A Change of Heart

heirloom quilt

Why do we sometimes experience a change of heart and what exactly is it? Have we simply changed our mind on something, or has our heart had a ‘heart to heart’ with us? 

Well my heart spoke to me some time back, which is how I found myself going to Art School this year. So when I was given a brief in my sculpture class to create a ‘cocoon’, [definition: surrounds, protects, carefully crafted, tailored to the creature, transportable, transformative, a personal space which is poetic rather than functional]…..I got excited! I knew exactly what I would make before the brief was finished being read to us. A quilt!

The very next day I was at Spotlight seeking fabric. I wanted red satin, for this is my colour for rebirth & passion, and I’d have to say my favourite colour overall. The black & white squares on the main side reflect the colour palette of my new home. The letters were made from off-cuts of frocks I’d sewn in the past, as these had to represent the personal nature of my piece.

You see I’d just left home (again) to create a new one. But this familiar feeling of leaving and starting again was much larger than any other time I had left home. This was not just about changing houses, it encompassed a personal relationship, a career ‘alteration’, and selling my beautiful home of twelve years. This home had been the longest I had resided anywhere in my whole life. It had been my cocoon, a place I had created, felt safe, secure and loved in.

The saying on the quilt is from a BACI chocolate wrapper, “the heart knows no reason, that reason does not know”. I could not understand what it meant when I first read it, and I still don’t know. Its a paradox, like life itself. I don’t know why I left my home in many respects, apart from my heart talking to me. There was no logical reason, just instinct, and my heart telling me to go.

Now the ironic thing about satin, and using different fabrics, is that they don’t always go together that well. Something like a relationship in many aspects. They all reacted differently as I sewed them on. Even the carefully measured and cut squares would somehow slip so much that they would end up with a 10mm disparity in places. The red satin back kept getting caught up and sewn up double, causing me to unpick and re-do it many times over.

The result was a far more hand crafted look, which I liked. But more interestingly I was reminded during the sewing process of how life does not always turn out the way you plan, and how often we repeat the same mistake over and over, until we get it right. That karmic boomerang will just keep coming back to hit you on the head to say “hey wake up, you’ve been here before”! So as I unpicked letters, and re did lines, I thought about how life is like that, imperfect in many ways, but you get by,…until you know how to get it right. And sometimes we just get by with all our fumbling mistakes, but thats also our choice.

On the day of presentation I arose at 5am to finish it. I wanted to be fresh for the final part of the quilt making, which was to sew the heart on and match up with a heart on the reverse side. I had envisioned myself repeatedly unpicking it and redoing it for hours owing to the complexity of this task. But you wont believe it, an almost impossible task (I thought) worked 1st time, in marrying up on either side. I was astonished to see when I flipped it over onto the red satin side to see a perfectly sewn heart on the back! No movement, no scrunching, no wading poking out………so maybe, just maybe I am getting this thing called life right after all, and things will be rosy, and right and bright on the other side.

As the author of this work I (Barbara Harkness) acknowledge the moral rights to the above have been asserted with the copyright, designs and patents act 1988. If you wish to use any of my material you may contact me for permission.

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2 thoughts on “A Change of Heart

  1. Your story of the making of the quilt, its enigmatic message written upon it, and the resemblances you have drawn in the creation of it to life and matters of the heart, is beautiful and brilliant.

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