June 17, 2012

The Art of Stitching

A friend told me seven years ago that some people think the act of stitching together pieces of fabric embodies the act of resolving brokenness, of healing the fractures and the fragments of the whole world..

In spite of the fragmented state into which I've been thrust by recent trauma, I've settled down enough to stitch.  The project is a pieced cotton blanket that I began 18 months or so for my dear friend Nancy A. Hardesty, Ph. D., who'd been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a year or more earlier. By the time I finished the piecing (you can see photos at the blog post I did at the time) it was too late to give it to her.  She was de-accessioning her library and possessions. It was beyond her -- it's beyond any of us -- to receive additional items at such a time.

And yet there was Nancy's blanket, which included lots of purple, small vintage patches in honor of her work as a historian, and fabrics I'd used in quilts for my daughters and grandchildren. (Nancy knew and loved them as thoroughly as they knew and loved her.)  I suggested donating it to the Evangelical and Ecumenical Women's Caucus for the silent auction at their biennial conference. The organization, of which Nancy was a co-founder, has been short of money throughout its existence, which may be why she agreed, even though her original wish was that it go to someone who was dealing with breast cancer.

I'm working on the final stitching, healing my own fractures and fragments and trying not to feel pressured by the rapidly approaching conference.  I'd planned to attend.  It may not be possible for me now, but Nancy's quilt will be there. I'm reconnecting as I stitch with shiny purple thread to Nancy's kindness and affection.

Only I could have made this blanket.  Only Nancy could have understood the significance of the florals, a dragon, cheerleaders and tiaras, fat embroidery stitches, and quilting stitches at six to ten inch intervals because I don't like tight quilting. There's a cross on the blanket, and also ghosts and goblins, because Nancy dearly loved Halloween.

Anyhow, here I am at the last minute, stitching into this blanket some of the devotion Nancy offered to me, my family, her students at Clemson College, her colleagues, and the many other people whose lives were touched by her grace. I believe in the community of saints, and so I trust that Nancy is in on the act of my healing, stitching me back together with her love, over which death has not the slightest power.

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