Wednesday, November 11, 2015

In Memory of Jessica: highlights and background

I hope you guys aren't tired of seeing this quilt yet!  The good news is the next post will be the finished quilt!  After my last blog post I added the brightest highlights to her face and chest:

Thread painting portrait: skin highlights 

But the nose just didn't look right, and even after sleeping on it and everyone on IG saying it looked great, I decided to rip out all the light yellow stitching on the right side of her nose.  It was tricky because of how dense the quilting is, but only took about 15 minutes!  Here's the after, and to me it was definitely worth ripping out those too-bright stitches:

Thread painting: surgery on her nose, fitting since she had several surgeries for a deviated septum!

Then I focused on the background and the lower shoulder area:

Thread painting: I think we're up to 7 bobbins now.

 Now more on the hair, adding lighter layers to the hair and brighter and brighter layers where it catches the sunlight.  Also I think I added more to the is honestly getting hard to tell where each bobbin goes!

Thread painting: the hair has more layers than I can remember!  8 bobbins.

Next was focusing on all the little details, especially brightest area of her hair.  But I also added highlights to the left eyebrow where it catches the light, and tons of stray hairs.

Thread painting portrait: after 9 bobbins (I think?)

I'm almost done!  At this point I've spent 10.5 hours on this quilt--mostly quilting and trying to decide on which Aurifil thread colors to use.  They sponsored all the threads, sending me 25 small spools to use on this quilt, but I think I've only used 18 of those.  There are a few little details left on this quilt and then it's time to block and bind it!  Whoop!

How I'm Feeling
Jessica and I knew of each other for many years before we became friends.  Our homeschooling circles occasionally overlapped, but we basically thought the other one was stuck up (or whatever the 10 year old equivalent is).  When I was 14 I started "dating" her good friend and neighbor (there were no actual dates, I think we held hands sometimes though).  He liked me a lot and would tell Jessica about me.  I guess he convinced her that I was pretty cool, and she initiated a friendship with me.  The relationship with her neighbor didn't last long, and we fell out of touch after a few years.  But I remained close to Jessica.

I really miss her friendship and understanding.  She was the type of friend you don't talk to or see for months at a time, but when you're together no time has passed and there are hardly any lulls in the conversation.  Sometimes I wish I could just email her, just to send her little life updates or songs or gossip.

She went into massage therapy with a focus of energy work.  She had a very holistic side, even though she was critically minded and skeptical of many things.  One of the things that haunts me most about her last few months is that she wasn't given the space to accept her imminent death.  She knew it was coming, but in her circumstances she was unable to celebrate her life.  I felt it then and still feel it now that she needed that.  I wish there had been a way to have a blessingway for her to make the transition easier and more natural.  I know that may not make sense to very many people, but I think it would have made sense to her.

In Memory of Jessica thread painting series:
4. Highlights and background (you are here)


  1. Wow!! Renee, I am more than a little speechless!! You could post about this beautiful memorial to your friend 100 times more and I wouldn't get tired of hearing about it :) It is so interesting to see the progression. Love the additional stitches you made to the background. The hair, her lovely face, your sense of color in picking just the right color for the shading, just amazing! Thank you for sharing your stitches and sharing your feelings and process along the way. I think Jessica would be very proud of you and your recreation of her.

  2. I didn't realise what you were talking about with the nose until I saw the 'after' picture - it looks way better.

    It seems like you were meant to be together; when you were first brought together you ignored each other, so you were brought together again in a way that let you get to know each other without having to directly talking each other. Seems like it was meant to be, to me.

  3. Removing the stitching on her nose was definitely the right call; somehow I missed the IG conversation about it (sorry!). I definitely understand what you are saying about being able to come to terms with her death. From afar I watched cousin Elizabeth's father Jerry do that, and it is a beautiful thing when an individual can have peace. I am still thinking of ways and things to talk to you about so that maybe you can offer her that space and peace now, and I sure think this quilted work of her is a huge part of it. xx

  4. Absolutely the right call on the nose. The after picture looks so much more natural. I love the stray hairs too. They seem to add so much movement and vitality to the picture.

  5. I lost my best friend to brain cancer last year. We were able to celebrate her life and I cared for her in hospice. It is such a tremendous loss when a friend passes!! I feel that every stitch and line you sew and every moment you take deciding what colors to use and where to go with the quilting is celebrating your friend in the cherished way she deserves. I am so glad she had you and that you are sharing her with us. XO!

  6. The nose change is perfect - it makes a huge difference. There is seriously nothing else I'd like to read than what your progress is on this quilt. Since you've started blogging about your quilt I've been thinking about all the times I reach out to people randomly to chat or just send a message. It makes such a difference.

  7. Blessingway is something I have heard of for birth, but it makes complete sense to use it as we transition to death. I have "if only" thoughts over loved ones who have died too Renee. Those regrets and concerns weigh on us, sometimes painfully that they make our grief much worse. It's my belief and hope that, for the person who has died, they've gone on to such a spiritual wholeness and lightness of being that such things have no bearing for them anymore.
    I hope every stitch and every thoughtful moment you have spent on this amazing and beautiful quilt has helped you on your path to peace over Jessica's passing.
    PS - good call on the nose - it looks perfect now.

  8. It's beautiful, I love your process and as long as you are happy to sharing we'll be reading! The changes you made are spot on and i'm noticing the background more in a good way - really compliments the beautiful portrait.

  9. What a wonderful tribute to your friend and what a work of love and art!

  10. This is so beautiful and personal. You are really talented, Renee.

  11. The highlights are so pretty. I do like the changes you made. Looking forward to seeing the finish.

  12. I am glad unpicking the nose (oh, dear ... that sounds wrong) only took 15 minutes. It was the right decision.
    I sort of do understand what you mean by celebrating life and coming to terms with death. Two terminally ill relatives in one year is giving me a little insight into death.
    Thanks for sharing the story of how two stuck-up 10-year-olds became firm friends.