My friend Reba has 93-year-old hands.
She started several quilts for her own family members, and then allowed me to finish them for her. Reba's hands were no longer up for the task.
She asked me to hand quilt them, and I explained that I worked only on a machine and that I didn't actually measure or plan...my quilts just happen.
She agreed to let me take this Jewelry Box Quilt home to machine quilt:
It was fun - just basic straight up and down.
She thought that was okay, so she let me take this brown one, that's for her great-grandson, home to machine quilt.
Each of these squares is different and was hand-pieced by Reba. I got the squares outlined on the machine, but it was so large for my small-armed device, that I tried quilting each square by hand.
At night, while I built callouses on my fingertips and threaded needle after needle, I could feel my brain repairing itself. Seriously, my brain felt different.
The quilting meant I had to sit still. It meant I couldn't read subtitles on a movie or check email while my kids bark out requests and questions. I had to uni-task. It felt very unnatural at first.
The true test of our friendship came when Reba trusted me with her hand-pieced Double Wedding Ring Quilt.
I showed her my new callouses and told her I felt up to the task.
I was seriously nervous - what if I spilled something on it? If my cat threw up on it? What if I lost it, ruined it, accidentally cut it in half?
I threaded my needle and rocked it back and forth building up stitches, like I was skipping rocks.
It took months, but I did it.
My brain felt good.
I sat still and listened while I loaded and stitched, loaded and stitched.
Reba was pleased; I was pleased.
I told her I was ready for my next project from her, and she just laughed her 93-year-old laugh and shook her head.
I am so grateful to her for trusting me, teaching me, and leading me to this new art of contemplative quilting. I think I'll get started on a new one today...