burying threads

I took one last look at the new quilt on the table in my studio, shrouded in dark, but with enough light to see the texture that was beginning to form on the surface from machine quilted lines meeting the hand quilted lines. I was just a day into the commitment to give this piece my all until finished. I went to bed knowing I’d be up at the crack of dawn to begin adding more.

In the morning light I saw it all a little bit differently, where the curved lines wobbled just a tad too much, where a pucker would have to be smoothed out, my eyes scanning for the next place to go. So much more to do until the alchemy of fabric and thread became the feel of finished quilt. This part of the process always evoked the need for faith. I turned on my sewing machine, sat down and immediately added a new line. Like most of the others, it began somewhere in the middle, at the edge of a piece that would become the pivot point for catapulting it across the surface. The first line I made ended up being all wrong, it would have to be ripped out. But I needed to attend to the dogs, make my coffee, so with one last look at the energy that was brewing in this quilt, I left with resolve to come back and get to it.


It is best to rip out stitches from the back of a quilt. Here, it is just the purity of line on a (mostly) solid piece of fabric. I lowered my stool, took off my glasses and got up close and personal with the tight even stitches confronting me. Methodically wielding the seam ripper in and out of every third stitch or so lasted about a minute before getting abandoned in favor of pulling, tying off, and burying all the unresolved thread ends that I was now seeing from yesterday’s work.


This act of isolating both threads (from needle and bobbin), tying them together in a small knot at the surface of the fabric, snipping them together to make a clean single point for threading a needle, and then working through the hole from which they came back into the batting with a satisfying little pop, is one of my favorite things to do. Go figure. It is grunt work after all. But it also creates a great deal of space in the process for meditation and reflection. What threads of my life have I been burying so I can have the semblance of an ordered and tidy emotional life? I worked, and felt the space of intimacy I was creating for myself at the same time. Much to the dog’s dismay (it was time for our walk in the woods after all), I stayed at the task until every last thread was buried.

I was looking forward to a long and leisurely walk. After so much rain and the excitement of my parents visiting, walks in the woods with the dogs during the past week had been short. Walking the familiar path this morning, I felt the intimacy of the woods collide with the intimacy of my engagement with the quilt this morning. This feeling of touching and being touched, bittersweet and full of emotion, triggered a trajectory of thought not unlike the way the edge of a piece of fabric was triggering the trajectory of curved lines in this quilt. The dangling ends of these thoughts would get buried soon enough, but for now I let them wave freely. I missed being touched. I missed the feel of another’s loving hands. I missed the intimacy that can be triggered by just a simple touch. All of my past lovers were now buried threads, but there would always be continuity in the longing they left in me. One in particular came to mind, the one who came into my life as my first post divorce lover, the one I felt compatible with in so many important ways, but who wanted a very different path than the one we could have had together.

As I approached the pond, I remembered bringing him here, how we had sat together on the meditation stool that lived here, back pressed to back, the characteristic crackle and fizz of our shared connection as strong and comforting as ever. I suppose it was no coincidence that after almost two years of hiking this terrain and passing the meditation stool that was always just there, that I would look down this morning and see the stool thrown into the pond, submerged, almost buried, floating in the illusion of the reflected trees in the water.


Coincidence or not, it was still a shock. How did it get there? A disgruntled bear? A disgruntled human? As if to say, ‘Move on!’, ‘No need to sit here and dwell on this any more!’ ‘Look instead at what is forming here on the surface right in front of you, feel the deep roots down into the water, buried and unseen and yet capable of bringing forth unexpected beauty too, every year, over and over again!’


The process of quiltmaking never disappoints. There is a front surface connected to a back surface and what happens in between is what makes it potentially a quilt full of conflicting energies. It’s okay to feel the comfort and satisfaction that comes with making a tidy quilting line. I have learned that burying the threads of emotion only works when accepting and acknowledging that I have absolutely no control over what will resurface next time, and that is okay too.


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