Eleanor Roosevelt Projects

Grandmom's quilt

I am brave when it comes to quilting the tops of quilts.  For someone who doodles a lot, I should be braver and more willing to experiment.  I’m too critical.  I had this project a long time before I tackled it.  There is a story attached.

Many years ago, I bought a kit of squares to embroider.  They were in a pretty gray-blue, one of my favorite shades of blue and they made a lovely shape.  I started it and quickly became bored with it.  I offered the quilt squares to my grandmother, thinking she’d give them to one of her friends.  I forgot all about it.

About ten years ago, I learned to quilt.  It was slow going and I was discouraged but continued to try.  I got a bit better.  Then my mother handed me a package of batting and a quilt top.  It was those squares.  My grandmother must have been in her late 70s or early 80s when she embroidered them.  My mother had pieced it together and she wanted me to quilt the top.  I was intimidated.  Deeply so.

But this year, I decided it was time.  I was reminded of the quote by Eleanor Roosevelt “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”  I decided to categorize this as an Eleanor Roosevelt.

I made the backing and quilted it.  There were little dots as guides for the intended quilting so I was able to mostly follow them.  They were very faint.  The quilt is large and I did the quilting on my fancy schmancy machine which has a wider throat but was not terribly amenable to the size.  It was hard work and I quilted for days andQuilt label days.  As I wrestled and quilted and sewed,  I thought about my grandmother and my mother.  I felt deeply connected to them, to the stories of my life, and to a sort of continuum of stitching and creating women.  The energy of Craft moves us all into the flow of community.

Finally it was finished.  The back is a mess but the front is awesome.  One step forward and a “good first effort,” if I do say so myself.  And I made the label with blue birds.  There’s a story there:  One summer my mother, grandmother, and uncle were bemoaning the fact that they didn’t see many bluebirds anymore.  As we were talking, we look out the window to the bird feeder and there’s one bluebird, a pair, two pairs until there were four pairs of bluebirds who became regular visitors.  I always associate bluebirds with the trio of my grandmother, mother, and uncle.

It is called The Craft, you know


Shop Till You Drop Quilt by Gail Wood.

Shop Till You Drop Quilt by Gail Wood.

Today, I started an offshoot blog to The Rowdy Goddess blog and it’s called The Rowdy Goddess Crafts.  I do a lot of sewing, quilting, and needlework and I like to talk and write about it.  Often people don’t want to hear about it or read about it, so I’m doing an off shoot.  Last fall when I was being care-giver to my mother, I found that my normal coping mechanism to tune out stress, reading, wasn’t working.  Because of the situation, with its constant interruptions and worry, I couldn’t concentrate enough to follow a story line.  Since I was at her house, I didn’t have access to my usual quilting toys.  What I found I was hankering for was to do some embroidery.  I pulled out my handy-dandy iPad (I didn’t leave all my toys behind) and went on to Amazon and ordered an embroidery kit, a hoop and some embroidery scissors (I have a major jones for scissors).  Thank goodness for Amazon prime.  It arrived two days later and I had something to do while my mother slept.  The embroidery calmed me, nurtured me and reminded me there is beauty in the midst of stress.

Since then, my love of hand emboidery is revived; and I’ve been thinking of 2013 as “the year of embroidery” for me; including  completing things, learning new skills, and finding new ways to express my creativity and love of the Craft.  Tom Cowan in his book, Shamanism as a Spiritual Practice for Daily Life, writes that once you begin a daily spiritual practice such as shamanism, you will find that the practice opens you up to other arts and that you will also begin an art practice.  I interpret art very broadly to mean any kind of way you express your own gnosis or understanding of the Universe.  Lately for me, it has been through needlework.

When I became a Pagan in the early 1980s, I was (and still am) a feminist.  I attended meetings, belonged to the National Organization of Women and attended conferences on women’s issues.  There was an undercurrent of attitude amongst these business and academic women that in order to be equal, feminists should eschew traditional women’s arts and crafts.  Needlework was not so much denigrated as ignored.  There were some overt statements but these activities were not prized.  Even among Goddess women and Witches, these crafts were not valued.

Nevertheless, it is called The Craft.  And what is magic but taking the odd bits of intention, desire and energy flow and weaving them together to create a new wholeness (holiness)?  Spell work is essentially craft.  Pulling together all the various bits and bobs and energetically sewing them together to create change through need and desire.

Embroidery, especially, had been something I’ve gone back to again and again.  After spending a decade or more working full time and going to graduate school part time, I did nothing but embroider and watch tv for a solid three months.  After all those years of only studying and working, I looked to find myself again.  The graduate degrees are very prized accomplishments, but I think the embroidery helped weave it into my whole self.  I had to step away to concentrate on learning and achieving, and in order to bring those achievements into my life, I had to use thread and fabric to create the whole picture.

May the beauty and peace of what you craft help you weave heart into Be-ing.

Happy Valentine’s Day.