Thursday, December 26, 2019

beauty for ashes, a finish

mid-december, our family took a week-long beach vacation in costa rica, right in the middle of the christmas holiday season. it was my surfer husband's doing and christmas present. in some ways, it was really nice. in others, it complicated the holidays. but what's done is done! and it's what we did.

while we were there, i completed the binding for "beauty for ashes" quilt, making it an official finish. lucky me, i was in a nice new environment for photographing the quilt. a balmy, palmy, tropical beach house is not really the style of this vintage-y liberty of london patchwork quilt, but i think the shoot turned out nice anyway.

i did a lot of the handwork while sitting on the second story balcony outside the bedroom to our rental property, overlooking the backyard and pool, enjoying the shade and breezes.

and the views, which were pretty nice, too. the beach was just on the other side of those trees at the back of the yard, providing privacy with easy access, as well as a soundtrack of gentle waves. it was a quaint, contained world of our own.

indoors, our bedroom had this very simple and modern staircase railing that made a good quilt rack for the week. i did need a bit of extra warmth on the bed because the mr. always wants the air conditioner cooler than i do. so a light quilt was serviceable, even in central america.

all the bright sunshine was quite lovely, but it made photographing the vibrant pastel colors in the liberty patches against the charcoal crossweave fabric a little difficult - they are often washed out. however, it brought out the contrast of the quilting, so it wasn't all bad.

i used a grey herrinbone flannel for the binding. it's thick and cozy against the linen-like crossweave and the silky tana lawns.

the sparse quilting was done by hand, just straight down the center of each row, with white aurifil 12wt thread. it's a very soft, drapey quilt.

beach house bonus: enchanting unicorn horn shells, which my girls found and brought in by the dozens from the beach. maybe some of their magic got infused in the quilt.

this is another luxurious splurge of a backing: two liberty of london tana lawn prints, half of each. these happen to be two of my top favorite prints, both is some of my very favorite colorways for each. the grey capel (in k, i think) is a nod to the grey crossweave, but in a lighter tone. the very sunny, buttery, yellow mitsi is an exclusive colorway produced for the english shop alice caroline supply, that represents the pastel patches. i also think of the two colors are being the juxtaposition of "beauty" and "ashes."

this particular quilt coordinates very well with my quilt travel tote. i wouldn't want to risk loosing a quilt in luggage while traveling, so any quilt i take along to work on while traveling is always rolled up and carried onboard with me in this tote.

my littlest one, with some coaxing on my part, snipped all the thread tails leftover from the handquilting. it's one of her jobs i save for her so she can be involved in the making process with me. normally she jumps right at such opportunities. this time she was in a vacation mode and snipping sounded like chores when i asked her. but once she got snipping, she dropped that attitude and was quite happy to oblige me.

now for the story of this quilt:

this is the third liberty + crossweave lap quilt i have made. they are intended for "sunday best" use at church, to keep our laps cozy in the pews. i've been aiming to complete one for each of my girls and myself.

i began work on this one the week after my mother died in march. because of the quilt's contrasting color palette of charcoal grey and pastels, and because of the bittersweet experience of my mother's passing, i came to think of this quilt as "beauty for ashes," a scriptural phrase.

it comes from isaiah 61:3, "... unto them that mourn in zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness."

the quilt was already connected to the idea of finding joy after sorrow and being comforted in mourning, but it's not really what i thought of each time i looked at it. the quilt began at a crucial point in my life and was therefore entwined with those memories and ideas, but that event didn't define the quilt or it's intended use. i tend to see the beauty that came out of that time of ashes when i look at the quilt, if i think about that connection at all.

however, today, i realized the quilt has a whole lot more to do with mourning and comfort than i knew until now.

more than five years ago, anne, a sweet friend of mine, one of those stellar people everyone just loves and admires as soon as the meet them, was working on a baby quilt for a friend of hers who had lost a baby girl at birth. the baby had been named ruby, and anne used the ruby fabric line (by bonnie and camille for moda) to make a quilt as a gesture of comfort for the grieving family. anne wasn't a regular quilter, but she really wanted to do something for the family and she liked the idea that the fabric line had the name of the daughter they lost. she didn't have any basting pins, so i loaned her my second best basting pins so she could get the quilting done.

this past thanksgiving day, anne and her family suddenly lost their darling toddler, 2 yr old jane, to what appeared to be croup, but was something else that didn't respond to treatment. ever since that loss, i have been thinking and thinking of anne making that ruby quilt for a grieving family. i wished i had a fabric line named "jane" to do the same for her. i wished i had time to make and complete a quilt period! but i knew any quilt i started would take me ages to get done.

today i was catching up with anne's posts about their loss and it occurred to me that i just finished a quilt, a quilt connected to grieving and mourning and everything that family is going through. i started that quilt just as i lost my own mother and it was definitely about "beauty for ashes."

and suddenly i knew that quilt needed to be sent to anne.

i have no idea if she will even like the quilt. the quilt has huge value to me on many levels, including the luxury fabrics i lavished on it and the hours i poured into the handwork. but none of that matters. i know anne gets the idea of sending a quilt to a friend who is mourning a loss. so regardless of whether of not she fully appreciates the things i appreciate about the quilt, i know it's meant for her.

i hope some of the sunshine from costa rica accompanies the quilt and warms her up in this dark winter. i hope she puts it in jane's room and snuggles it when she's in there grieving. i hope she feels the hugs and prayers from me and all the others who love her when she wraps up in this quilt.

what's a quilt, even a splurgy, handquilted quilt, when someone has lost a child?
in comparison, it's absolutely nothing.
and yet ...

quilts are love made tangible, and with this quilt i'm sending my love to anne, as well as the love of her heavenly father who prompted me to send this quilt to her, who whispered to me, "you have beauty for ashes that you could give to anne." along with prayers, it's all a quilter can do for a friend when nothing can be done to change their loss.

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