Our sons were both born in December of 2008.
When our sons were only nine months old, Erin's husband, Ssgt. Bryan Berky, was killed in action in Afghanistan. The collective heart of the seventy or so women in our group broke. In the years since Bryan's passing, we Dec. 08 mamas have watched from around the world as Erin has accepted what life has brought her with grace and dignity. She has done such an amazing job keeping Bryan's memory alive, not only for her son, but for all who knew and loved Bryan.
It has been my hope and prayer that God would bring love Erin's way again. And then, about two years ago, in a sweet story that is hers to tell, our Erin fell in love with someone who knew Bryan and loved him as much as she did. Someone who will be a good daddy to her son, even as he teaches him what a good man his daddy was.
And then, I saw the happiest news on my Facebook feed.
I knew that if any little baby deserved a quilt from me, it was this little one! The bakery announcement got me looking for the cutest donut fabric I could find! And then they shared her precious name: Imogen Anna Josephine.
A bakery bunting quilt theme it was! I was planning to make an applique bunting quilt, but then I found this adorable paper-pieced pattern by Deborah O'Hare of Quilt Routes.
I don't have a lot of practice with paper piecing, but this seemed pretty doable so I was up for the challenge. Jennifer Mathis of Ellison Lane posted an easy-to-follow video tutorial on paper-piecing that made me discover how much fun paper piecing can be!
I appliqued her name with minky. I thought little chubby fingers would like the soft texture.
It seems appropriate that this Memorial Day, for Erin, is not only about remembering the life of her first love, but also about celebrating the sweet life she has still to live. With all the donuts on this quilt, I couldn't help but making some sweet extras for Imogen.