Monday, 24 August 2009

Finding my own style

All my life I have been the sort of person who "makes things".
I am definitely no artist, but I do enjoy fiddling about with fabric and yarn and playing with colours and shapes. In the past, there was always a bag with some project or other beside the sofa, ready to pick up instead of a book or in place of turning on the TV.

When R died, that desire to create seemed to die with him.

I decided very early on that I would cut up all his plaid shirts and turn them into comfort quilts and cushions for myself, friends and family. I even got as far as dissecting a couple of really tatty shirts, cutting off and saving the buttons and deciding which parts were reusable.

Then I stalled.

I couldn't see in my head what I was going to do with them. The images just weren't there. And even though I would have still had the fabric, I was happier knowing that the shirts were safe in his wardrobe for me to see at any time, rather than cut up in a box.

And so that side of me was placed on hold while I concentrated on working, keeping the place going or simply breathing, depending on what sort of day it was.

But lately I find I am starting to have ideas floating around my head once again, and my hands are itching to do something that doesn't involve typing or getting dirt under my fingernails.

Some friends are due to have a baby soon, so I thought I would dust off the sewing machine and make a little cot quilt.

I have always been very much a traditional 'squares and triangles' sort of quilter, but I was surprised to see this one turn out a lot brighter, yet simpler than normal and with lots of blank space that called out for meandering quilting, rather than my usual straight lines. (And yes, it has finally occurred to me that a quilt with large white spaces probably isn't ideal for a small child, so I may have to go back to the drawing board for the baby!)

I've noticed this change of style and direction in other aspects of my life as well.
Take clothes, for example.

Various friends and my no. 1 niece have 'taken me in hand' lately. They have ignored my increasingly feeble protests and dragged me shopping for clothes. Partly because the weight that fell off when R died seems to have stayed off and I had very little that fitted me any more, and partly because my wardrobe was well overdue for an overhaul in any case.

And now, much to my surprise, I find myself with several skirts in my wardrobe, and a pair of shoes with heels, of all things. Just about everything we bought was feminine, rather than practical, which is a huge departure for me. I spent a couple of days wafting around the house, wondering who this girlie person was I occasionally caught sight of in the mirror. I also have to remind myself to wash my hands when I come inside from the garden, rather than wiping the mud off on my already-grubby jeans!

It seems to be happening to my decorating style as well.

Together, R and I tended towards the slightly-cluttered, comfortable country style of d├ęcor. Earth colours, natural textures and lots of wood. That sort of thing.

Now my extension is slowly coming to fruition, thanks to the work of my wonderful BIL. It has nearly reached the decorating stage (at least upstairs) and I find I am leaning totally towards sleek, clean, uncluttered lines, fresh Spring colours and bold big-pattern fabrics for the curtains. None of which I can imagine having if R were still here. When the furniture goes in, I plan to keep it as minimal as possible as I seem to need space and air much more than the cocooning comfort of the past.

When I look at these changes, I wonder if that was how I always was. Did our previous choices simply reflect the fact that everything was a compromise between the wants of two people, and was therefore never entirely satisfactory to either of us? Does this mean that now I can be entirely selfish and have exactly what I have always wanted? Or have I mentally drawn a line under the past and started moving in a different direction? Or perhaps the shock of R's death has awoken a part of me that I didn't know was there? I really don't know.

Of course, given the choice, I would turn the clock back in an instant. But I can't do that, and so it is interesting to watch myself in a detached sort of way and see the awakening of a new person. I wonder if the new one will be someone that the old person would still like when the metamorphosis is complete.


  1. WELL DONE on the quilt - I think it is really beautiful, bright, white, clean, simple, less is more :-) I can't even thread a sewing machine but have thought about making myself a comfort quilt out of his clothes. Like you, I was not ready to start cutting clothes up ... and am still not ready! I have unwashed shirts and pillow cases that are in ziplock bags - yes really - and ration myself a smell every now and again.

    Cliff as you know was a hoarder like R! My natural style is to tend towards minimalism ... but because of the hoarding, well I hardly need to explain to you LOL :-)

    I like the crap all around me for now, but think that when I am ready, gradually ... half of the house will end up much more minimalist.

    It's an interesting point you make - and I'm not sure what the answer is. But it is good to have projects to focus on and plan and design isn't it, on the days that we are able.

    Great to see you back, was getting a little clucky, but totally understood why when you explained that you had been shopping. My weight also seems to be staying off ... to be honest, the stone or so that fell off me needed to, and I am now at my normal weight again. Think I will treat myself to some new clothes in Savannah :-)

  2. Your quilt is lovely! I cannot sew and admire anyone who can.

    I'm not sure we exactly become different people than we already are after our spouses die. But I do think the experience changes us profoundly. We just don't see the world the same way. I stopped wearing black clothing; I stopped eating red meat (it is almost six years that I've had a McDonald's burger); I started knitting more because it comforted me; I made a point of ending conversations with "I love you" and hugging more often; I vowed to never take another relationship for granted again; I was more willing to say "I'm sorry" first; it became more important for me to be truthful to myself and others. When I buy anything now, I tend to take the time to make sure it is really what I want, that I need it and love it. An outfit needs to be wonderful, not just okay.

    Enjoy your new purchases and the lightness of spirit you are feeling in experiencing new things, be they shoes or furniture. We all so deserve a bit of a respite from the darkness that has surrounded our souls.

  3. @ Boo: It is a bitter irony, isn't it? Physically I look great, better than I have in years. It's just the jumbled mess inside my head that still needs to be remedied.
    Perhaps your half-and-half house idea is the answer. Part minimalism, part comfy clutter. Then we can move between the two depending in which way the mood drags us!
    And I really can recommend the shopping - as I work from home, and the animals don't mind what I'm wearing, I haven't had a good sesh for literally years. It did me the world of good.

    @ WitM: What wonderful insightful words. It is so interesting to see the overnight changes that bereavement has wrought in other people. And yes, I'm sure it has a lot to do with simply not viewing the world in the same way any more, how can we?