I started making a quilt yesterday. It’s something I’m making for a friend whose husband died two years ago. She gave me a bag with some of his shirts in it last fall.
As I started working on the quilt I thought about how I make my decisions. I never learned color theory and the only quilting class I ever took was when I was in Jr High School, and I hated it, vowing never to quilt again.
The way I make quilts has nothing to do with what I learned in art school. Although it is something I learned making my art. Something, actually, making art taught me. And that’s to trust my intuition. That trusting got stronger when I started making quilts. Especially, since not being in school or around other quilters, I was making the quilts without any input. It was just me in my studio with my fabric and sewing machine. I had no one to trust and learn from by myself.
As I’ve been thinking a lot about intuition lately, my thought went from my quilt making process to the women who inspired me to make quilts the way I do. The women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama. What I read again and again from the different women was that their quilts were not made from patterns (although some are derived from traditional patterns) but from each woman’s or girls intuition. That’s part of the beauty of the quilts, they are all individual and unique. Not based on someone else’s idea of how they should look.
And this process was passed on from mother to daughter. But these women were passing on more than just a quilting process, they were passing on the wisdom of intuition. Like in the Baba Yaga story, when Vasalisa’s dying mother gives her the intuition doll to help her make decisions, essentially, the women of Gee’s Bend passed on intuition quilts. And through making the quilts, they were learning to trust and strengthen their own intuition.
And I know that this is how it works, because the same thing happen to me. As I was making my latest quilt, I had no doubts that I would be able to create a beautiful and meaningful quilt for my friend. And the way Mary Ann Pettaway taught me to make a quilt, when I went to Gee’s Bend to learn from her, makes me have to trust my intuition even more. Because I’m not laying the fabric out first, I don’t know what the quilt will look like before I start sewing it together. But I’m trusting that I’m making the right decisions with each piece of fabric that I sew. I’m trusting my intuition.
So even if your mother didn’t pass on the wisdom of intuition to you, maybe you’ve been learning it somewhere else. And like me you just weren’t aware of it. Because it’s in us and it wants to live. It’s just looking for a way out.