I'm currently on leave from quilting, but probably only for another day or two. My incredibly productive late summer/fall came screeching to a halt when I got the last of the Christmas gifts done and only had one of Mom's quilts left to finish for the distribution that will happen the week after Christmas. At first, I needed a couple of days to reclaim my sewing space--putting piles of scrap fabric and batting away, cleaning off surfaces, de-linting the sewing machine...basically, letting the dust settle again for a bit. I never felt stressed about getting anything done--it was just continuous, almost machine-like work. I loved it. It felt great seeing the pile of UFOs on one shelf turn into the pile of completed projects on the other shelf. But when I quickly finished the last of the projects the night before my guild meeting when I'd get to display them all at show n' tell (a natural, built-in deadline!), I suddenly...just...stopped.
Then I cleaned and reorganized, which is for me a way of bringing closure and welcoming fresh beginnings, plus a way to settle my thoughts and make space for what might come.
A few days later, I went on a shop-hop with my BFF and BQF ("best quilty friend") Kate. It was a shop hop that Mom and I had made a tradition the last few years--we'd take a day in December to hit some of the Amish-owned fabric and gift stores downstate and then eat at a wonderful Amish-themed restaurant (not sure if it's actually run by Amish but boy, is that great comfort food!). Kate was a willing and eager accomplice in keeping the tradition alive. Earlier in the week I'd wondered whether I might get emotional, but strangely, I never really did. Kate had come with Mom and I once or twice, so it wasn't much of a mental transition for me to be going with Kate rather than Mom. And Kate and I loved having the day to really catch up with one another in a way that daily emails can't always cover. We talked about Mom and memories of previous trips, of course. And dang if I didn't find some of the fabrics I'd inherited from Mom on bolts in the shops--which was quite handy as I set about buying coordinating fabrics for them. As Kate said, "See, your Mom is still leaving you clues!" Yep, I came home with a stack of new fabric (although I feel the need to report that the bulk of it was on huge-a-mongous sale, just to make myself feel less guilty for posterity!).
So now, sewing room clean and organized, new fabric neatly folded, labeled, and stored, I'm feeling that breath of fresh air sweeping through my brain. I've taken a pause. I've regrouped. I've stopped focusing solely on finishing Mom's UFOs the way Mom may have wanted them finished, and I'm now reintegrating my own projects, thoughts and imagination.
That being said, Mom taught me a lot over these last few months. I'm really not exaggerating when I say that every project of Mom's that I finished either taught me a new technique, or taught me how to use a new tool or new aspect of my inherited machine. Sometimes I had no choice. Other times I was quite intentional about it: "What new thing can I try on this project?" My skills have increased significantly. More importantly, my confidence in myself as a quilter has grown hundredfold. Does it have something to do with constant practice? Most definitely. But there's a niggling little part of me that has to admit that part of it is also that I can't go running to Mom anymore to tell me how to fix things. I have to figure it out myself. And I did, consistently, figure it out myself. I tackled problems that would've been stoppers for me before. I ripped whole parts out and re-did them. I came up with creative solutions. I actually machine-quilted in a contrasting color thread so you can see the quilting--something I've never been brave enough to do before!
Now I'm finding myself pulling my own UFOs off the shelf with renewed vigor and enthusiasm. A project I'd set aside because I was afraid of ruining it with my poor machine quilting skills is now done and hanging on my wall. Other ones are sitting on deck, and I'm hankering to get at them. I'm still pondering the start of something new, but I'm apparently still in a place where I need to draw mental closure to a whole lot of unfinished business. So for now, I'm tying up loose ends.
The next six months will most likely not be nearly as productive as the last six months have been, but I'm good with that. Things are falling back into order. A rhythm is being reestablished. The hole of loss will always be there, but it's being blanketed by pretty fabric that Mom and I both loved. And that's OK.