Today I’d like to welcome my lovely friend Diane Gilleland to the blog – I’ve talked about Diane before, as the host of the various EPP blog hops I’ve taken part in recently and author of the new book All Points Patchwork (go get it now). Diane has become a very dear friend over the past year, so kind and supportive, and I am so pleased that she was willing to visit me over here and share this story of a quilt specially designed for a precious friend.
What Quilts Mean by Diane Gilleland
When I started this quilt, I didn’t think of it as being particularly meaningful. Back in 2013, I had a new book out called Quilting Happiness, which I co-authored with Christina Lane. And so I decided to make a quilt from the book and blog about my progress.
I chose my fabrics purely out of practicality. Normally I love light, bright colors, but I had a dark grey cat (Pushkin) who made it his mission in life to lay upon every piece of fabric that came into the house. And when he lounged, he deposited a fine grey patina. So I decided to stick to a low-volume group of greys for my quilt, since I knew Pushkin would quickly assume ownership and why fight a cat’s inalienable right to anything?
I’ve never been good at finishing projects that are purely for me, so this quilt crept along like a glacier for the next two years. It wasn’t just me holding things up – when I did work on the project, there was a certain, um… feline impediment. Each time I’d lay out my fabrics and get started, Pushkin would immediately jump up on the table (or my lap), flop right down, and begin purring.
“I AM HELPING,” he’d say (in cat-telepathy, of course).
“You know, I need to sew that exact piece you’re laying on,” I’d reply. Can I just have it?”
“Yeah, but I can’t do anything unless you move.”
“I AM ADORABLE. PET ME.”
“Well… when you’re right, you’re right.”
After a while, I devised some little tricks to get around the “helping.” When I was setting up to work, I’d lay out one nice, fresh enticing piece of fabric, making a big show of patting it and smoothing it out. (Smooth fabric = cat magnet.) Then, once Pushkin was fully settled in on that piece, I’d get out the stuff I’d really planned to work on. Or, when I was hand-quilting, I’d lay the quilt sandwich out on a big table, so there’d be space for him to stretch out while I stitched on another section. We logged a lot of nice hours this way, sewing and “helping” in companionable quiet.
I’d always envisioned that the first time I made my bed with the finished quilt, Pushkin would jump up, arrange himself regally in the center, and survey his domain (which included, of course, the quilt, the bed, the house, and the humans). Sadly, though, that never came about. Before I could finish the quilt, we lost Pushkin to that thing that claims so many cats – kidney failure.
As anyone knows, it’s a terribly sad time, losing a beloved pet-friend. At first, I thought I’d never work on that quilt again. But as Julie so beautifully put it in her post, grieving sometimes needs ways to shut down the mind while keeping the hands busy. So I found myself digging my quilt-in-progress out more and more – doing just a little more quilting, stitching on just a little binding. As my needle moved in and out of that grey fabric, I could feel my little helper’s presence, and it was so soothing.
Before too long, I had finally finished the quilt – the first thing I’ve made purely for myself in years. (I mean, you know, I was making it for the cat of course, but then inherited the right to use it.) I smoothed it out on my bed as I’d always envisioned. A bit of a sad moment, since I’d never get to see Pushkin resting there like a king. But I do love getting that little glimpse of grey each time I pass the bedroom door, and I love snuggling underneath it at night. A quilt that keeps my favorite helper close by.
I think quilts take on meaning precisely because they can take so long to make. They absorb all those days with their ups and downs, and become a kind of memory touchstone. Eventually, I’ll move on to another cat-friend and embark on a lighter, brighter quilt. But I’ll always keep my grey quilt nearby and Pushkin in my heart, ready to pull out and snuggle when needed.
Visit Diane on Twitter and Instagram, and at Craftypod, where she is currently sharing a free design from her totally awesome new book