Emily Dickinson Secrets Quilt, Finished

Emily Dickinson Secrets Quilt

I put the last stitch in my Emily Dickinson Secrets quilt this morning.  I got all the tacking done last night just before going to Bellydancing class.  And when I get home from Bellydancing, I’m too tired to do anything but eat and go to bed.

I also sold the quilt to the first woman who asked about it.  She knew she wanted it when I first started making it, but I always like to finish a piece before selling it.  So I gave her first choice and yesterday she wrote to me and said she wanted it.

Here’s  a photo of the back.  I couldn’t have imaged a better backing….

In the book  The Gorgeous Nothings which is a collection of images of the envelopes that Emily Dickinson’s wrote note and parts of poems on, Jan Brevin  wrote:

“These manuscripts are sometimes still referred to as “scraps” within Dickinson scholarship.  Rather one might think of them as the sort of  “small fabric”  Dickinson writes of in one corner of  [a]  large envelope interior.”

” When we  say small we often mean less.  When Dickinson says small, she means fabric, atoms, and the North Star.”

This is what Emily Dickinson wrote on that “large envelope interior”

I  folded and sewed this linen to look like one of the envelopes Emily Dickinson used to write on.

I wanted to use this linen became of the vulva shape in the middle.  Then I cut the embroidered flowers off another  linen that was heavily stained and keeping the vulva shape, sewed them above and below the original lace work.


A detail from the quilt

You can read and see my whole process in creating this quilt here.

Emily Dickinson, Secrets Quilt. Back and Batting

I got batting and backing on my Emily Dickinson, Secrets quilt today.  Tomorrow I’ll tack it with an off-white yarn.

Because of the linens it’s has a nice weight to it and it feels substantial.   I  had the perfect backing for it.  It’s a comforter cover that Carolyn sent to me and it was the first thing to come to mind when I thought about what the backing should be.

I forgot to take a picture of it, so I’ll post one tomorrow.


Emily Dickinson, Secrets Quilt Cont.


“How ya doing”, Julz asked when I walked into Bellydancing Class last night.  “Eh, I said, I’m feeling pretty blah.”  “You won’t in thirty minutes” she told me.

And I knew she was right.

It was just like I wrote yesterday, after class I was feeling great and this morning I got into my studio, wrote the last Emily Dickinson poem on the last linen and started piecing the quilt together.

I’d love to work on it more, but I got a lot of orders for my I Am Enough Posters and want to get them packed  up so I can put them in the mail tomorrow.

Maybe I’ll get back to it tonight, after dinner when it’s dark outside and all the interruptions of the day are done.

That’s always a good time to work.


Emily Dickinson, Secrets Quilt

I looked at all the linens laid out on my studio floor then at the pieces of paper that I had copied some of Emily Dickinson’s writings onto.

How, I wondered, would I decide which words go with which linens.

Then I thought, “I’ll know”.  Just like I know which two pieces of fabric to sew together when I begin making a quilt.

I read thought the pieces of poem and  the words I chose from the book Gorgeous Nothings.  That’s the book with pictures of the envelopes  and the words that Emily Dickinson wrote on them.  Dickinson used the insides and backs of envelopes to write piece of poems, thoughts, ideas.

I started with the linen and  chose one  I had folded and sewed to look like an open envelope and found the perfect words from my notes to write in it: ” Our little secrets slink away”.

I decided to use a brown sharpie permanent marker to write the words.  My first thought was to stitch them on my sewing machine, but that didn’t feel right.   It was too much like the linens and embroideries that I’d be stitching them onto.

I wanted more the feeling  and look of ink on paper.  I tried fabric paint and a soft tipped marker, but the sharpie worked best on the textured linen.

I’ll soak the linens with the writing on them in cold salt water to help set the marker.  I did a test and washed some writing on linen to see how well it held and it did fade a bit, but I actually liked the look of it.  It was like old ink.

The linens vary in size and will all be sewn into the quilt.  I still have to find the right linen for the “Secrets” poem and maybe one or two more lines from Dickinson’s envelopes.  But I got most of them done today.

When I told my friend Mandy about my idea for this quilt, she recited from memory the Dickinson poem ” I’m Nobody Who Are You?”.  I chose to use just the first part of it.  I knew, immediately, it would be just right for the quilt.

This linen has a repair in it.  Patches like this one speak to how much the linen was used and loved.  And they make the most interesting shapes.

Old Linens, Envelopes, Secrets and Emily Dickinson

Some of the old linens I’m working with

Two boxes of  beautiful old linens sat in the laundry room.  They had been there for a while, but I hadn’t gotten to sorting through them.   So many beautiful hand embroidered linens, I can’t say no, when people offer to send them to me.

I’ll make them into a quilt, I thought and emptied the boxes into the washing machine.

Yesterday I piled the linens up on the  work table in my studio and began ironing them, cutting around the stains and sewing them together.  As I stitched a triangle-shaped napkin onto a rectangular linen towel, I though of the envelopes Emily Dickinson used to write parts of her poems on.

She’d flatten out the envelopes and use them as scrap paper.  The Book Emily Dickinson The Gorgeous Nothings  is a book about these poems written on envelopes.  It’s filled with photographs of the envelopes with translations of the poems (it’s not always easy to read her handwriting) on the opposite page.

They are beautiful objects, all different sizes and shapes and shades of white.

Then of course, I couldn’t help but think of the movie I just saw  Wild Night’s With Emily, about Dickinson’s real life.  Not the life so many people would rather  believe for all these years about the  reclusive poet afraid to show anyone her work.   But the lesbian woman who lived a good life filled with love and work in a world that tried to deny her of both. (She had a life long love affair with the woman who married her brother).

When ever I’m working with these old linens I think of the woman who made them.

I imagine some of the were artists and this was their only creative outlet.  I think of women getting together to  embroider linens as a way to gather and talk privately among themselves.  And I think of the women who didn’t want to embroider linens, who would rather be reading books or learning a profession.

I think of everything not said, the secrets, the longings and desires.

I’m going to use parts  of Emily Dickinson’s poems in this quilt.  I’ll find the poems or pieces of them that speak to these ideas of women and secrecy, and  write them on  some of the linens.  I still have to figure this all out, but I’ll take you with me as I do.

Secrets          By Emily Dickinson

“The skies can’t keep their secret!
They tell it to the hills —
The hills just tell the orchards —
And they the daffodils!”

One of Emily Dickinson’s poems written on an envelope


The Goddess Becoming

During the winter, I stopped,  just before putting this piece of wood in the woodstove and saw how it was really a goddess waiting to be awoke.

So I went looking for this hunk of marble that I knew was in the yard somewhere, found it and asked Ray, who made the work table for my studio, if he could drill two holes in it.

He did and then I used two long screws to attach the piece of wood (one under each leg) to the marble.

Since then, she’s been on my computer desk in my studio, waiting to emerge.

At one point I draped the stings of button over her shoulders. They came from a piece I never finished and they looked right on her, but she still needed a head.

It was just a few days ago when I saw the old hand rake, that was in the barn when we moved to the farm, on the front porch.

I always saw it as a hand and even offered it to Ed Gulley, my our friend, the farmer and artist, who died last year.  But Ed had a feeling I’d find a use for it.

I think it’s because I always though of as a hand that the idea that it was also a head didn’t occur to me. Not until I walked out onto the front porch last weekend and saw it sitting on the wicker table along with a small garden shovel, where it’s been all winter.

Suddenly, the fingers became hair, the palm of the hand, a face, and the handle, a neck.

Yesterday, when I should have been tacking my Emily Dickinson Secrets quilt, I drilled a hole in the handle of the old hand rake and found a screw just the right length, then attached the goddesses head to her body.

There’s still more to do.

She already has a vulva (you can see it in the bark between her legs) but she needs breasts and a bellybutton.  Maybe some decoration on her body.  I don’t see a face yet, I don’t know if she needs one.  Maybe just eyes if anything.

She’s slow in becoming, but we’re in no hurry.

She’s been a reminder for me to trust in the creative process and to allow things to come in their own time.

My goddess, back on my computer desk, becoming.

“A Good Anger” From My ” How To Keep Your Husband” Quilt

Remember the hankie I wrote about  on my blog called “How To Keep Your Husband”…


The “How to Keep Your Husband” hankie from the 1950’s

Well, I got another one in a package from Barbara.  I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with this hankie since I got the first one, from Susan,  three or four years ago.

My Emily Dickinson, Secrets quilt was the stepping stone.

I was thinking of making another quilt using the linens I didn’t use in that quilt.  Different ideas were swimming though my mind for a while and then an image came to me.

I saw in my mind, one of the small rectangles from the hankie, lost in the grandeur of a vintage hand embroidered linen,  surrounded by words countering in the Do’s and Don’ts on the hankie.

I had to start with the one that read “Don’t ever get mad” because it was the one that got me the most angry.   And I knew the perfect words to surround it with.  They’re from Marge Piercy’s poem, A Just Anger.

So I cut out the small rectangle and sewed it to a linen table runner then stitched the words around it.

Carolyn Heilbrun wrote ” And, above all other prohibitions, what has been forbidden to women is anger…”   If we need  further proof, we can see it written in this souvenir hankie from the 1950’s.  But for me and so many women, we know this all too well from our own experience.

The last few lines in Piercy’s poem are:

“A good anger swallowed
clots the blood
to slime.”

We know this too, how suppressed anger can lead to depression.

I’ll be cutting out more of the Do’s and Don’ts from this hankie and overpowering them with quotes from other women, making them as small as they really are.   Then I’ll stitch them into a quilt.

I have a feeling “Watch your weight” will be  the next one.

A Just Anger   By Marge Piercy

Anger shines through me.
Anger shines through me.
I am a burning bush.
My rage is a cloud of flame.
My rage is a cloud of flame
in which I walk
seeking justice
like a precipice.
How the streets
of the iron city
flicker, flicker,
and the dirty air
Anger storms
between me and things,
A good anger acted upon
is beautiful as lightning
and swift with power.
A good anger swallowed,
a good anger swallowed
clots the blood
to slime.

Stacking Wood

Inside the woodshed

After taking the video in my studio this afternoon, the pile of firewood outside my window  still taunted me.

So when I finished designing my Emily Dickinson, Secrets quilt and packing up the last of my I Am Enough posters, (UPS delivered the mailing tubes today), taking a walk in the woods with Fate and eating dinner, I was back outside tossing the last to the wood into the woodshed and stacking it.

I got most of it done, but it got too dark and I was too tired to finish. But I did have some insights stacking these two cords of wood.

One of them is something Jon wrote about on his blog tonight.

It’s about my desire to do my part on the farm because I don’t make as much money as Jon does and how Jon often feels like he can’t do as much of the physical work.  We  talk about how we each couldn’t live here without the other. And that really, we’re a perfect match for living this kind of life together.  Each doing what the other can’t.

But still somehow we each also always feel as if we’re not doing enough.

Another thing that happens when I stack wood is it brings up memories of my old life, of the hard physical work I used to do restoring old houses with my ex-husband.  At that point in my life, stacking wood was a chore that became a burden.

But as  those memories came to me this time, I recognized them and let them go, as I learned to do when meditating.  And then I wondered if I hadn’t finally come to the point where I stacked enough wood to work  all the memories out, like sweating the poison out of my body.

And I thought this because I began to notice that instead of memories, new thoughts were coming to me.  And then, just recognition of what I was doing. Noticing how my body  felt as I bent over to pick up the wood and how my left hand couldn’t grasp the large heavy pieces like  my right hand could.

And each time I came out of the woodshed back to the pile of wood I looked at the sky or felt the breeze or really saw just how green the grass is.  I was experiencing what was around me  and my place in it.

I was being in the moment.

I also felt the  satisfaction of filling up the woodshed with wood.  Of knowing that when the winter comes, I’ll be bringing the same wood into the house and burning it in the stoves, warming our old  house in a way that the baseboards can’t.

Even thought I’m not cutting the wood and hauling it to the house, or paying for it to be done, stacking it makes me feel more connected to the process.  Acknowledging the sacrifice of the trees and being even more grateful for them.

The woodshed is attached to the house, which makes getting the wood in the winter easy.  I especially enjoy building the ends so they’re strong enough and straight enough to hold the stacks of wood.
Full Moon Fiber Art