The Quilt That Spoke

Have you ever had a quilt practically tell you what it wants to be? I thought I had. I mean, I feel like I sort of “collaborate” on my quilts with them, much like I imagine an artist collaborates with his or her paintings. But, I had never felt like a quilt spoke its intentions until I started working on the second color way of Daisy Jane.

When the idea for Daisy Jane first came to mind, daisies were the flower I pictured. As such, it only made sense that the EPP flowers would convey that idea. White petals with yellow centers.

However, the more I made them, the more I remembered how much I enjoy high contrast centers for EPP flowers. So, initially, I rationalized that I would throw in a few navy blue-centered flowers to satisfy the itch to feature them. But, with every flower, I knew something wasn’t right. 

Finally, finding myself at a standstill, I sat down at my computer to create some digital color way mockups. The first mockup used the following photo of the yellow-centered flowers scattered on the grass as inspiration.

Then, the Quilt Spoke

As I colored in the digital version of the pattern, it was like the quilt itself spoke. 

“I want to be two quilts,” it said.

Immediately, I knew it was the right thing. Madeleine L’Engle, Newbury award winning author, called this phenomenon “serving the work.” She held that the “work,” whatever medium it takes, knows better than the artist what it should be. She held that wise artists listen. So I listened. 

The launch date for the pattern release loomed uncomfortably close to consider embarking on stitching a second quilt. Still, I felt it in my bones that the quilt knew better. I had been trying to force two quilts to converge into one, and it just wasn’t working.

Over the course of stitching the second version of the quilt, we took a short trip to Lake Malawi. We visited our church there, and simply enjoyed a change of scenery from our own homes mid-quarantine. Throughout that week I stitched in earnest everyday, and I nearly finished all of the flowers. 

However, also during that week, we learned that a dear family friend passed away in France. It was quite a shock. He had been a fellow missionary to Africa, as well as being my sister’s father-in-law. He was survived by a wife, two daughters, a son, and seven grandchildren. I felt the stitches in those daisies absorb the shock, and then sorrow, of the news.

The Quilt Spoke Again

When we returned to Lilongwe, I finished stitching the second batch of flowers. Then, I began to machine appliqué the yellow-centered flowers to their deep green background squares. As I did so, the quilt spoke again.

“I am meant for his widow,” it said.

From the moment that I sensed this quilt would become two, I knew the second quilt would not be for me. But, I didn’t know who it would be for—until that moment.

With every flower that I appliquéd, I prayed for her. Then, as I sewed the squares together row by row, I imagined the quilt absorbing tears and giving comfort. And maybe, one day, I hoped it might bring joy to her shattered heart.

Stitching is funny that way. For all of the cutting and stitching, it actually brings all of the pieces together. It makes cutting up fabric only to sew it back together again make sense. I found the metaphor deeply comforting as I considered our sweet family friend and her loss. I prayed it would be so for her. 

The Quilt Spoke Once More

Shortly after learning this news and completing the quilt top, the Malawian borders reopened. Matt and I decided to take the opportunity to travel to visit family for a short time. At the same time, I wanted to make sure that our friend would receive her quilt sooner than later. But, the quilt top still needed to be turned into an actual quilt

That was when the quilt spoke for the last time.

“Leave me with Julie,” it said.

Julie is my dear fellow missionary-in-arms here in Malawi. I will shamelessly confess that I dragged her down the sewing rabbit hole a few years ago. Since then, she has become quite the prolific hand stitcher! Her first foray into a large scale English paper pieced project was a queen sized scrappy 2” hexagon quilt. Did I mention she hand quilted it herself, as well? She did. Go big or go home, right?

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Quilt

Well, as it turned out, Julie’s mom planned a visit to Malawi while Matt and I would be visiting our families. The most amazing part? Julie’s mom lives in France. If she was willing, she would be able to hand deliver the quilt to our widowed friend. 

So, I gathered up the courage to listen to the quilt. I asked Julie if she would consider quilting it for me. I told her about how the quilt had fairly insisted to be given to our friend. And, would she be willing to be a part of this crazy sisterhood of the traveling quilt?

Amazingly (or not so amazingly if you know Julie), she agreed! And, even more astonishingly, a month later, quilted and bound, the quilt found its way to France. Shortly thereafter, our friend received her quilt. It was a surreal moment. Despite being separated by two continents and a global pandemic, we managed to band together to express our love for this incredible woman.

The Quilt Came Full Circle

The funny thing is, I don’t really feel like I can take credit for it. Sure, I did my part, as did Julie, and her mom. But, I’ll always believe the quilt itself knew its mission all along. It practically spoke itself into existence. The Daisy Jane quilt pattern was born out of my own grief, and little did I know that a version of it might comfort someone else in theirs. 

I still haven’t seen the finished quilt in person myself. But, rumor has it that I might be able to later this year. I have high hopes that it will also mean that I can finally embrace my friend for real. But, in the meantime, I’m grateful that there is a Daisy Jane quilt out there standing in the gap. 

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