Musings about Patchwork

You might already know that I love patchwork! A central theme of my life, patchwork has been not only the decades long, pleasurable activity of quilting, but also a concept that has given me ever-deepening layers of meaning and insights into living.

Many years ago, I began to write brief vignettes of my life’s journey that begged to be released. As I continued the practice through the years, I discovered the unexpected gifts of both healing and uncovering generational connections I’d not been aware of.

One day a powerful idea struck me: what if I threaded them together into a larger story? As I gathered and stitched (with words) those experiences into chapters, the process felt familiar, sort of like a cousin to piecing fabric into quilts. The encouragement I felt to continue on as I viewed my task through that patchwork lens, led me to research quilt patterns to find if they could lend their names to my chapter themes. I was not disappointed. One after another resonated in a grand parade: One Wedding Ring, Tumbling Blocks, Texas Star, Kaleidoscope, Helping Hands, and so many more.

During this exciting time of exploration, I perceived the quilt patterns that represented joyful experiences could accommodate being sewn with some squares representing darker, difficult struggles. Those stories I didn’t want to write–yet as any writer of some experience well knows–were exactly the stories that needed telling. The unanticipated gift was that when dark and light were threaded together into one large creation (of a quilt or a memoir), I noticed that the dark areas became both softened and integral to the overall beauty.

Later, while reading Mary Catherine Bateson’s lovely memoir, “Composing a Life,” I found my patchwork concept clearly and richly articulated:

“Part of the task of composing a life is the artist’s need to find a way to take what is simply ugly and, instead of trying to deny it, to use it in the broader design.”

I look back today and reminisce about how that first small life-story I penned in 2001 began a process that transformed over time into a memoir. “Patchwork: A Memoir of Love and Loss” will be published this October, a fact that would have been unimaginable at the onset of this journey.

About Mary Jo Doig

Mary Jo Doig was the first in her family to attend college and graduated from the State University at Oneonta in New York’s Catskill Mountains with a degree in Secondary English Education/Educational Psychology. There she fell in love with rural life, remained, and eventually transitioned from city girl to country woman when she married a dairy farmer and raised their three children on their small family farm. A life-long lover of reading and writing, Mary Jo has for nearly twenty years been a member of the Story Circle Network. There she has been an editor, a women’s writing circle facilitator, a book reviewer, and life-writing enthusiast, working extensively with women writing their life-stories while writing her own memoir. Presently, she is a three-time Program Chair for SCNs national Stories from the Heart conference and a board member. She also facilitates Older Women’s Legacy workshops and a women’s life-writing circle in her area communities. Her stories have appeared in Kitchen Table Stories anthology, Story Circle Annual Anthologies, and most recently her story “I Can’t Breathe” was published in the Anthology, Inside and Out: Women’s Truths, Women’s Stories. Her work also appears in varied blogs and periodicals, on her blog Musings from a Patchwork Quilt Life (, Facebook, and Twitter. Her son and two daughters grown, Mary Jo presently treasures her country life in Virginia’s Central Shenandoah Valley. She loves cooking (and eating!) healthy food, reading, writing, quilting, hiking, and spending quality time with her rescue cats, Button and Xena, and beagle, Addie, who each dream of being only children. Her first book, Patchwork: A Memoir of Love and Loss, will be published in October, 2018 by She Writes Press.
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8 Responses to Musings about Patchwork

  1. Mary Jo – your words are inspiring. Congratulations! Can’t wait to read the memoir.


  2. Elaine Ercolano says:

    Congratulations! I’m looking forward to publication 😍


  3. I truly love this insight, the sewing of the ugly into a broader design. Thank you. Cannot wait to read your book! Congratulations!


  4. Linda Hoye says:

    Congratulations, Mary Jo. I can’t wait to get my hands on it.


  5. Fantastic! October is just around the corner … I will be eager to get a copy.
    Describing your process, with quilting as backdrop, is a gift to those trying to connect their dots and stories into something cohesive – encouragement to blend the joyful and sorrowful in a way that enhances the value (to you, and to the reader) of each. Bravo!


  6. marthagw says:

    Congratulations Mary Jo! I’m looking forward to reading your book & the description of your writing process resonates with me as well.


  7. Jackie Harris says:

    Mary Jo,
    I look forward to reading your literary masterpiece, and I know Mom will, as well! It is awesome that you have used your awesome gift of writing to share your unique story with others.

    Take care and God bless you.


    • Mary Jo Doig says:

      Thank you for this lovely comment, Jackie. Your mom and our friendship are an integral part of the book during the Bovina years we shared and all that she taught me. I love remembering those days. All best to you and yours, Mary Jo


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