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  • Writer's pictureBetsy Grace

Flow - (Week 26-27)

"To be alive: not just the carcass

But the spark.

That's crudely put, but...

If we're not supposed to dance,

Why all this music?"

(Gregory Orr)


It's been busy in the Betsymade studio! Thanks to a weekend intensive with my Mom a couple weeks ago, this sparkly quilt for Molly is progressing nicely. Together, we have 42 blocks made - we each have 8-9 left to make.... But we were able to get together and lay out what we have so far to make sure the balance of colors is going to work before we finalize the last 25% of the blocks, and I love how it's coming together! Close your eyes, Molly - but for the rest of you, here's a sneak peek (this is just a test - the final layout will come later!).


The working name for this beach scene quilt is officially "Playa Alegria" - and I'm very pleased to share that my block designs all work (with some minor adjustments)! I made test blocks in all three sizes - one for the sky section, one for surf, and the other for the beach:

Since my designs all work, it's time to get to work on making some blocks for this thing! I think I'm going to make all the big blocks (12") for the whole quilt next. I waffled on whether to take this approach or to make one full section at a time - but I think it will work better to build up the quilt as a whole, so I can get a sense of how the sections/colors are going to work together and make adjustments as I go. So after the 12" blocks are done, I'll make all the 8" for the whole quilt, then the 6"... then it will be time to fill in each section with checkerboards and individual 2" and 4" squares. I began to tackle the 12" blocks for the beach section this week - here's a preview:


In long-arm studio news, my Mom blessed me with a stack of small quilts that are all ready for finishing, offering to let me practice on them. So I finished my first quilt on the long-arm this week (special thank you to Pam, who helped me plan the design). It was so much fun! I did peonies on the black border, leafy ivy on the inner gold border, and then in the patchwork, I created large flowers in each of the corners and in the center - and then filled in the diagonal space with small peonies and leaves. I'm so happy with how it came together!

Doing a custom design like this was so rewarding - finding a way to embellish and support the quilt's design without overpowering or distracting from it is a stimulating puzzle, and I love the free-motion stitching process. It is such an invitation into flow state - I find it both quite relaxing and energizing! I tried to capture the quilting stitches in a few photos:

I'm still working up more long-arm stitch pattern samples too - this week, I tried my hand at butterflies and a water-influenced meander:

I am completing my first paid quilt finishing project later this month (thank you for your trust, M!) - so I guess this means the long-arm studio is officially open! If you are a quilter (or if you know a quilter) who is looking for long-arm finishing services, please get in touch! I would love to discuss your project.


And... this week's bonus project: I embellished a jacket, a birthday gift for one of my nearest and dearest. I cut out this ram from a discarded T-shirt and hand-stitched white thread in the white areas of the woodcut design - both tracing the lines of the design and filling in the white block areas with rows of white stitching. The stitching isn't super visible, but the textural effect is lovely.


My slice of a mini-memoir, Collage - A Personal History, concludes this week with...

Chapter 6: Here We Are

(If you're just joining us, check out Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, and Chapter 5)

So... what? What's next? What has all of this been for? What's the big reveal?

The unsatisfying but totally true answer is: I don't know. But I do know a few things. I know that there is something special and unique that I can do, that I've been doing again and again, in different forms, since I was very young. I keep finding ways to do it, and I will continue to, in whatever this next season holds. I can trust that. This work of curating, of creating experiences, of piecing elements together to find a deep, true, beautiful something is the weird thing that I LOVE. It feels like a way of communicating something that grows right out of the light in my chest and then takes form the world.

Beyond that, I have a mix of leanings and inklings and ideas and questions - all of which get truly confusing when I try to factor in financial sustainability (but that's a blog post for another day).

A wise person said to me once: "living things want to live" and one of the many kernels of truth in that statement is an encouragement to stop trying to wrestle all these elements and interests in my life into a cohesive shape, and instead, pull back and, from a distance, pay attention to where the energy is, and how it is flowing through the various things I'm interested in spending time on. This regular blog-posting practice is one of my small attempts to do that - to look at this glorious mess in one place, regularly - to help me listen to it, and to notice what is alive and growing.

Between the shadows, in my brief flashes of insight, here's what I see:

  • Holy Time is full of life - and I sense that it wants to continue to grow. I am interested in what that could look like. For example - I know that, for some, coming together with others to tune in to yourself and reflect on your life and the world either isn't appropriate for their needs or just isn't doable in the context of lives and schedules... so I've thought about - how might I design a Holy Time experience that is intended to be had alone, asynchronously? Also, in my ongoing mission to fight fear, I would love to help others start and lead Holy Time-like communities of their own... and after nearly 3 years of practice, I know some things about this and have so many resources I could offer to help others get started. All of this would be more possible if the Holy Time part of my life was supported by income in some way - and I'm considering thoughtful and appropriate ways to seek financial support for this work, while keeping the open, holistic vibe of the endeavor intact.

  • Making things with my hands keeps me connected internally - and there is so much energy and movement in that part of my life! I have so many IDEAS about things I want to make and do - the pool of possibilities still feels inexhaustible, moreso with every new thing I learn and try. I want to take on more commission projects, open up the long-arm/finishing studio as a new element of the business, take on new quilt tutoring clients, and take my own designs a step further - perhaps publishing patterns, creating tutorials, etc.

  • Designing meaningful experiences - in a variety of ways - is a consistent spark of healthy reflection, growth, and connectedness in my life. I feel myself trying to define this further but I don't think I'm ready to yet. I believe meaningful experiences can be found in lots of places and take many forms. I am interested in how my work designing experiences can push us to grow in our relationships and in our internal/personal development - challenging our assumptions about ourselves and the world, pushing us to struggle together for liberation from racism and domination culture and ways of thinking that are confined by capitalism and exploitation, inspiring us to greater curiosity, openness, and truth-seeking in our daily lives - whether the experience is a weekend retreat with colleagues, a monthly gathering of friends, a board meeting, an experience of art (a play, an audiobook, music, nature), a "training," a podcast, a community gathering, a civic function, or some weird new form we haven't defined yet. This is the space where all the experience and learning the dark tunnel gave me connects up with my collage-making explosions - and I expect it will take me some time yet to unravel the roots and discover all the ways these tendrils nourish each other underground.

Strange as it may seem, though, I think I may already have the secret to figuring all these connections out. And it's in my kitchen, of all places.

My refrigerator door is one of the only places in my life that so many of the elements that make me up are already collaged together. Beloved people attached by tiny replicas of quilt squares, quotes from Holy Time matched up with portraits of musicians and stills from films affixed by a Wildflower Schools magnet. The words of freedom fighters next to snapshots of karaoke nights, pulp art, and childhood photos. Even Shakespeare makes an appearance. I look at it every day. And it totally works! In our kitchen, and inside me.

This season is going to teach me how to master this art - to welcome all these elements of my life, all of these experiences and interests and questions and curiosities, and position them intentionally, interactively, in flow, with intuition and curiosity, to create something totally new: a new form for a meaningful, sustainable life.


Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea (1985, 1987): Like many women of my generation, I grew up watching the Canadian PBS Anne of Green Gables and its sequel again and again off of a dubbed VHS tape I'm sure we wore out completely. Starring the luminous Megan Follows as the smart, daydreaming, open-hearted, hot-tempered Anne Shirley - as she grows from a 13-year-old orphan to a thriving young adult. I'm certain there is nothing on God's green earth as heartwarming as these movies. And even though they make us wait 6+ hours for one KISS between Gilbert and Anne (goodness gracious!), the wait is worth it! 5 stars, totally holds up, is perfect.

High Fidelity (2000): This is one of my top 5 comfort movies. We quote High Fidelity so much around here that most of the quotes are now just "things we say" and we're definitely not fully aware that we're quoting something specific most of the time. This movie came out the year I graduated from high school, when I was ~10 years younger than Rob... It's kind of a treat watching this now that I'm 10-ish years older than him. Among other things, it's much more evident how much of an idiot he is - earnest and well-meaning and wry and so charming, but still, SUCH an idiot. A+ supporting cast, and totally nails the weird self-hating pretentiousness of music nerds.


Also on-screen this week:


Sarah J. Maas' Throne of Glass series is fantastic, all. I finished Heir of Fire and am now working my way through the prequel novellas (which kind of feel like intermission), before I absolutely bury myself in the next novel, Queen of Shadows. I am FULLY invested in Celaena's journey and Heir of Fire was both explosively triumphant - spiritually and in some gut-wrenching battles and political confrontations - and completely soul-shredding. I was pretty destroyed at the end of the book and remain in distress over the future of some of the characters I love so dearly.


Also, I've been slowly working my way through Padraig O Tuama's collection, Poetry Unbound, and it is such a joy. Each selected poem is an explosion of light on its own - and the short essays O Tuama wrote to accompany each one are not only bursting with context, analysis, and insight - they each read as their own sort of melodic accompaniment to the featured poet's work. It's such a special collection - strongly recommended.


If you haven't already, take a walk with "The Intelligence Singing All Around Us," Krista Tippett's interview with James Bridle, author of (most recently) Ways of Being: Animals, Plants, Machines: The Search for a Planetary Intelligence. This is an episode you will likely want to listen to more than once - it is dense, rich with thought-provoking ideas, observations, and stories from history, science, and the evolution of technology. I wrote down a bunch of quotes, but here is one of my favorites:

"Where we start to move forward is when we learn to ask questions which are less concerned with, ‘Are you like us?’ and more interested in, ‘What is it like to be you?'

...we only value that which is translatable into a quality that we recognize in ourselves. It’s the way we structure things around empathy and identification rather than around practices of solidarity, which recognize the value of other things without having to identify with them as being like us. That’s basically how we’ve always operated, and it has limited our perception and awareness of the vitality of other beings...

But other beings do not just have their own ways of doing things, [they] also have a lot of the answers to questions that we find very difficult to frame of how to live in this world. There’s plenty of answers to this questions, plenty of types of knowledge, plenty of ways of understanding the world, that are held and practiced by non-humans. And for me, I feel very strongly, that the kind of key to our meaningful survival and our flourishing is to be found in learning those lessons and paying attention to them very closely."

Holy Time - The Spark

Slides from this week's experience--with words from the Epic of Gilgamesh, Gail McConnell, Padraig O'Tuama, Mary Oliver and Gregory Orr; video from Seemingly Forever Timelapse; and music from Bruce Springsteen--are available here.

Holy Time is a weekly online gathering - Thursdays, 8:45pm CT on zoom (

All are welcome--our next gathering will be Thursday, May 11.

Contact me at with questions or for more information.



What you are making and reading and writing and doing? What is inspiring you? I'd love to hear from you in the comments.



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