Not Waving, But Drowning
39″ high by 43″ wide
This quilt began its life in a quilt block I designed, which I call Semaphore. My friend Cindy saw that and made a version for a fabric manufacturer, who then put it on a world tour (see a photo at the end). I saw it again at Quilt Market in May 2016, and decided I wanted one myself, only larger.
I purchased several charm packs of solids, and arrayed them all out by color family and from dark to light, using several color groupings. There were many duplicate squares, but after I felt I had a good amount, I went to work.
I titled the block Semaphore, but always in the back of my mind while I was working on this quilt was the poem titled “Not Waving, but Drowning,” by Stevie Smith, about a man who gets in trouble while out in the waves. He drowns because people think he was waving, but in reality, he was signaling for help.
I think the half-square triangles look like a series of nautical flags, waving in the wind. I decided to quilt it also in a wavy pattern, but didn’t want a tightly controlled wave.
I wanted those waves loose and lanky, wild and woolly, just like those ones that come up and splat you in the face when you are wave-jumping in summer.
I love the colors in this quilt, and the up and down fluid movement of the quilting. It calls me to remember that our lives, like the ocean, can lift us high, can hit us in the face, can overwhelm (as in Stevie Smith’s poem), yet also can bring a lovely memory of a summer’s day. In a nutshell, it reminds me that life is full of ups and downs, a blend of dark and light. It’s also a reminder that, in spite of what we post on Instagram and Facebook, we all aren’t having tons of fun and radiantly happy all day long. But we also don’t want to be drowning when we are in reality signaling for help. So, take care of your loved ones and friends, and please please…take care of yourself.
And keep quilting.
(NOTE: This post has been updated with different content after original publication. It was originally about depression. Thank you all for your comments; I have them saved and will reread them often.)