Weeding the Garden

The linen patchwork has turned into quite the therapy piece. I was trained as an art therapist, but for a still deeply buried reason, I have avoided dealing with some of my own life events through this process. However, a counselor has been encouraging me to use the non-verbal language of cloth to explore some recent happenings.

Floral motifs have always been a popular for household linens, symbolizing beauty and fertility. Gathered together in this piece, they form a garden. The varied cloths, created by unknown hands, also form a community of their makers - kind of a hovering presence of support, of connection to other people.

But weeds can appear in the garden. Technically, weeds are just plants in the wrong place, but left to their own devices they will choke out the flowers. The "weeds" in this piece were deliberately planted by another person into my own psyche, then transplanted by me into this cloth. The cloth can "hold" them - when I see the poison they contain, I can't believe I let them take root in my mind.

But now the cloth is infested. The next step is to apply another layer, this time with healthy, strong, nurturing words that other people have said to me (including words from some of you!) These words inoculate the soil (fabric) of my life and help the flowers flourish.

There! Enough of the gardening metaphors.

A couple of notes on my process: I gathered the "weeds" from a series of tirades that I was subjected to. Rather than try and defend myself, which never seemed to help, I started to write the words down, like a stenographer. Afterwards, I could clearly see the lack of logic or truth in them.

More importantly, why did I choose to infest this beautiful cloth with such nastiness? Well, in spite of my passion and love for all things textile, and my belief in cloth's ability to hold and convey meaning and metaphor, it IS external to me. My cloth is not me, it safely and gently allows me to express myself. That is what I mean by "holding".

And, oddly enough, this is not a slow cloth. I decided to use the machine to piece it, and to embroider the words. I felt like I had to work quickly to get it out, and hand stitching is such an act of love I didn't want to give the "weeds" the pleasure. I kind of like the crudeness and ineptitude of the machine stitching in this case, the puckering and pulling are like scars.

Finally, I wish my photos were better. White fabric is so difficult to photograph, it seems.


  1. Thank you so much for this post and the photo. What an inspirational post! How long have you been working on this quilt? Why did you decide to start it? Are you just using pretty pieces you find in thrift stores, etc?

    It's really beautiful and wonderful and sad and inspiring.

  2. I too, had unkind things layered into me when I was small, and just in the past few years have I been able to stand up for the young Peggy and defend her against the hurt. It has meant a complete severing of the connection with with the two inflictors; the mother and the sister. I can't even say the word 'my' in place of the word 'the', because that imparts connection and relation, and I refuse to own that any more.
    Thank you for sharing this piece. It's not that misery loves company, it's that I don't feel so alone. :-)

  3. a terrific story cloth... yes, it need to say something and i like the contrast between sweet and not so sweet.

  4. So in a way the cloth is like a dreamcatcher, sifting out the bad dreams (or words thrown at you) and only letting the good ones stay with you.
    Thank you for sharing with us.

  5. so beautiful and powerful. and thoughtful. thank you for sharing this. (and thanks to jude for linking to it so i could find it).

  6. It takes a lot of courage to embroider those words onto your design. We always expect the positive, the "lovely" visual, and this speaks powerfully in its negativity, but the understanding makes the light shine through. Writing or sewing it exactly as it is, makes it powerful. No shoving it under the carpet. :)

  7. Anonymous1:20 AM

    The comment I thought I had left went something like this ...those words are quite unexpected and shocking against the gentle stitching of your collected linens. Courageous though to get them out there, and then be able to let them go.......

  8. It's still "slow cloth" even if it's machine stitched! A very cathartic piece, Heather. I hear the voice of someone who is personality disordered in those words. They are trying to pass their own fears and hurts onto you so they don't have to feel them. Like Peg, I had to sever the connection with a sibling (with undiagnosed Borderline Personality Disorder) to save myself from further harm. Once I figured out where the words came from, I didn't have to take them into myself because it wasn't really about me. Life is too short to be the punching bag for someone who refuses to get help.

    I'm looking forward to seeing the finished piece!

  9. Yes, PLEASE add the positive layer to this interesting piece of incredible work! -Jayne


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