Bolt From The Blue, Part I: Patchwork Therapy.

posted in: Quilting 16
In process. Patchwork and photo: Me.
In process. Patchwork and photo: Me.


There was a moment today when I thought, “Fons, you’re toast. As in crispy. As in burnt. Out.”

There’s just so very, very much to do. There’s the newspaper and the writing tutoring the university pays me to do. There’s the heavy coursework I manage as a student and the lectures and classes I lead as a teacher (the latter implies travel 90% of the time, of course.) There is home maintenance to attend to and there are bills to pay. It’s tax time. Most importantly,  there are relationships to care for: friends, family. Other friends. And that’s all stuff going on right now, which is to say nothing of projects and dreams in the pipeline, all of which contributes to the constant hustle, which leads you to the overwhelming question: “What comes after this?” As a freelancer, you have to constantly ask.

For the first time in many weeks, I slept in today. I awoke, to my astonishment, at 10:30 a.m. and had two emotions at once: joy, because I knew my body was thrilled; and mild panic, because the morning was already gone and I had done nothing.

I made tea like I normally do because that is Always The Very First Thing No Matter What. As the kettle heated, I stared at the wall — specifically, my design wall.

Last night, once my work was done for the day, I made a few star blocks just for fun. I have needed for a while to look at something different up on that wall and I have yards and yards of this wonderful electric blue Moda solid in my stash that has been pleading with me to use it. The block I made, a Sawtooth Star, is something I can make in my sleep at this point; I didn’t even have to look up the measurements. After I had four blocks or so, I stuck them up on the felt wall and went to bed.

After my pot of tea this morning, I tried to read. I tried to write. I couldn’t focus. It was nearly half past 11 by the time I had been tea’ed and I felt sullen and agitated — a highly unpleasant mix that I attribute to being overextended. This was my first “day off” in weeks but it didn’t mean I didn’t have a thousand things to do. All it meant was that I was home and could stay put. I didn’t have press to go to for the newspaper; I wasn’t at a conference as an attendee or a presenter; I didn’t have a date with a friend or gentleman caller. I was free, and theoretically, that should have been good but I didn’t like how shiftless I felt, how unscheduled I was. Sitting still is not easy for me and though I need some downtime, I’m so not used to having any, I was spiraling into a real funk. Before I got too jumpy about it, I went to the sewing table and picked up my stars.

There was still a good amount of staring into space that happened once I got there. But what began to happen in time was rather remarkable: A quilt that I absolutely love began to form with astonishing speed, right before my eyes. And everything felt better.

The star block, when set on point, goes a long way in making a quilt top come together quickly. When I cut setting pieces for my 8″ finished blocks I remembered how awesome it is work that way. I was making serious tracks on this sucker! The row-style I was interested in playing with zoomed into fabulousness when I did a reverse contrast thing with the navy blue next to the electric blue. When I did that, I literally clapped my hands. What can I say? I love this quilt.

I looked up the word “surprise” in the thesaurus because I really was surprised by this day and by this quilt and I wanted to find a name for it that reflected that. (Naming quilts is one of my favorite things in the world because: words + quilts.) The phrase “bolt from the blue” is listed in the entry for “surprise” and I think that’s pretty accurate, don’t you? This quilt came out of the blue — and it’s, you know, blue. And fabric comes on bolts. I probably don’t need to keep explaining.

Tomorrow, part two of this post. And a contest. Because the other thing that came out of this quilt was a dream of you. Yes, you!


16 Responses

  1. Judy Forkner
    | Reply

    The navy blue with the Electric blue is fantabulous!9uZR

  2. Jennifer Reinke
    | Reply

    I too love the color contrast! And truth be told Mary. . . . a lot of the time I dream of quilting and putting blocks together! Sometimes I wake up (in my usual early hours) and cant wait to go into my sewing room and “create”. Would love to see the finished project!

  3. Maureen
    | Reply

    Wow. This speaks to me. This is why we create. Thank you, Mary.

  4. Dawn Jolin
    | Reply

    This is wonderful & inspiring. Have the same feelings on those kind of days….. “validating” to know I’m not alone. Enjoy

  5. Susan
    | Reply

    I know you are super busy,and when we get time to chat it will be just like time has not passed. Please take time for yourself and enjoy the day. Xoxo

  6. Barbara
    | Reply

    Can’t wait for tomorrow!! Downtime is quite over-rated, at least to me. I’m happy when my hands are busy quilting, knitting, arranging, and looking through my fabric for ideas and really sometimes just to look at it all. I’m constantly in motion, except when I’m having my morning coffee, which is heaven! (and even then, my dog keeps dropping the ball in my lap). I’m also very curious, I would be kidded about all my questions, (probably by people who were tired of hearing me ask them.) But, ya know, I wannna know stuff.

  7. Mary Ann
    | Reply

    I love how exciting this color composition is when I would expect it to look muddy and dull! Of course I always envy those of you with such wonder color skills. I am forever grateful for color dots on selvage to help me find the way!

  8. Glenda
    | Reply

    Love your blue and the stars together great job

  9. Patty
    | Reply

    Fabulous quilt!

  10. Linda
    | Reply

    I love that one star has a brown background and I know you love red so of course there would be a red star. Those two things are so you. A down day turning into a fabulous day. Life is good.

  11. Kyla Kelly
    | Reply

    The quilt looks great I love the blues and the stars! My process with designing is similar, start with something I love and expand it. Thanks for sharing

  12. Monica D Hayden
    | Reply

    You need to slow down! Nothing is worth getting so crazy busy that it affects your health. Remember that our immune system suffers when we live under a constant state of stress. If you were my daughter, that’s what I’d tell you, because I’d want you to stick around for a good long time! Take it easy and put yourself first (nobody else will do it for you.)

  13. Nicole
    | Reply

    Unlike your quilt too. Be kind to yourself.

    • Nicole
      | Reply

      Damn auto correct. I like your quilt.

  14. Christina
    | Reply

    The beauty of your quilt certainly hit me like a bolt when I saw the picture. Stunning blue!

  15. […] as I was piecing my Bolt From the Blue quilt, I was dealing with serious regret. The regrets were small but continual: They were waste […]

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