I was doodling and designing earlier in the year when I stumbled upon the idea of a fang. It was a great shape, an unpredictable improv curve, an excellent contender for a block I would want to play with in the vein of Planned and Unplanned (a way of thinking about improv that I’ve been lecturing and teaching about). But because it was also a great metaphor, I realized that this was a shape and a design that I really needed to make into a quilt.
You see, a fang is a symbol of danger and carnage, of fear and predators. It was the perfect metaphor for my year (or more) of looking inward and exploring my anxiety. When I’m anxious, it feels like common things are dangerous, that the worst possible thing could and will happen at any moment. When I’m anxious, I’m more than on edge, I’m an adrenaline-soaked coward whose thoughts spiral into self-induced panic. The fangs are in my head, an internal, self-manifested danger. They sabotage and snag ordinary life, sometimes derailing plans or healthy thoughts and interactions.
I picked colors that I thought were pretty but that set me slightly on edge. To me, they’re aggressive in their saturation and relationship, which made them visually interesting to juxtapose in the different rows of fangs. But I didn’t and don’t love them, and that’s purposeful.
As I started to sew, I used this time to think about the monsters in my world. There were the anxious thoughts, which are always soothed by making, and then I realized that a lot of my recent anxiety has been fueled by real-life monsters. The people in leadership in my country have been doing things that are nothing less than monstrous. They seek to hurt vulnerable people, they protect those who hate. And each time there was an attempt to take healthcare or demean people of color or silence women I thought, “they’re all monsters.” This quilt gave me the space to sit in my discomfort, to take the thoughts that I usually avoid and give them a place to be ideas.
Processing them in this way let me de-fang some of my anxiety. It let me look around my world and think about what I can do to fight the monsters. My piecing process let me think about who I am and who I want to be.
I knew that I wanted to collaborate on this quilt and bring it to Krishma. She and I worked together on Mend, which addresses many of the same ideas as this quilt. I loved that the solid fabric (Cloud9 Cirrus) gave plenty of room for her to show her artistry. I brought the top to her studio, and we talked for two hours about the monsters and our feelings about this sad turn that the world has taken. When conversation turned to the quilt, I told her that I wanted curves and points, danger and beauty. Her face lit up and she ran to find a folder full of designs that were just perfect. She said they were waiting for the right quilt, and this was it.
The quilting gives the flat solids gorgeous texture, and amplifies the improvised nature of the shapes. It helps the quilt to complete its journey from anxiety to comfort object and gives much-needed close-up interest. It also represents the full extension of an idea in my head to a physical product made in partnership and an exchange of ideas.
This quilt gives me courage and hope. It lets me express my anger and fear. It helps me collect and move forward in fellowship and conversation. I hope you’ll join me.