It is often said that a picture tells a thousand words well, I suggest that a quilt can tell a thousand more. Here is that quilt and some of those words… It’s a bit of a long winded story, so grab a cuppa, I’ll wait…
You have hot tea? Ok, here’s the story:
The Creative Retreat journey began more than five years ago when I started to dream of having a physical space where creatives could gather to share, collaborate, connect and build a vibrant and supportive community. The dream has influenced so many life decisions for our family, it’s very personal and for a long, long time, it was just a dream.
One day last January, I woke up with an idea for a quilt and reached into my bedside table for a notebook. This particular notebook had been a Christmas gift, it was brand spanking new, all clean and daring me to fill it with ideas. And, it was also full of pages of quotes. To be perfectly frank, mostly quotes just plain annoy me, they’re a bit twee or glib or saccharine, you know, just really bloody annoying in that sentimental-not-at-all-applicable-to-my-real-world-real-life way that lifestyle bloggers bang on about.
This one was different.
This one hit me like a size 10 boot right in my backside and kicked me into action. I tore it out of the book and stuck it to the door of my wardrobe right there and then. Every morning for a week, it was the first thing I saw when I woke up (that and my kids standing beside the bed asking for breakfast). All it took was one week seeing those words first thing in the morning, before my brain had time to think, for me to act on my dream. In a little over a month, I had confirmed the first tutor for The Creative Retreat, booked venues, catering, built a website and online store set up and launched the very first retreats.
Finally, my dream was coming to fruition (not without considerable help. It’s very important to me to acknowledge that this has not been a lone path, I have excellent support from generous friends and a partner and children who all helped me bring this to life, an you, my community, without your support, I wouldn’t still be here).
Since that week in January 2016, it’s been a whirlwind ride. Even then, I never dreamed how far this adventure would take me in this short period of time and there’s SO much more to come that I can hardly believe it, I pinch myself most days forgetting just how real it actually is! You know what though? Just because something is your dream doesn’t mean it’s not hard work. Sometimes even dreams can take tolls on relationships and, although few and far between, some days are so hard you could happily walk away and never look back. And then you see your dream become reality. You see the community you’re building and the life you’re living and you realise just how worth it is.
And so the dream started to come to life and the truly incredible Cheryl Arkison arrived, off we went on the very first Retreats. In the evenings, when my work was done, I really wanted to sew along with the wonderful women who were attending so I picked out some fabrics from the shop and asked Cheryl to pick some for me too. Because I was working, I really wanted a simple quilt I didn’t need to think about so those fabrics were cut into 7″ strips (the width of my long ruler) and cross cut at varying lengths. I sewed the entire lot together short end to short end and then cut 80″ strips which are the columns you see in the quilt top. There are quite a number of places where the same fabrics meet across columns, and there are certainly ways this could have been planned but I really didn’t want that, I really love the simplicity, the lack of thinking, the feelings that went into this top over the course of two weekends at Retreat.
So the top was complete. And then it languished. I wanted to finish it and wrap myself in it but I couldn’t bring myself to quilt it. It is such simple piecing that I felt it needed more than I could give it. And to be perfectly honest, the embodied emotion was still far too raw for me. As I was tidying my bedroom one day and taking the quote of the door, I realised that the words I’d now been looking at every morning for almost a year were exactly what the quilt needed. And it needed someone with the skills to pull it off.
Serendipity stepped in. One of the attendees of those first Retreats had just purchased a long arm and was taking new clients. I only met Erin in person for the first time at the Retreat and we’d only had a few interactions online prior to that. In the ensuing year, this woman has become a very dear friend and as it turns out, she’s a pretty talented quilter too. It seemed a natural fit for me to send it off to her. I gave her the words and asked her to interpret the quilting however she liked. I trusted her to understand my sentiment and to make the quilt hers too, I wanted a true collaborator in the project. She interpreted my wishes perfectly and almost a full year later, just as we happened to be going on retreat again together, this time with me as an attendee, not an organiser, the quilting was complete and Erin was able to hand it to me in person.
Saying that I was overwhelmed with the result does not do justice to Erin’s considerable talent, passion and skill. Her kindness, understanding and willingness, as well as her unwavering support has meant more to me this past year than I can possibly express here. I simply don’t have the words to say what I’m feeling and even as I write this, the joyful tears are streaming down my face. The words are quilted in to my memory and now, there is a very real and tangible item to remind me of how far I’ve come and how far there is to go.
“Visualise this thing you want;
See it, feel it, believe it;
Make your mental
blueprint and begin”
There are so many hopes and dreams, experiments, successes, failures, tears and laughs (oh the laughs) and experiences with truly inspiring women stitched into that quilt top. Right there in simple rectangles are countless emotions all expressed through the stitches that hold the fabric together. Those stitches are the ones that bind me to you, the talented, generous, creative women I meet every single day through my work. All our dreams, hard work, tears, sweat, (and swears), joy, realisations, they all came together in this quilt.
Thank you all for sharing this journey with me, I can’t wait to see where we go together!
Photos of the quilt top on the pier were taken by Cheryl Arkison, the completed quilt and images of me were taken by Erin of Quilt By Starlight, the picture of Erin and I together is from Colby of The Authentic Stitch and the dodgy image of my wardrobe door with my kids cropped out as they were pretending to be zombies eating each others faces off is, of course, by me