During an Osher class (Women Growing in Wisdom) in September of last year, a class member brought a quilt from home to show and tell. As the story went, she had thrown (or been thrown) a 50th birthday bash five years before and had asked her friends each bring her, in lieu of an expensive present, a yard of fabric that signified something significant to them. She then intended to use the different fabrics to make a quilt, something she’d aspired to for a long time. She had finally gotten around to finishing up the quilt a few days before another birthday, her 55th. For nearly five years she’d been thinking about the beautiful quilt she was going to make. What seems to have prevented her actually doing it was the idea that she had to make that lifetime project perfect. Such standards proved, as they always do, daunting, turning what might have been a several months project into a never-ending one. It was then she stopped and asked herself, “Do I want to make a perfect quilt? Or do I just want to get it done?” After opting to just “do it and get it done” she finished it quickly, and displayed the result to us as a good life lesson for a class about finding wisdom. It was beautiful, not perfect, but beautiful, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only class member just a little bit envious of her success.
A few weeks afterwards as I was going through my own stash of fabrics looking for something or other, I came across my own barely begun quilt, one I’d started in the year 2000. It was a quilt-square-a-month kit sold by a local fabric store, the idea being that if you made just one square a month, by the end of the year you’d have a whole new quilt-top ready to make into a beautiful quilt. In the kit was just enough fabric pieces to cut and sew a finished 12-inch square; no need to worry about color schemes, how much fabric to buy, etc. That part was already done. I can do this I thought! So I’d confidently begun. I got the first one (January), a relatively simple square and diamond piece, done, and then I skipped February to get to March because it was an appliqued piece. I had done quite a bit of machine-applique over the years and felt pretty confident that I could pull that one off without even looking at the directions. It soon dawned one me that this was going to be a challenge because I would have to make my own bias tape for the green stem (for a flower vine) that encircles the square. Bravely I got my rotary blade out and cut away on the bias, and then I gave up because I couldn’t imagine how I would finish off the edges of that tiny 1/2-inch strip of fabric that went on forever and ever. Now keep in mind that this happened in early 2000. Here it was September 2006 and I had all 12 fabric kits plus the finish-up (backing pieces) kit. I had everything I needed to make a complete sampler quilt–meaning each quilt square is different. I still wanted to fulfill my dream of making a quilt myself.
(Perhaps I should explain here that I come from a long line of quilters on both sides, but particularly Mama’s family, who were known to make any number of fabric crafts by hand, from rag rugs to bed linens, especially embroidered and ruffled pillow cases. Even my paternal grandmother could be counted on to peruse her fabric stash with me from time to time, making swaps so there’d be enough for a whole dress. More on that in later posts maybe.)
So I now had to ask myself the same question my classmate had asked herself in order to finish her 50th birthday quilt: Do I want to make this quilt perfect? Well, yes, I really would have liked to, but the question then became Am I capable of making this quilt perfect? And the answer of course was No! Then do I just want to get it done? Most emphatically YES! So I started that very day and the count-down began. Today, some five months later, I have 9 finished squares, 3 more to go! (I have photographs of only 8; I’ll add the other 4 later.)
There’s a lesson in here if you’re amind to look for it!