I lived in the US in 2000 and my favourite abiding memory of that time was weekends spent in Vermont, surrounded by snowy forested mountains, in front of a toasty crackling fire in a little wooden cabin with waist height snow drifts all around. I love being surrounded by snow, and I love feeling off the grid, I like to be cosy. Back in 2018, reeling from a bereavement, I wanted to get back to the mountains. We booked a week, on a whim, in a cabin in Norway, encouraged by friends who grew up there, ‘you’ll love it’ they promised. It was the start of a whole new love affair.
I had months to anticipate our week away, like many I find the holiday anticipation to be a particular kind of joy, but as a quilter I can usually find a quilty segway to my musing. My google searches led me quickly to the Norwegian folk art of Rosemaling. A painting technique, particular to different regions of Norway, each with its own typical motif of symmetrical flowers, arranged in a wreath shape around a central point. I immediately could see the quilt I would make.
It had to be heavy, warm and dense and comforting. I settled on Essex Linen in a soft palette of northern European blues and greys. The applique would follow the rustic, earthy tones of the Rosemaling pictures I was collecting. Images of delicately painted wooden doors, cupboards and walls, plates and household items, all expertly made individual bythe addition of a simple motif. Each motif straightforward in its own right, but the sum of the parts – the infinite variety of tessellation – meant that each rosette was beautifully and elegantly unique.
I dived into this make, absorbed, enthralled, it was a joy to create each rosemaling motif. I took the last block with me to Norway that first time, to a healing cabin perched up on the mountainside in Voss. I had the most swooping view down a steep sided valley to the frozen lake below, an almost unnatural blue in the morning light. As my family whooshed past on skiis all day I stitched and contemplated how full of light and shade a life is. Sewing has always been a comfort to me but that year it was a precious gift, a crutch, a blessing, a distraction and a salve.
This week in the mountains marked the end of a year of sadness and marked the start of a new self, more grateful for being touched by tragedy. In air so fresh that it hurt to breathe I stitched wrapped in sheepskins, wearing fingerless fairisle gloves to keep my stiff cold fingers working, the sharp fresh air of that beautiful valley burnished my mettle back to a dull shine. I’ll always cherish this quilt for keeping me company on that painful year’s journey.
Whilst the sharpness of grief gradually dulls to a background hum, that trip to Norway was the start of a fun new chapter. I have returned twice in the two years since Voss and each time I have vowed that this quilt will be finished for it’s final ‘ta dah’ post in the mountains that inspired it. Sadly this Christmas we won’t get to visit, but my beautiful weighty heartful quilt is finished and it will await a happier year than 2020 to get back to the mountains again.