It's only right that I share a bit about what has sidelined me for the past weeks. Back in November 07, the ELCA asked the Women of Hope to make a quilt replicating this He Qi painting. I don't know how large the actual painting is, but we had a computer printed picture that was 10" x 13". We were asked to replicate it as an 18' x 24' quilt--maybe I should call it a tapestry. Sometimes I'm even surprised that I accepted the job. It was so far beyond me that I would wake in the middle of the night with a kind of terror--how am I ever going to get that done?!
I left the picture on my piano for months. Somehow I thought that inspiration would eventually strike, and I would just know how to do it. Prior to this, almost all of my quilting has been straight lines. How on earth were we going to make all those curves--and get it to look decent?
Well, inspiration never did strike. (What did I hear about inspiration once? It's actually 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.) Finally our deadline was looming far too close. I just had to shelve everything else on my schedule and sit down with the women and start. Our methods were rough at best. I took my color picture and made overhead tranparencies with the photocopy machine. The transparencies were not that clear. Then we went to a school with a very tall wall and projected the images onto gumstay (something like interfacing). We traced out the picture in 6 sections with an overhead projector. Later much of our pattern had to be sketched by hand because it just wasn't clear. We began our sewing with the two candles in the lower left. To my shock, it only took us 30 minutes to figure out the curve technique. Do you mean I lived with fear all those months when the solution was really that easy? The women quickly caught on.
The actual piecing took about 3 weeks with a core group of 13 women doing the work. The machine quilting took longer than that simply because our new long-arm quilting machine kept breaking down. We have since learned many tricks of operating that machine: #1 is brush lint out of the bobbincase every 20 minutes or so. We assembled the quilt in 3 sections--that's the only way it was possible to get it on the machine.
Only after we had finished did some of the women confess that they didn't believe this job was possible. It was wonderful to watch their continuous transformation into fabric artists. I had started the job by having my hand in every detail, but gradually I realized that Esther, the project manager, was fully capable of leading this project. When they reached an impasse, they would come and ask me for advice on how to proceed.
The first time I saw the whole thing stitched together, I had this kind of holy fear/awe when I looked at it. It was so much more beautiful than I ever could have imagined. For a first, very rough attempt (oh yes, there are flaws), how did it look that much like the original painting?
Years back I came across a quote from Charlie Peacock: We create out of the imagination of God. I just feel so much that God's hand is on this quilt. Yes, we worked very hard, but it's just not possible to take full credit for how well it turned out.
We shipped it to Chicago today via FedEx (that cost an arm and a couple of legs). Total weight: 61 pounds. I just felt kind of drained after we sent it--like, is it really over? Later in the afternoon I suddenly realized that we did not put our label anywhere on the quilt. I couldn't believe I had forgotten that--me, the one who insists that all of our work bear our label with the red ribbon. I toyed around with the idea of sending a label to Chicago and asking someone to handstitch it on the back. A few hours later, it hit me, that forgetting the label made perfect sense. It's God's quilt--let the recognition stop there.