Friday, December 6, 2013

Writing from Sewing's Rhythms

There's a rhythm to sewing that comes when I'm making something. The sound of the thread going through the fabric, the pierce of the needle (a tiny pop), the knot being pulled under, the machine whirring through a seam, or the endless buzz of free-motion quilting.

Piecing creates a rhythm of its own, too, and that's why often like to improvise. When I'm improvising, I move between putting fabrics together, stepping back to look at them to decide if there's balance in color, and sewing them together. It acquires its own pacing, different for each quilt, and when I'm caught up in it, the quilt comes together quickly.

I like how this sewer describes her sense of rhythm in sewing: Simply Sewing Studio

The same is true for writing, and though I don't move from sewing to writing in the same space of a day, I do the same kind of composition, paced with stepping back and thinking. Put the parts together, caught up in the rhythm, and then step back to see if they fit. Is there a sense of balance? Writing has its own heat and cool, tightly-composed and loose patterns -- quickly paced dialogue, intense disagreement or tension, a lull in a description of a landscape.

How do the pieces fit together? Is there harmony or dissonance? (Well...that's a sound analogy but it's all the same -- where is the friction, the differently weighted fabric, the flash of color, and where do the colors shift subtly from one to the next?)

I love what Lyn Hejinian has to say in "Against Closure." It explains, in part, why I'm interested in nonlinear novels and nonfiction, like Carole Maso's work and Claire Donato's Burial, and why the quilts that I'm making now are often unbound and show the traces of their making -- knots on their surfaces, etc.. This is also a move stolen from the 1960s Postmodern fashion, and Alabama Chanin's work, whose clothes I love with their reverse applique and knots left on the surface (thanks to my friend Amy B. for introducing me to them). I also love how Kathryn Clark uses the technique in her work of foreclosure quilts.

How do writers make their moves explicit? I guess that's often in narration and voice, as in some of Alice Munro's stories (Silence, for example), where the narrators shift from present to past, taking the reader along with them without any explication of those leaps in time. We come to understand the leaps as the story moves along, but the "seams," the leaps from time to time, are left unfinished and rough. They're not explained and made pretty. It's not the front of the seam that we see, but the back -- the back made front.

This is becoming an essay, for another form and time.

Happy making.