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Column #36

The Labyrinth Quilt—A Meditative Endeavor


When Glenda Anderson moved from watery Wilmington, Delaware to the high, dry desert of Tucson, Arizona in 2002, it was a time not only of physical change, but of spiritual transition as well. To mark that passage, Glenda decided to make a quilt that symbolized both journeys, and she chose a labyrinth as the quilt’s theme.

A labyrinth is an ancient circular design probably best known as a main feature of European Roman Catholic churches built during the Middle Ages, the most famous of which exists at Chartres Cathedral near Paris, France. Built of stones inlaid in the floor of the cathedral and consisting of a circuitous path that leads to a central point, the labyrinth served as a metaphor for a spiritual journey and people would walk its winding pathway as a pilgrimage for repentance. Today, labyrinths have gained new popularity among those who use them as a tool for “walking meditation.” Lauren Artress, the author of three books on the subject, describes the labyrinth as “a watering hole for the spirit.”

Glenda became interested in labyrinths when she was still living in Delaware, recalling that when “the Unitarian Church in Newark, Delaware, opened their new canvas labyrinth for the community, I would go there regularly to walk. The pastor of my church experienced the labyrinth during a doctoral program he was attending in San Francisco, and when he found out I already knew about labyrinths, he corralled me into helping him make one for our church. Before it was dedicated, he died of cancer, leaving me with the task of getting the program started at the church. I then got certified as a labyrinth facilitator through Veriditas/Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. The rest is history. The program is still going strong at that church. My husband and I also spearheaded the installation of an outdoor labyrinth at a local church here in Tucson. I have found the labyrinth a very necessary adjunct to my spiritual growth.”

Her church was also instrumental in Glenda’s introduction to quilting: “I learned to quilt in 1987 when the women of the church I belonged to in Wilmington, Delaware, decided to make a quilt in celebration of the church's 250 anniversary. After we all made our squares, we intended to send the quilt to nearby Amish Country to have it hand quilted, as few of us had ever quilted before. Well, we had a ‘learn how to hand quilt’ session one night and decided we could do it ourselves. One of the women set up a quilt frame in her living room and we would go over when we had time to quilt it. That was when I fell in love with hand quilting. Now, it is a meditative endeavor for me. I am happiest when I put the first stitches in a new quilt.”

Glenda’s choice of featuring a labyrinth as the central idea for a quilt seemed particularly appropriate—a meditation about a meditation, if you will. When asked to compare the benefits derived from quilting with those achieved by walking a labyrinth, she replied, “It seemed to me that the inspiration I receive from walking the labyrinth has a more tangible effect on my life than a sitting meditation where one tries to suspend any and all awareness of physicality. In walking the labyrinth, there is usually an intention involved that one invokes during the process. Now, a meditative experience while quilting is more passive. I have a feeling of peace and calmness come over me, which is relaxing. There is no intention involved here. But any type of meditation, in my opinion, should result in thinning the veil between the spiritual and physical. By thinning the veil, we will become aware that we are all one and will treat each other with more love and compassion and we will have more balance between our physical and spiritual lives. We are, after all, both physical and spiritual beings while living here on earth.”


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Archived blogs:

Column 149: Rosie’s Redwork
Column 148: The Quilt of Belonging
Column 147: Kanthas—The Quilts of Bangladesh
Column 146: Patterns
Column 145: Suzy on Carolyn Mazloomi's Groundbreaking Quilt Exhibit
Column 144: Texas Community Marks Juneteenth Sesquicentennial with History Quilts
Column 143: Maya Embroidered Patchwork
Column 142: Huipil Patchwork Quilts
Column 141: Tom Korn’s Military Medal Quilts
Column 140: The Return of Double Knits!
Column 139: Passage Quilts
Column 138: Home of the Brave Quilts
Column 137: The Story of Fabric Yo-Yos
Column 136: Christmas in July
Column 135: Trifles
Column 134: Deaf Initiatives—Communicating Through Quilts
Column 133: My Betty Boop Quilt
Column 132: Maura Grace Ambrose
Column 131: All You Need Is Love
Column 130: Chicken Linens
Column 129: The Quilted Chuppah
Column 128: Patchwork Around the World: Yoruba Dance Costumes
Column 127: The Bowers Co-Op Quilts
Column 126: Fon Appliqué and Haitian Voodoo Flags
Column 125: The Quilt Garden at The North Carolina Arboretum
Column 124: Harriet Powers and Handful’s Mauma
Column 123: Quilters de Mexico
Column 122: An Appliquéd Surprise
Column 121: Matisse’s Fabric Stash
Column 120: Soogan—The Cowboy’s Quilt
Column 119: The Ron Swanson Quilt
Column 118: HClarkdale, Georgia—A Thread of History
Column 117: How WWI Changed the Color of Quilts in the United States
Column 116: Wagga—The Bushman’s Quilt
Column 115: All in the Family
Column 114: The Alabama State Quilt
Column 113: Balloon Quilts of Albuquerque
Column 112: The Family That Quilts Together, Stays Together
Column 111: Two Rivers, Three Sisters
Column 110: Quilters Helping Quilters
Column 109: Community Cookbooks and Fundraiser Quilts—Parallel Histories
Column 108: Quilting to Freedom
Column 107: National Quilting Day
Column 106: The Airing of the Quilts
Column 105: A Call for a National Juneteenth Commemorative Quilt
Column 104: Dominoes
Column 103: 1936 Texas Centennial Bluebonnet Quilt
Column 102: Helen Blackstone, A Texas Quilter
Column 101: Montana CattleWomen Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 100: 100th Suzy's Fancy Column!
Column 99: Montana Stockgrowers Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 98: The Tobacco Sack Connection
Column 97: Meet the Sisters Who Are State Fair Quilting Queens
Column 96: The connection between fairs and quilts.
Column 95: Her Mother Pieced Quilts
Column 94: Rebecca Barker’s Quiltscapes
Column 93: The Thread and Thimble Club Mystery

See other archived columns here


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