When you are making a quilt, every cut has to be precise. Every angle just so. Every seam consistent. There is no fudging. While in the early stages of a project, you may think a millimeter here or there is not a big deal.Â If you gyp a millimeter for every seam, after 144 piecings, you’re off nearly 14 cm or 5 1/2 inches. That tiniest of cheats accumulates into a mistake no one can miss. Now, I taught myself how to quilt, and like most of my endeavors, I have a greater ambition than my skill in the beginning. Impulsivity and gumption outweight practicality and prudence…sometimes. Well, that first quilt was “off”. The seams didn’t meet and the pattern was lost. The colors were pretty but I should have started on something simpler. Usually, people start with a wall hanging or a baby quilt. Not me….I wanted to make a king size quilt for our new bed….in the middle of my internship year, right out of med school. Can you say…..mental?
Some people might point to this as an example of my quirkiness (insert your own Mad Lib phrase). It can be where I get myself into trouble. But, I swallowed my pride and started anew. I then made a much smaller quilt for Paul’s Aunt Nancy’s first child. It was a cat quilt. Simple but bright and colorful. I have gotten more bold.
Quilting is a type of journey. It is easy to get lost. Like doing a maze in a puzzle book in pen…one wrong choice and you are forced down a road that can be a deadend. Double back and try again. Too many wrong turns and the puzzle is just a bunch of scribbles. Somedays, I just want to slide down the wall of that maze, park my behind on the ground and cry “Uncle”. Admit it….you’re lost.
Somedays, I get so frustrated with my sewing machine: the bobbin bunches up, the thread breaks, I sew the wrong pieces together. I want to toss it all in a drawer and forget it. Instead, I make myself sit with a seam ripper, and I take it apart. Piece by piece, working backwards, to the place I make the mistake and then redo it all. I can’t let the fear of failing at it prevent me from trying to get to my goal. If I just keep going, keep doing a little at a time, I will end up with something finished, something lovely. I will look at the quilt and see where I had to rip out seams. I will see the flaws. Those flaws will remind me of the effort, the courage to continue, even when frustrated.
A funky, quirk patchwork is my favorite kind of quilt. It is not a gallery or museum quality piece. Some may even consider it ugly. I like the tattered ends and the scraps that (by themselves) are hideous, but in juxtaposition to the other fabrics, end up complimentary. When you start out, you could never think that such an ugly thing could end up becoming something so beautiful and lovely. If all the supplies at the beginning of the project have to be beautiful, then how can you accomodate the flaws and mistakes? Making quilts is like having faith. Each pairing of fabric, each cut, each seam, each arrangement may not make one bit of sense until the quilt is done. The goal is to just keep going until it is all done.