Life lessons learned while making Calvin’s quilt

Recently a resurgence has occurred in the art of quilt making. And far be it from me to let anything re-surge without me.
However, tackling my new sewing machine, which is kind of a required thing for quilt making, was daunting. I’d owned the darned thing four years and pretty much never took it out of the box. Sewing machines had changed so much in the three decades since I’d bought my last one, I’d never learn how the dang thing worked. Yes, there were instructions, but still.
Simply threading the machine seemed beyond me. I mean, I’m still figuring out digital cameras, people! So a complicated piece of equipment like a modern sewing machine was definitely giving me a headache.
Then one day I wandered into a quilting store, and oh boy. Those good-looking fabrics threw me right over the edge. It was time to climb back on that sewing machine pony and give her a go. Besides, with a new baby grandson arriving this month, the timing couldn’t be better.
Quilting stores are fascinating places with a plethora of interesting gear – and jargon. “Fat quarters?” Well. Rotary cutters, “self-healing” cutting mats, “fussy cuts” and special pins? This looked like fun. So I signed on, and soon I was rolling my machine into the store, ready for class.
Luckily, threading my sewing machine was a no-brainer for the quilting instructor. Whew! And yes, I felt a little silly. New machines are wildly simpler to thread than the old ones. Who knew?!
Still, it had been years since I’d brought together two pieces of fabric and made them into one. And quilting, while beautiful when done properly, is not the easiest undertaking. Joining itty-bitty pieces of fabric with other itty-bitty pieces of fabric in a precise manner, resulting in a perfectly square quilt block of a pre-determined size, was intimidating.
Now this is all fine for engineers and precise-thinking people. But for a girl whose favorite word is “approximately,” this seemed overwhelming. My husband’s an engineer; HE should take up quilting. Nevertheless, I purchased yards of cute baby fabrics, anticipating the making of Calvin’s quilt.
Suddenly I found myself engaged in magically creative stitching endeavors such as trying not to sew my fingers onto the quilt. This is easier said than done, friends. What with that needle flying along at about 743 mph and trying to hold the quilt block in place while removing pins before they fell under the needle’s relentless path, things were getting dicey.
But I had a little help. No, actually I had a lot of help coming in the form of my instructor, a dear and lovely lady named Louise who not only has the most charming British accent, but also approaches quilt making with precision-like qualities that would shame the most ardent of nitpickers.
Before long, Louise had converted me, a girl of ballpark predilections, into a believer. I mean, we’re talking the cutting and stitching of fabric down to the gnat’s behind – lest my quilt be rendered “wonky” – and lord knows we need no wonky quilts here, people! And have I mentioned what a whiz I’ve become at “picking” – i.e. removing stitches that aren’t exact enough to insure a wonk-less quilt? Yes, I am a proud, world-class picker.
Happily, my quilt for baby Calvin (or “Cal” as he’ll be called) is nearing completion. I can “stitch in the ditch” and turn out log cabin and flying geese blocks like nobody’s business. Thanks to Louise, I might even be able to present this quilt to little Cal – before he finishes high school.
So the notion of letting a new project or a seemingly complicated piece of equipment get the better of me is slowly receding into the mist. Maybe the Queen of Guesstimates (me) can find happiness in a quilter’s world of accuracy and exactitude. That’s right; the same girl once adverse to math problems because there was only one right answer (I mean, really – can’t we all just get along? Can we just say the square root of 2,763 is somewhere “in the neighborhood” of …?) might be able to pull this sewing thing off after all.

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