Sunday, May 29, 2016

Denim & Dementia: Minding the Gap

Did you ever notice that the word "dementia" has "denim" in it? No, I'm sure you didn't, and neither did I, until I wrote this blog post.

This didn't start out to be a quilt about anything in particular, except fun with denim scraps. (For earlier fun, click "Denim" in the word cloud on the lower right of this page.) 

I began it the same way as my denim-and-lace piece from last week: With a raw-edge denim surface, on top of cotton batting, and a backing fabric. I pinned the layers together, then quilted them on a grid. 
Most of my denim stash comes from old jeans, but I happen to have this denim angel fabric, bought many years ago to cover a couch. I love the contemplation.
I put that little guy on the lower left, just above the pocket. Then I started playing with frayed cuff edges and thready seams.
How about a moon?
The shaggy cuff ends made me think of lace, and crochet. So I crocheted raggedy strips, using a hook that was too large for the crochet thread, so it would be full of holes. 

When that was finished, I decided the piece looked like an angel gazing upwards, at stratified heavens. So I crocheted little clouds, from grey crochet thread.
I suddenly realized the clouds also looked like brains. Brains with gaps.  

That's when it occurred to me that this might be a quilt about dementia, an issue I face every day because my mother has advanced dementia. Mom doesn't say a lot, but much of what she has been describing lately is a vision of heaven."Birds together, flying forever. Precious family, flying together. Flying together, forever. We are precious family, flying together." Sometimes it gives me goosebumps. Also, for the past year or so, she's been using the word "birds" as a substitute for "people."  Thus I added birds. 
I did a bit of  hand cross stitching in one segment of the skies. 

I changed from the two experimental flowers above, to a grouping of crochet and scrap flowers below.
Along the bottom, I crocheted an edging with dangling bobbles. 
Here's the finished piece. I used a jeans buttonhole to create a tab at the top for hanging. 
Turning loss into art is therapeutic. Doing it with old denim jeans in lovely shades of blue makes it even more soothing. 

14 comments:

  1. I was touched by your mom's words. I lost my mom in October last year to a 7 year stretch of dementia. 4 of which she was silent and bedridden. And before that I took care of my aunt for 10 years.

    It is not easy, but we somehow find the strength to cope.

    Love your denim dementia piece!

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    1. My sympathies on your loss, QS. Mom has gotten so much quieter, but then sometimes she starts talking again, and it's often this vision of flying together in heaven.Thanks for sharing your story. Hugs.

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  2. I bet your Mum would love this piece as it is so tactile. Touching can bring back memories, as can music.

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    1. Helen, what a perfect idea! Thank you!

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  3. How fascinating to see your entire process! What a transformation. I was caught up with your revelation that it is a dementia quilt, it makes perfect sense. The thoughtful angel image works on so many levels along with the birds. I'll take a stab at 20" x 40" as the dimensions? Thank you for generously sharing your techniques.

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    1. Thank you for your kind comment, Sue. It's a lot smaller than your estimate - more like about 20" x 12" ish. I appreciate your stopping by!

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  4. What a great glimpse into two minds, that of your mom and of your creative response. I guess the third brain(storm) represents the response of viewers who have also dealt with this disease.

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  5. Cathy, isn't it funny how our subconscious crawls out in our art. Your Mom's comments really struck you and you had to deal with it. Luckily you are so talented that you can create something beautiful with something sitting in your head. It is fabulous (like so much of your work) but also so personal. I hope Mom gets to see it and know how well she is understood. Hugs.

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    1. Marla, you are very good for my morale. Thank you for your kindness, always!

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  6. Beautiful piece, beautiful story. Thank you so much for sharing your process and insights. Your mother's words moved me.

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    1. Thank you for your comment. We don't know what to make of these words....We hope it's a vision.

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  7. I understand dementia a little too well too. I have until recently been my grandmother's carer. She too has dementia and has recently moved into a nursing home. I haven't been sewing anything this lovely. Instead, I have been sewing her nametags into her clothes!

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    1. Remembering to put in nametags is definitely another important aspect to caregiving. Hugs, GMG!

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