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My Recent Adventure: Making a Soul-Shirt from a Cast-off Jacket

For eons, people have marked significant life passages, prepared for goal achievement, invited desired changes to show up 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 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 my reflections below, I share how I stumbled onto a process that transformed a cast-off jacket into a shirt for my soul, that is, a SoulShirt.

An old jacket hung unused in the back of my closet. It had great lines, but was Imageunusable 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!

Searching for what would come next, I ran across a pattern for a classical style of labyrinth that I had previously used on some quilts. A hunch told me that it might fit on the back of this jacket. Sure enough! I traced its contours with chalk, following the circuit of the labyrinth.  I figured that I could save time by holding the vibrant narrow strips onto the chalk line with one hand and guide the whole thing under the needle with the other hand. But as this jacket hung in my sewing room between sewing opportunities, I noticed that the fabric strips wandered about the back of the jacket and were quite a mess. I knew that I would never be satisfied to wear it looking like this. So as much as I can get annoyed and impatient while taking out stitches, I reluctantly 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.

ImageSo much for my experiment in sewing (AKA living life) ‘ad lib’. I knew that labyrinths can be metaphors for life’s path, and this was an unmistakable reminder for me that Apparently some additional organization is needed here. Then I re-marked the chalk lines for the labyrinth, since they had long since disappeared, and pinned the strips on the jacket this time . . . a painstaking inch at a time. It was not long before I could see that there were no more jerky places or wobbles in this labyrinth. It was a relief to see that 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 Imagewith it?” I wondered. It was not long before I 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.

ImageI 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 Imageout 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 needed for my life. All that’s left now is for me to watch and listen.

SAM_0940My 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 whole life seems to be “Just One More Thing!” More scraps left over from a different 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 SoulShirtfrontwas 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. It builds a bridge from my soul into the outside world, and right back in again. 

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™.

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.

Have you experimented with creative pursuits requested by your soul? Here’s your invitation to share in the comment box below.

Featured Quote

In our spirituality, we reach for consciousness, awareness, and the highest values; in our soulfulness, we endure the most pleasurable and the most exhausting of human experiences and emotions. These two directions make up the fundamental pulse of human life.

— Thomas Moore, Careo fo the Soul