My Comfort Blanket

Affirmative sayings seem to be the philosophy of our times, the be-in-the-here-and-now mindfulness movement. But I have been collecting and pasting all sorts of sayings and mottoes in my work books and on my studio walls for years. Quotations, overheard remarks or messages and even poems from friends sometimes develop into pieces of work, but most often they just serve to enable me to grin and bear with it – see above!

A current favourite was heard when I was mid-way through making the ‘Butterfly Dream Pillow’ – “I am proud of it and I am ashamed of it” immediately struck me as the perfect expression for how I feel about the work I do. I wrote it down on my work-top with the first thing that came to hand – an indelible pink marker! I have read it out to other artists and makers, and they smile and nod in recognition.

A quote from an interview heard on Radio 4 by a musician having just heard his own work played, my heart goes out to him.

It almost made it onto my own Comfort Blanket, which is part of my ongoing work project, Make it Through the Night..and I did write it out along with the ones that have stood the test of time. I wrote all of them onto large scale graph paper so that my own handwriting could be resized, with the idea of stitching them easily. I have had this ‘affirmative sayings’ idea for several years, and for several different media, even as a vitreous enamel patchwork, but never had the time or energy to face making it. In between some commercial projects, late last year I started to make it – piece-meal.

the first attempt at designing the blanket as a strippy quilt with inspiration from an American quilt

Above show the first attempts to design the ‘blanket’ idea as a quilt; the inspirational Strippy Quilt above right is an American design, I love the wobbly lively stripes, like a flying flag. Initially I had considered stitching a vintage wooden blanket, then I realised that heaving around such a large piece of fabric would not be easy for a lot of hand embroidery. I remembered a Strippy Quilt in Unconventional & Unexpected: American Quilts Below the Radar” by Roderick Kiracoffe, it inspired me to change tack, this way I could stitch the sayings piece-meal and patch them all together at the end; it also meant I didn’t have to decide the order of the quotations immediately.

I started by using some scraps of vintage striped deckchair fabrics, but they were too hard to hand stitch into. I turned to my stash of scrap fabrics, Kaffe Fassett Studio’s lovely subtle shot cottons and woven stripes left over from various quilts that my team have made for his Patchwork and Quilting books were perfect. Very colourful and here very RED, and “the purest and most noble minds are those that love colour”. But not having enough of any one fabric for the background I cut my stripes into strips and joined the clashing shot cotton colours together as a background.

I have a saying that lives with me – a mantra that I recite during my sleepless hours of most nights; it has subtly changed over the years I have used it to still my thoughts, and I can chart my state of mind by what I have decided.

My subtly changed mantra is stitched onto the same set of fabrics, ready to be cut up and placed in the telling positions….
slowly the ‘blanket’ collects more words and becomes unnervingly personal for me; The Reverend Sydney Smith’s sublime epithet for not judging a book by its cover is really barbed, and oooh how many times have I wanted to say this out loud!!!!!
The finalised order pinned together on the quilt wall, tells a story about my working life over the last decade and more……hard to display – but here I am.

Eventually I got them all into order, some sayings were dropped or the blanket would be enormously long I would need to re-design, others were added as they described more succinctly what I wanted to express about how I feel about the work I do. The quotations are all by individuals who have used their life to express themselves, teachers and critics, a bon vivant, a dancer – and me. They are in order from the top, The Rev. Sydney Smith, John Ruskin, Richard Sennett and the last 2 (heavily edited) are by the American dancer Martha Graham. The succinct “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. sums up my husband’s philosophy for living…

Now to the ‘quilting’ or just a system of large straight stitches ‘in the ditch’ of the seams, to hold the the layers together. The finished piece is a tad wobbly, due to my inexpert ‘quilting’. Hey Ho, you can’t do it all!
Each quotation has its owner’s name and dates stitched onto the back of the quilt to be in line with the quotation
The finished piece pinned to my studio wall, waiting to be blocked and pressed;

And ” I am proud of it and I am ashamed of it” – go figure!

7 thoughts on “My Comfort Blanket

  1. Janet, I am speechless about your comfort blanket. I I was ecstatic to see it as a “work in progress”. Seeing the work completed it’s just a privilege. I can’t wait to see it hanging as part of an exhibition. Love and admiration X Ila

  2. Be proud of it, very proud of it. It is a glorious work.
    I noticed (with envy) the movement from opportunity to fulfillment to acceptance and the three-part symmetry in the work.
    I hope that you will sleep under it and that it will bring you sweet and uninterrupted dreams

    1. Hi Maris,
      well thank you so much for this and amen to your wish for me to sleep well with sweet dreams.
      The three part wishes, as you say make a symmetry, but they are really not so simple as seen – the ‘acceptance’ ( from my ongoing yoga practice) is all I really have to go with from now on as the others just didn’t work out as i hoped – and certainly not the ‘fulfilment’, that is why the wonderful Martha Graham quote about ‘divine dissatisfaction’ was chosen!

    1. Hi Margy,
      I have just spent a happy time reading your many quotes,(like the one about coffee and danish) – and scrolling through your lively blog, thanks for the introduction…..a happier quilt would be a lovely present for someone else…this one just works for me.

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