Healing Our Hearts With Handwork

My first large quilt wound up being a piece about grief. It was right after my divorce and I was understandably cranky about things. I wanted to make a quilt I would love, that would make me smile. I didn’t realize that by focusing on my losses as I made the quilt, I would wind up with something that brought me immense comfort.

Pages 68 and 69 of Quilts! Quilts! Quilts! The Complete Guide to Quilt Making
The Thousand Pyramids pattern was the inspiration for my diamond quilt. (from Quilts! Quilts! Quilts! by Diana McClun and Laura Nownes)

I had picked out a scrap quilt pattern I loved (Thousand Pyramids) and turned it into Five Hundred Diamonds. The diamonds represented tears, so blue seemed like a natural choice. Besides, it’s my favorite color. But when I went shopping, I couldn’t bring myself to buy anything blue. Blue fabric was too bright and cheerful for how I was feeling.

Sigh No More quilt top by Kit Dunsmore; Black and gray diamond pattern
Here’s the top after I finished it in 1997. Now all that’s left is the quilting… (Photo by Kit Dunsmore)

I didn’t realize at first just how much change I was dealing with. In addition to my divorce, my grandfather had died, my parents had sold my childhood home, and I was living alone for the first time in my life. Eventually, I realized I needed to make my quilt black and gray to match my emotions.

Kit Dunsmore hand-quilting; greyhound
Hand-quilting with the help of my sister’s dog Windy. (Photo by Cleo Buchanan)

The odd thing about this quilt is that it is so comforting to me. I hand-quilted it and included symbols for things I’d lost over the years. Hand-quilting is a slow process, so I had plenty of time to think about the losses I was memorializing. As I stitched up my quilt, I also stitched up my broken heart.

Sigh No More quilt detail by Kit Dunsmore
A few years ago, I discovered a hole in my quilt. Since I still love it, I patched it. (Photo by Kit Dunsmore)

I named the quilt Sigh No More from a poem in Shakespeare’s play Much Ado About Nothing. It’s about unfaithful lovers and broken hearts, so it seemed in tune with my ideas about the quilt. The last thing I did was quilt the words of the poem into the borders.

Sigh No More quilt detail and back by Kit Dunsmore
The back of Sigh No More is red to symbolize the anger that often goes with loss. In the upper right hand corner is the rose I added for lost romance. (Quilt and photo by Kit Dunsmore)

Why does this quilt bring me joy? After all, it’s a blatant reminder of a painful time, and of many painful losses, things gone that cannot be replaced. But Sigh No More makes me feel better, not worse.

Sigh No More quilt by Kit Dunsmore; black and gray diamonds
Sigh No More over twenty years later. (Quilt and Photo by Kit Dunsmore)

Whenever I see it, I feel calm, and I want to touch it. The slow and careful memorialization of my past helped me to process my feelings and losses, to honor them in a physical way. They are still gone, but the memory of them is saved. That brings me great relief.

Do you make things to heal your heart? Have you gotten unexpected comfort from something you’ve made? How do you deal with difficult emotions like grief?

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