In the past few weeks it has slowly crept up on me: a new obsession. Well, ok, it’s not totally new. I’ve found before that once I start a sewing project I tend to become a bit … single minded. It’s funny because in general I have a hard time finishing what I start. My parents couldn’t believe I actually finished a quilt when I gave them the first big project of my career. But this is somehow different. There isn’t really a project. Just a sewing machine, some scraps of fabric, and a little voice that keeps calling me back.
The house is a mess. The living room floor reached that point several days ago, the point where I just can’t stand it anymore and need to vacuum now. But first I have to get the girls breakfast. And don’t forget to eat myself. Then breakfast dishes. And put away the clean ones in the dishwasher. And then they need to get dressed. And diapers changed, of course. And Bella needs a book read now and now Sophia is crying and it’s time for her nap. I can’t vacuum while the baby is sleeping. Bella is content in her bedroom, she started playing while I nursed Sophie down. The sewing machine is singing to me. A siren song.
I ignore the unswept kitchen floor. I turn my back on the piles of unfolded laundry, ignore the heap of Christmas decorations that need to be put back into their box. I pretend I don’t see that this floor too needs to be vacuumed. And I really don’t see anymore the dozen or so boxes that still need to be unpacked, sorted, dealt with. There is the table under the window, the pile of pretty fabrics, the patterns, the colors. The colors. I measure and snip and my foot presses the pedal and the machine whirs and magically there is a seam. I press it flat and then begin again. Matching pieces, cutting lengths. Suddenly from a pile of scraps I have a pillow. Order from chaos.
If I stop to wash the floors, they would be dirty again soon, the pile of dishes will reappear after the next meal. But this little splash of color brings such a sparkle to Bella’s eye, a huge grin as she hugs it to her cheek. It lasts night after night. She puts her head on her new pillow and closes her eyes and goes to sleep. It’s there again when it’s nap time. And again and again. Next week, next year. Perhaps someday this little pillow will accompany a teenaged Bella to college and sit on a dorm room bed. I have made something lovely that will last.
I can’t stop. I make another pillow and another. I prop my new cushion on the couch and it doesn’t make the crumbs go away or the books and scraps of paper and toys that all need to be tidied up. But oh it still looks lovely there, blue on blue on blue. I made that. I completed something. Finally something over and done with.
I feel guilty. I should be doing other things. But I am so tired. I need to sit down and if I sit on the couch Bella will ask for a story and right now I know reading will make me nauseous. And Bella is content while I sew. She plays with scraps of fabric. Pretends to sew. She asks me to pull up a chair near my table and she sits and asks the names of things. Or she plays shopping, removing cans and boxes from the pantry shelves.
If it is afternoon, then Bella is asleep and Sophie plays on the floor right behind me. She pulls to stand on the chair or she tugs toys from the basket. She takes all the plastic containers off the shelf and scatters them. And I can put this piece here and this one there. Ah, look at those colors side by side.
I should be making dinner, I should be washing the sheets or fighting the chaos of boxes. So many shoulds. And sometimes, often, I do. But then there are moments when the other voice overrides them. I need brightness and beauty and a sense of accomplishment. I need control over chaos and escape from frustration. In the last year we lived a suspended life, never settled, knowing we’d have to move. No room to spread out my sewing stuff. Here in this house I finally have this little corner where I can spread out my things and leave them out. I can snatch a few minutes here and there to get little pieces done. It doesn’t look like a retreat, but somehow it is. I feel like Jo scribbling in her attic room.
For now I’m chalking it up to nesting. Some mothers-to-be knit booties and hats. I can’t knit. So I quilt.