An old jacket hung unused in the back of my closet. It had great lines, but was unusable in its present condition. I pulled it out one day and decided that it was time to do something with it. But what? First, I removed the fake leather strips that covered many of the seams and trimmed the front ties. Ah, that was better. The princess seams which had been covered before seemed to ask to be covered again. So I pulled out scraps of fabric left over from a previous quilting project, cut them in half lengthwise and sewed them together so that the edges wouldn’t show, like with bias tape. I stitched them over the princess seams. The jacket seemed to come alive already!
I have a classical labyrinth pattern that I have used on some quilts. A hunch told me that it might fit on the back of this jacket. Sure enough! I drew the chalk lines, following the circuit of the labyrinth. I figured that I could start at one end and hold the strips of fabric with one hand while I guided the jacket with my other hand as I sewed to the other end of the chalk line. But as it hung on my dress form in between sewing opportunities, I noticed that the fabric strips wobbled and wandered about the back of the jacket and were quite a mess. I would never be satisfied with it looking like this. As much as I get annoyed and impatient while taking out stitches, I took these out. An inch at a time, my seam ripper cut through the stitches I had just sewn, freeing these fabric strips from their spontaneous awfulness.
So much for my experiment in living life ‘ad lib’. Apparently some organization is needed here. I re-marked the chalk lines for the labyrinth, since they had long since disappeared, and pinned the strips on this time . . . an inch at a time. Now I could plan ahead, at least to some extent, for the beginning and ending of the strips, leaving a little room to adjust for miscalculations as I went. It was not long before I could see that there were no more jerky places or wobbles. It had been well worth it to take it out and start over. I soon found myself ‘walking’ the path of the labyrinth with my fingers to the center and then back out again, over and over.
A red strip of fabric asked to be used next. “What could I do with it?” I wondered, and then saw in my mind’s eye a spiral of red on the front of the jacket. This time, I ‘knew’ to pin it from the start, especially since there was no pattern to go from. How can you go wrong with a circle? I don’t know how, but I managed to. This too, had to be taken out and done over. What worked this time was starting with one tiny curve and stitching in an ever widening circle, comparing it to my mental image and also measuring every few stitches to keep the curves symmetrical. The final step was relaxing and having fun while following the strip of fabric to its end.
I was attracted next to the geo-glyphs in Nazca, Peru. I found them online and searched and listened with my inner ear until a figure made it clear to me which one ‘wanted’ to come to life on my jacket. I printed a photo, and made a pattern. This small pattern required tiny strips of fabric, so I cut half inch wide bias (diagonal) strips from a small scrap of fabric, sewed them into one long piece. To hide the edges, I pressed and glued them into the center of the strip. After tracing the pattern onto the jacket, I wondered, ‘Do I pin it or not? I don’t remember which worked, but I certainly remember the dilemma and the desire to know up front which one would work and which one would be a disaster. I think she turned
out all right; what do you think? But what’s a spider without a web? A very hungry spider, that’s what. She needed a web. Iridescent thread and a sewing ruler with a sliding gauge finally provided her with one. Now she seemed ready to show me how to catch what I need for my life. All that’s left is for me to watch and listen.
My jacket hung on my dress form for some time before I knew whether it was complete or not. One day I knew it was not. Just One More Thing. Really? My life is “Just One More Thing!” More scraps left over from another project asked to ride along. The only ‘open’ spot was the sleeve, which required ripping out the hem and seam before applying the applique. Then I had to reassemble the sleeve. Now she seemed complete.
Then she beckoned me to wear her. What? Be a spectacle? The center of attention? A freak? She was incessant. I wore her around the house. That wasn’t so bad. I summoned up the courage to wear her to my three year old grand niece’s costume birthday party. I was stunned with the response I got. Was this made by designer so-and-so? No; who is that? Did I make them to sell? No. Apparently this wasn’t as freakish as I had feared. Did I want to make others to sell? Have my own little sweat shop right in my sewing room? No, thank you very much! What is it? Why, It’s a . . . shirt for my soul . . . a Soul-Shirt, that’s what it is. It’s a shirt that honors, feeds and expresses my sacred soul.
Was there any rhyme or reason to what I was doing, or was it was just for fun? Yes, I was playing, experimenting, and having great fun. In addition, somewhere along the way, I became aware that the process of playing with this jacket and remaking it had been requested by my soul. It was soul-play, soul food, soul armor, and other things yet to be discovered, including a sacred preparation process for some hoped-for, anticipated changes in my life. My Creative Handwork™ had again become Contemplative Handwork™.
For eons, people have prepared for goal achievement and desired changes in their lives through making things which represented the intangible, hidden, archetypal aspects of the coming event. We still do. We celebrate graduations, weddings, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, even birthdays and other smaller events. Often this includes special clothes to wear as part of the specialness of the celebration. In ancient times, not-so-wonderful changes such as deaths and other losses were also commemorated by wearing ‘special’ clothes: people wore black for a specified length of time to mark, honor and even facilitate the mourning period. We also commemorate past events and losses, but in our sophisticated modernness, we often struggle to find meaningful ways to do so.
In making this shirt for my soul, I’ve stumbled onto a way to honor our soul’s inner needs and at the same time, commemorate inner changes by our outer actions. I’ve found a fun and creative way to nourish and feed our souls, especially for CASIGYs (Creative, Acutely Aware, Super-Sensitive/HSP, Intense, Gifted You-s). I’ve found a way to facilitate hidden changes that need to accompany the outer changes going on in our lives. I’ve found a way to enrich our lives in a tangible way that often doesn’t happen without this kind of creative attention to our souls. I’ve discovered that indeed, I don’t want to make jackets like this to sell to others. Instead, I want to share what I’ve found with others in a more meaningful way.
Some of you may take this description of my process and run with something similar of your own. If so, I’d love for you to share your process and the results with us. Post your reply below.
Others might like a guide through this unfamiliar territory. If so, I’d like to invite you to join me and a few other adventurous souls in my upcoming “My SoulShirt PlayShop”. For more info, and to reserve your ticket on this Inner Adventure, click here.