Creating a Beautiful Life

I’ve been a quilt maker since I was fairly young, all the ladies I knew at that time were quilters. I think I was 15 when I joined the ranks and made my first quilt. I was young enough to not be intimidated by the 1″ postage stamp pattern that I insisted upon making. My mom, in all her wisdom, convinced me to start with one block and go from there. Wise indeed. That quilt ended up as a charming, quirky, sampler lovingly hand-quilted by the sewing bee of my grandfather’s childhood church. It’s not what many would call fabulous but it’s an important part of my journey.

Garden Quilt
My first quilt, circa 1993, age 15.

Because I began quilting in my formative years and grew into it as I grew into adulthood, I never learned to appreciate what a creative force it has been for me. It was always there and I was always making at some level. And all was good…until it wasn’t.

When we needed my quilting room for a nursery, when it was necessary to pack up all my supplies and relocate them into nooks and closets, that thing which both facilitates and fuels my own unique expression was shoved away as well. If maintaining a creative practice is like tending a garden: pulling the weeds and pruning the plants for optimum beauty, then I had let my garden grow fallow. While it led to a low point in my own journey, it also enlightened the path for the rest of my journey. I can no longer deny the importance of a creative practice. And not just any creative practice – I’ve tried lettering, painting, pottery, crochet…none of which make my heart sing. When I returned to quilting after a five-year hiatus, I knew I was home.

So, what is it to “create a beautiful life” and what does this have to do with quilting? It’s about the obligation we have to feed our souls with that creative expression that makes us come alive. That thing that you could gladly stay up all night to do, make, practice? That’s the thing. You must do it. We are created in the image of a creative God which means we are wired to create. It is our job to pursue that thing we’re meant to create and get on it. Find a way to practice it daily. Do away with the notion that being creative takes a great amount of time, dollars, space, or talent. Stop making excuses and make something beautiful.

A beautiful life is one lived slowly, in pursuit of creating rather than consuming. I make my family’s bread and other staples because by slowing down and taking the time to make these things by hand, we are given the gift of knowing the ingredients, feeling the textures, smelling the smells, tasting the freshness, and anticipating the goodness. I make quilts for the same reason – it’s slow, it touches so many senses, it nourishes the soul and cares for the body. It goes deep.

A beautiful life is one spent observing the small, beautiful things that occur naturally all around us. Where I live, this often means building a muscle of shutting out the noise and clutter, ignoring the constant hustle, slowing and making space to go deeper. When you make something you are forced to go deeper, whether it’s brief or ongoing. But to be deep is to savor and appreciate, to focus on finer details and force the weight of a daily grind to take a back seat. That is a beautiful life.

It’s not about physical surroundings. Or the aesthetics of the thing being made. But the intentional act of making. The daily practice of honoring the creative aspect that makes our heart sing. This doesn’t come naturally and it isn’t taught in school. It’s a practice. What is your thing? What can you be more intentional to practice, even just moments at  time, every day?  I dare you to start. Dive in. Don’t hesitate. And definitely don’t compare yourself to what’s found on Pinterest.  Close the computer. Put away the devices. Take up your fabric, your paint, your pieces, your ingredients, and make something.

Pause. Breathe. Sit in the gratitude that’s to be found in the making. And then set your hands to work and your mind to rest.

Ponder that thing you create. Dream up a way that you can practice this thing every day. Is it a page? A piece? A few moments at an instrument? A new recipe? The same recipe pursued to perfection? As you begin the practice, be sure to note the difference it makes. Is there a new lightness to your step? A clarity you hadn’t felt before? A new joy? Progress? The simple act of reflecting on your practice is bound to bring you deeper.

So let’s do this, shall we? Make a beautiful life with me. What’s your creative thing? I’d love to hear about it! 

This post is a part of the 2017 Quilt Bloggers Hop. I’m excited to spend the next several months exchanging insights with a group of talented quilt makers and bloggers. For more quilty goodness, be sure to stop by and check out these others who are also sharing this week:

Leanne @shecanquilt : She Can Quilt

Yvonne @quiltingjetgirl : Quilting Jet Girl

Beth @CookingupQuilts : Cooking Up Quilts

Jess @SewJess: Sew Jess Handmade 

Amanda @ Quiltologie : Quiltologie All Things Handmade

Abigail @CutandAlter: Cut and Alter

Rose @ SomethingRoseMade: Something Rose Made

Stop by and say hi (there’s prizes!), bloggers love to hear from you. And stay tuned for more great posts from the group over the next several months.

53 thoughts on “Creating a Beautiful Life

  1. Beautiful words Rachel! I completely agree with you on all points, especially about slowing down and honoring the creative energy that resides within each of us! Thanks for sharing your wisdom 🙂

  2. Wow, what a lovely essay! Yes, so true, we are made in the image of a creative God, hence our inner need to be creative. Thanks for sharing your story! Quilting is most definitely my big obsession. I did cross-stitching, knitting, crochet, and I liked them all, but they cannot compare to my love of quilting.

    • says:

      Thank you! Isn’t it funny how there’s that one thing that makes the heart sing? I’m glad I tried all those others, and I’m glad I got to observe how differently I resonated with the others.

  3. Rachel, you express yourself so well. I am envious. It is great that you have quilters in your life to share this journey. I look forward to following you on this journey.

    • says:

      Thank you! My quilty people are back home in Alaska, but I’m so grateful for the part they played in the early part of my journey.

    • says:

      It is important, isn’t it? I’ve found such a difference when I’m intentional about slowly and gratefully making.

  4. As I read this, I found myself thinking, Yes! Yes! Yes! We are so quick to rush through things, that it is so easy to forget to slow down and enjoy the process. Rachel, it’s been lovely to meet you and I look forward to reading more about your quilting journey. I love that you discovered quilting at such a young age and you are still creating.

  5. Hi Rachel, my fellow bee mate. What a beautiful and well-written post! You have a wonderful way with words which is a great skill to have when explaining your creative and thought processes. I’m glad to have gotten to know you through the Blog Hop.

  6. Rose Mikulski says:

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful written words about your creative life. This is the third time I’ve been trying to leave a comment on your wonderful post. I hope this time it goes through. I’m glad to have gotten to know you through the Blog Hop; it’s been one happy experience for me.

  7. What a beautiful post! I like the way you think. 🙂
    It isn’t something I consciously think of while creating, but on occasion I take a moment while deep in my craft and appreciate everything that it has given to me.

    • says:

      Thank you! I didn’t think of it either, until this new journey. Now I make a point of breathing a thanks at least when I begin.

  8. Lisa says:

    You are a beautiful writer and have a wonderful way of expressing what is important to you around quilting in your words.

  9. Beth T. says:

    Such lovely thoughts. My guiding phrase is “Do What Matters Most”, and for me that always includes creating and sharing my love through something tangible that I have created. I feel as if when I have that impulse I should follow through on it, that the prompting is important, that it matters.

  10. Mary d says:

    Thanks for inviting us to view your blog during this blog hop. We quilters are an expressive group…. it’s the passion in us to be creative.

  11. This was so wonderfully written and so much fun to read! I agree with all the very valid points you made. I particularly love the part about being created in the image of a creative God, slowing down to enjoy the process and turning off the gadgets. Well done!

  12. What a lovely post, and I agree that your use of words is beautiful. I need to be more mindful of this while I create. It’s so fun to get to know you through your writing!

    • says:

      Thanks for your kind words! It’s neat to start recognizing names and faces from quilty friends on blogs, Instagram etc. Quilty people are the best 🙂

  13. I totally understand and agree, and am so glad you found your way back to a creative pursuit that makes your heart sing. Glad to see you in the blog hop.

  14. Thank you so much for sharing your journey and especially what creating a beautiful life means to you and how your found your way back to quilting. I hope that quilting will continue let your heart sing and joyfully create for the rest of your life. And thanks so much for joining the blog hop!

  15. Could not agree more….creating brings me closer to my God and allows me to connect more to His creation. So much truth in your post! Thank you! Being creative feeds and nurtures my soul.

  16. Thank you for sharing this! You are a wonderful writer.
    I’ve also felt the lack when I have let quilting fall by the wayside of a busy life. Even just walking into my studio helps me breathe more deeply.

    • says:

      Thank you for your kind words! In a way I’m glad for my time away from quilting because now I am so much more grateful for its presence in my life. Here’s to breathing deeply!

  17. Hi Rachel, Congratulations on a wonderful post. I love your energy! Reading your post I took a deep breath in and out and felt peace. Just like quilting! Sincerely Abbie of the Better Bloggers Hive ?

  18. This is a lovely insight into you as a person and a quilter. You have summed up beautifully what it means to you to be a creative, its more about the why than the how. You are an inspiration to anyone hesitating or standing on the sidelines, a perfect ‘what are you waiting for?’ piece. Thank you

  19. How nicely written! I had the same experience of needing that special space for me to make beautiful things. It is amazing, the difference having a creative outlet makes for our well-being. Thanks for sharing this!

  20. I love your sentiments, Rachel, and I think it is so often over-looked how vital creativity can be for us all. Your first quilt is very impressive! I look forward to following you on your quilting journey.

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