When I initially put this quilt together over 12 years ago, there were three basic goals:
- Salvage an array of decaying t-shirts
- Repair a comforter I've had since childhood
- Encourage a new kitten to lie in bed
In its earliest incarnation there were around 30 patches. The comforter had a grid pattern on it that prompted in me an early love of graph paper. The cat was a lover of lying on laundry and he became an avid bed sleeper. Until he passed suddenly, aged 4 years and one day. I still miss him.
In the wake of this loss, I proceeded to mend the quilt. Bizarro the cat was an avid kneader and some of the patches started to show wear. The second round of repair increased the patch number to 61, and I began to see the project as something more than a feline-friendly bedwarmer. What started as an exercise in preservation, recycling and animal psychology became biography. Though there's not another soul alive who could account for every piece. Perhaps one day I'll try to. This image shows the second round and the plans I made to remake it.
Two years ago I felt renewed through love once more and I thought I'd engage in another round of repair. Like so much else planned back then I never got around to it. Events and emotion overwhelmed me as time went by. I'd still use it with many panels cut away, as the cats I lived with at the time still enjoyed it. Plus, it was still nice and warm, as Doki, Kira and Paws would tell you.
As I embarked on this latest iteration of the patchwork I came to realize that the quilt represents my heart. I was utterly joyful when I made it at first, having just adopted a cat after years living alone. Before him I was cold inside, having steeled myself after the end of a relationship. He opened my heart back up. I was able to see value in others once more, and let myself feel again.
I was mourning the loss of said cat at the time of the second installment, and most recently I find myself feeling worse than I did even then. Judging by when I actually find the time for this project a major aspect of it seems to be to emotional healing through self-reflection. It reminds me to keep my heart open and still believe in love even when I feel I've lost it. I can't forget the lessons I've learned as long as I maintain this half-life of nerd skins that keeps me warm.
I notice that I didn't make any modifications after the end of a previous human relationship whereas now I've doubled the patches to total 122. It's probably an allergy sufferer's nightmare, as there's fur from at least nine cats lining the seams. I still see bits of Bizarro when taking out the old, holy pieces, and as I stitched more recent bits of Doki and Kira show up with every needle push through.
I burn off the ends of the threads with a Bic lighter, and run the flame along the trails to seal it tighter. The seams form sigils that serve various purposes. There are messages formed both blatant and obscured as well as inside jokes engineered for an audience of one. Every scrap is from a shirt I wore till it tore, with the exception of a few patches that I made with transfer paper for pinning to jackets and hoodies in my 20s. Over time I've included multiple pieces of the same source, often salvaging old favorites worn off the first draft.
I don't don anything that I don't care to advertise, so it's a fairly curated tour of what I'd get behind, though there are some that I wouldn't wear today. Homemade tributes and high school spirit garb. Official licensed apparel and cheap bootleg knockoffs. Tie-dyed fragments from childhood and bleached verbiage from college. Chest pockets for added functionality and small scraps to cover up tiny tears. My signature sits small on one corner.
Some of the newest patches are hidden under others, subtle affirmations to renew my heart and mind. I figure out the path as I go and there are errors all over it, which reflects how I've lived my life all too well. I'm told this style is called 'crazy quilting' though perhaps ironically I find it a great boon to my mental health overall. The reactions of others to hearing that I'm working on such a project is interesting as well as perception of gender roles can't help bleed into the often measured response. My masculinity abides.
This round of repairs was done over 3 weeks in an intermittent fashion. I plan to stitch a fleece to the other side as it would help to maintain shape. I also have a two-sided Sandman shirt that I've meant to stitch to a pillow for some time, but these projects involve straight lines. Perhaps less interesting linear busywork. I hope that a kitty will enjoy the quilt again some day.