January 6, 2011

My New Year’s Resolution

Posted in Breast Cancer, Cancer, Friendships, Good people, Health, Hobbies, Quilting, Women tagged , , , , , at 8:02 am by Liliana

The healing quilt

The healing quilt

I was never one for New Year’s resolutions. I don’t like to make a promise (to myself or to others) that I pretty much know that I won’t keep.

But this year, I have made a resolution. I want to finish a large, king size quilt that I started for my friend Nancy three years ago.

When Nancy’s husband Ken died, Nancy didn’t want to part with his clothes. I volunteered to make a quilt out of Ken’s shirts, ties and pants. To make the quilt representative of their life together, I took a few of Nancy’s colorful blouses and added them to the mix.

I made a simple design, something that would work for a disparate collection of colors, tones and materials. Then I bought creamy and burgundy floral fabrics to tie everything together. And when I started quilting, I chose different colors of thread – neutral beige, deep burgundy, emerald green and burnt orange.

This quilt has been an evolutionary enterprise. I started with a vague concept in mind, but the project has evolved into something with a life of its own.

I have done all the sewing and quilting by hand. From the beginning I felt, but didn’t understand clearly, that the idea was not to finish the quilt quickly, but to go through the process of  slow, meditative healing. I couldn’t rush this project.

Ken and I were suffering from cancer at the same time. He had incurable esophageal cancer, I was sick with breast cancer. The last time we saw each other was at our children’s piano recital. He was at the end of his treatments, I was in the middle of mine. We made a sad sight – both of us gray and weary, with no hair and our eyes hollow from nausea and fear.

We said nothing but looked at each other with compassion and understanding. We embraced and cried.

So, when I work on this quilt for Ken and Nancy, every stitch is a gift of tenderness and love. And gratitude that they have given me the opportunity to spend hours slowly pulling silky thread through fabrics that they have marked with their presence. They have given me a chance to mend and heal.

This winter I feel that the time has come to complete the quilt. It feels right. Every evening I work on it for hours.

When the longer days of spring arrive, I will be ready to hand it over to Nancy for safekeeping.


January 22, 2010

Nancy’s Quilt

Posted in Cancer, Friendships, Quilting at 8:10 am by Liliana

Nancy's quilt

Nancy's quilt – work in progress

The year I got married, I learned how to quilt. I have always liked handicrafts, but quilting was an American art, and I didn’t learn it in childhood. Maybe learning to quilt was one of my ways of becoming an American. Once I learned the fundamentals, I taught my mother and sister, and we approached this craft the way we approached everything else – by working on a project together. It took us a year, but we made a richly colorful, intricate bedspread of our own design with definitive Southern European overtones. It now covers my daughter’s bed.

Years passed and I worked on many smaller projects, but I never had time to make another bedspread. That is, until I made a commitment to Nancy. Nancy is my neighbor and one of my dearest friends. Nancy loves quilts and has a lovely collection. Three years ago, her husband Ken died of esophageal cancer. Ken was in his forties, a kind, gentle, man; a brilliant scientist who just wanted to work in his lab and do some good in this world. Nancy was left alone with her two boys.

Nancy loved Ken so much that she couldn’t stand to get rid of his belongings. I asked her if it would be easier if Ken’s clothes were not thrown way, but used to make something beautiful. Something that she could keep. Something that she could wrap herself in. Like a hug from Ken.

I went to Nancy’s house and took Ken’s shirts, ties and pants. I also took a few of Nancy’s colorful, flowery blouses. They will give punch and warmth to contrast with the more somber tones of Ken’s clothes. I designed a pattern, and have now been working on that quilt for two years, every stitch made by hand, by me and our group of closest friends. It will be an artifact representative of a beautiful marriage. I hope to finish it this year. It is a labor of love.