“Of all cursed places under the sun, where the hungriest soul can hardly pick up a few grains of knowledge, a girls boarding-school is the worst. They are called finishing schools, and the name tells accurately what they are. They finish everything but imbecility and weakness, and that they cultivate. They are nicely adapted machines for experimenting on the question, ”Into how little space a human being can be crushed?” I have seen some souls so compressed that they would have fitted into a small thimble, and found room to move there.” –Olive Shreiner
Hmmm. By focusing on finishing, am I crushing myself into a small space? Am I creating a Tyranny of the Done? That’s the danger in shifting words around in a language as fluid as English is. I use that term–Finishing School– in an affectionate way, Olive Shreiner’s words notwithstanding.
When I was a young mother I moaned to MY mother about how I never got anything done. The laundry always piled up; sometimes as quickly I as I could move it from the dryer, fold it and put it in the drawers, it would be used, dirtied and find its way back to the blue plastic mesh basket in front of the washer. Meals were a never-ending story and I resorted to “closing the kitchen” just so I could get the breakfast dishes washed and put away before it was time to haul out the peanut butter and jelly for lunch. The bathrooms always needed to be cleaned, the floor rarely seemed to be free of crumbs or sticky places. And those sticky places migrated from floor to doorknobs, to car handles, to walls. If I could have strapped on the 409 in a giant backpack, squirting and wiping as I went I MIGHT have conquered the dirt. Just maybe. I began quilting because I wanted a “bedspread” (what we called it then) for my bed, however I soon saw the advantage of quilting: it stayed done. I didn’t have to resew a seam as it didn’t unpick itself in the night. The patches would still be there, done, when I was ready to assemble them into a quilt. And then somewhere this stitching and patching and quilting took a turn and became my art, my way of expressing creativity.
I think I moaned to mother for years and years. Then the children grew up, the bathrooms needed cleaning only once a week, then the children left. Dishes rarely pile up and sticky places don’t spring up like mushrooms overnight. The dust and dirt of housework and I have made our peace with each other, leaving lots of room around my job as am adjunct college professor (English) to happily spend time cutting and sewing and creating quilts.
But there’s this healthy strain of ADHD in my family, and I can easily flit from pile of fabric to pile of fabric. My intention was to take stock each Friday, slow down and commend myself on whatever I had accomplished in order to notice my work, to smile and be aware that I completed that which I set out to do. To reap a little harvest from the sowing (sewing, too) that I had done earlier.
So, today, here is All Is Safely Gathered In, a quilt about sowing and harvesting. I began this three years ago, trying to work with an original block I’d drafted–simple in design but it carried a nice big punch with those new large-scale prints that we were all investigating. How to make them work? Place them right up against each other in nice big squares and shapes–let that fabric shine. When I was casting about for a name, I talked it over with my husband. How about something about harvest? he asked, and the phrase from a favorite hymn jumped right out at me. When I was that young overwhelmed mother, I could think of nothing more satisfying than walking around the house at night, the last child in bed, the open book fallen to the floor, the night-light casting its golden glow on the cheeks and hair of these children who kept me so busy during the day. I fell in love with them all over again, storing up these feelings of satisfaction every night against the onslaught of the day. And now, many many years later those children walk their houses at night, picking up the books, bending over to plant a kiss on their children’s soft cheeks.
I sowed children and stitches and tasks uncompleted and time and more time and I am now reaping grandchildren and quilts and houses that don’t get quite as dirty. While I’m not done, I feel like I have some sense of the law of the harvest. And it is immensely satisfying, I must say.
I was drawn to not only the Kaffe Fassett fabrics (rich in coloration and detail) but also those of designer Martha Negley and Phillip Jacobs (who designed that border). I loved making this quilt, but it did take me three and a half years from inception to this stage–awaiting its label on the back.
I’m actually doing two labels–this one and the dotty quilt label. Hopefully that one will be next FSF–in the best sense of the term.
“But few have spoken of the actual pleasure derived from giving to someone, from creating something, from finishing a task, from offering unexpected help almost invisibly and anonymously.” –Paul Wiener
Happy Sowing. Happy Finishing School Friday.