It's so common to take on a quilt with timing in mind. We might have a deadline like a birth or wedding. We might want a quilt we can finish in a weekend, or pouch we can finish in an hour. Or, maybe we just look at a design we love and think, "I can't start that, I would never finish it!" I started this quilt 5 years ago, and it's just recently become my focus quilt. I feel so grateful for it because I never would have started it afresh, but it's bringing me so much joy now. It's like a special gift from past me that's come at just the right time.
Take Away the Time Pressure
Sometimes I feel like I've become a bit too obsessed with timing. I want to know the plan, know I can commit to it, how exactly it's going to fit into my life. That might be fine when negotiating with my kids about another after school sport in the week, or taking on an unplanned project, but I'm trying not to treat my quilts this way. I want them to be like a good book.
When I start to read a book, I never estimate how long it will take, or count how many chapters there are or only decide to take it on if I think I can finish it within an acceptable time frame. I just read it for rest and pleasure and forget about the rest.
This Juniper quilt has been like a good book that I picked up 5 years ago, couldn't really get into, and then now, in this new season, find it's actually exactly what I was after.
Working in the Choas
If you've read my blog before or get my weekly newsletter, you'll know that I talk up the benefits of having several quilts on the go ALL THE TIME. Mostly, it's because I believe it's absolutely true and essential for most creatives. And, partly I go on about it because for most of my quilting life, I had this idea that I was working towards only being a one quilt at a time kind of person. That having multiple WIPs was some kind of immaturity, and soon I would grow into the orderly, conscientious one quilt at a time maker we were all aiming to be.
But, slowly I've come to realise that the actual nature of creativity is working in the chaos. The absolutely essential role of a creative person is to hang out in the chaos and turn it into beautiful order. Turn a plain lawn into a beautiful garden, a run-down house into a welcoming home, a long collection of leftover fabric scraps into a wonderful quilt. The process isn't linear. It's full of learning and mistakes and experimentation, and it's ok if it takes time, ok if there's pauses and following other muses.
My Slow Stitching Time Capsule
This Juniper quilt is my slow stitching time capsule. I started it with enthusiasm, but soon realised I didn't have the motivation to continue. It uses over 1200 diamonds and that's a heck of a lot of basting! And so, I shifted gears. I started a 1 1/2" diamond collection. And every time I made a quilt that had small, diamond fitting scraps, I cut them to shape, basted them, and added them to the tub. Over the years, I've used those diamonds in other quilts. I started some scrappy stars that I might finish one day, and I dug through to see what useful diamonds I could find for my Winter Jasmine Quilt. But, mostly, they just sat in my WIP cupboard, slowly accumulating, and waiting for the right time.
A Surprise Gift
That right time was this summer. The Australian Summer is a chaotic time for me. Black Friday sales bleed into end of year awards nights and dance performances into Christmas and a long January school holiday, all with the backdrop of demotivating heat (I love the cold!). I started this summer with no plans in mind for quilting. I'd just finished some big projects, and I didn't really have anything that was started, basted, and just ready to make small progress. Except my diamonds.
I hadn't given my diamonds a second thought for a couple of years, apart from moving them from house to house, and so it wasn't until I went digging one night for something to do in front of the TV after the kids went to bed that I found them. They were my own special Christmas present, prepared over years, a time capsule buried because the future would appreciate it. I really appreciated it.
Pressure-Free Slow Stitching
I have spent the last month sewing diamonds, and the experience has been so different to when I last tried. Last time, I needed to make a sample for my Hexie Handbook, this time I needed something simple and slow. Something without a deadline. Something that required nothing of me. Something like a good book, with its stories of old fabrics I'd forgotten and old quilts I've made.
I have sewn these diamonds into pairs until I needed a change, and then I've sewn pairs into diamonds until I ran out, and then diamonds into hexagons. And, then I've gone back to the start again. I've only sewn for maybe an hour in the evenings, through the occasional afternoon, and at least one car trip, and I can't believe how many blocks I have! I think that's the special prize of a quilt you make without concern for timing - the progress feels almost like magic. Like how, in this season of low energy and low headspace, have I accomplished all this?!
Now my kids are back at school and I can slowly feel my brain cogs start to turn again. I am like a plant that needs sunshine to thrive, and my sunshine is solitude. And so, while I am still stitching my diamonds, I'm not concerned with finishing them. I will keep stitching while they give me joy, and then, when new inspiration energy starts to grow, I'll put them away for next time. I like the idea that Juniper could be my seasonal quilt - the one I bring out when life is chaos, my little tiny way of continuing to create order, even when reserves are low. It could even be the thing I look forward to - Christmas holidays are coming, with its obligations and high temperatures and lack of routine, but at least I get to sew my diamonds again!
Can I invite you to start your own slow stitching project?
From one creative soul to another, can I recommend a slow stitching project to you? One that doesn't demand anything of you, doesn't weigh on your conscience. One that waits happily for just the right time, when it becomes exactly the thing you need. I was so grateful I had one waiting for me this summer, and I think you will be too! Here are my favourites below.
PS. If you want to make a Juniper Quilt like mine, grab the Winter Jasmine paper piece kit below! It has the same shapes. You'll find the pattern in the Hexie Handbook.