Theologian Frederick Buechner reminds us that “church isn’t the only place where the holy happens. Sacramental moments can occur at any moment, at any place, and to anybody.”
Right now, I’m experiencing sacramental moments as I participate in a quilt sew-along that began July 1. All who take part in #100Days100Blocks2019 are to make 100 blocks, one block per day, for 100 days. Two Australian women created the block patterns and published them in the digital book, Kinship: 100 Block Fusion Sampler.
What’s sacramental about piecing a quilt? Let me explain.
The pattern calls for four colors. I’m pulling fabrics from my stash: blacks, whites, spring greens and greys. It’s a sampler quilt, so I’m treating it as a “stash buster.” That means I’m using up bits and pieces of many fabrics that I’ve collected over the 35-plus years I’ve been quilting. I have at least 20 different fabrics in each colorway.
I first planned on using the blacks, whites and spring greens in the Black&White+One challenge that was part of Women of the ELCA’s 2017 Triennial Gathering. But alas, I didn’t get the quilt started in time.
God’s creation in green
The green fabrics remind me of the newness in God’s creation as plants sprout anew each spring. The variety of fabrics I’m using also remind me of the beauty in all creation and the worth of all things, big and small. Some blocks call for pieces as small as 1.5 inches square, so I’m able to use scraps that others might toss away. Few pieces are too small to be worked into the design.
Often when I’m piecing a quilt top, my goal is to complete the top as quickly as possible, say, because the baby for whom I began the quilt top is now about to graduate from middle school. Really.
Usually, I zip along, using techniques that make it possible to speed up assembly. It’s different with #100Days100Blocks2019 where I’m making one block per day. Each night I study the pattern for the next day and pick out the fabrics I want to use, rehearsing different fabrics until I find the right ones to complement the particular block pattern.
Then in the morning I cut and piece the day’s block, pressing it just so. Once I’ve finished the block, I photograph it and post the photo to Instagram.
Slow down, ponder, create
In this process, there’s a rhythm, a pace that causes me to slow down, ponder, create. I probably spend just 30 minutes on each block, but it’s a quiet 30 minutes where my mind is free to wander (and wonder).
This is as close as I’ll ever come to being a contemplative, with my trusty Singer Featherweight in front of me and an iron to my right. But it is sacramental time, co-creating time with God.
Quiltmakers around the world who are participating in the sew-along post their block of the day, one per day (in their time zone), on Instagram using two primary hashtags: #100Days100Blocks2019 and #kinshipfusionsampler. Follow along!
It’s great seeing all the different fabrics used in the same block. The variety seems limitless. So’s the inspiration that comes from the creativity of all the participating quilters. Some sewists are so clever with their “fussy cutting,” i.e., cutting a particular image from fabric, fitting it perfectly within the dimensions of the block piece. You’ll find some squirrels, foxes, teapots, ice cream cones and more featured in the Instagram blocks.
Grounded in community
What else is sacramental about the sew along? It’s all based on community, or “kinship” as the creators describe it. It’s the basis of the sew along, and it’s also the name of the quilt pattern.
The two Australian women say they “designed this quilt together, bound by our shared love of patchwork samplers, fussy cutting and having fun with our fabrics. We also wanted to design this quilt as a thank you to the amazing community that has risen up around the #100Days100Blocks events of the past few years. We all share a bond, regardless of race, creed or gender, because of our love of patchwork. We are all patchwork kin.”
Women around the globe, driven by their love of patchwork, are working on the project at the same time, bound together. At a time when so much divides us, it’s both refreshing and inspiring to experience community and kinship in this way.
This sew-along has reminded me of something I’ve always known about quilting. It’s an inspired, co-creative, contemplative experience grounded in community. Frederick Buechner would approve.
Linda Post Bushkofsky is executive director for Women of the ELCA. She’s been quilting since 1981. To see her quilt blocks for #100Days100Blocks2019, follow her on Instagram at lpbquilter.