The Ugly Quilt and Life Lessons

The Ugly Quilt and Life Lessons


It’s been snowing here in Western Washington. That in itself isn’t that unusual, however the amount of snow we’ve had over the last few weeks is. We had accumulated quite a bit for a state that doesn’t do much for winter prep or have many snow plows. This was starting to cause problems.  It’s not bad for us personally. We love being home. My biggest challenge the last few days has been relaxing. I’m more type A and love to be doing, learning and creating something all of the time.  I figure I come by it from my parents, who were the original “do-it-yourself-ers”.  I have a true love of projects and feeling productive.

During snowpocalypse, we did what we could outside, like checking the animals every few hours to make sure they were warm and had water, walking the fence line to check for downed trees and branches and of course, sledding down the long hill. But eventually it was time to go inside and thaw out. Since we couldn’t work on any of our numerous outside projects I looked around for something to do inside and decided that cooking up some warm, yummy comfort food was just the ticket.

I started with an early lunch. It was venison brats cooked with mushrooms and sweet onions and then topped with several handfuls of micro greens. This was accompanied by a rather large bowl of homemade vegetable soup made from last season’s garden harvest. Dinner was BBQ ribs, from our home raised pigs, fried okra and homemade Dutch apple pie. After dinner I decided a second dessert was in order so I made a double batch of chewy peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. Baking to keep myself busy wouldn’t be so bad if I wasn’t eating everything I made. I rolled myself to bed that night. In the morning I warmed up my insides with a big bowl of homemade lentil soup and then made a huge sausage and egg breakfast casserole for my second breakfast. Hey, if the hobbits can do it so can I. (Life lesson #1 – moderation is key.)

Shortly after my second breakfast I noticed my sweat pants were getting uncomfortably tight and decided I probably  needed to find some other means of being productive because if I kept cooking I wasn’t going to be able to fit out the door when the snow finally did melt. I started looking through my boxes of old, half finished projects, searching for something to work on. True confession time, this box is rather large….it might be several boxes. I was raised that you finish what you start, so of course if I haven’t finished it I have to keep it until someday I get back to the project and finally complete it. This is my reasoning anyway.

This is how I ended up sitting on the floor staring at my partially finished ugly quilt. Let me back up, several years ago I had decided I really needed to master sewing. As a child I would wrap myself in one of these beautiful quilts that my granny had made and even though I barely knew the woman, I felt close to her.  When I snuggled into them I felt like I was connected to her and my extended family. So it made perfect sense in my mind that when I decided to learn to sew I would start with quilts. After all it’s just straight lines right? How hard could it be?  Bless my heart. Yes, I just blessed myself. We’re snowed in, it’s not like anyone else can do it and it really needed to be said. (Life lesson #2 – Everything looks easy from a distance, the devil is in the details.)

Anyway I digress, as I was saying, several years ago I started a strip quilt and after getting a good amount done I put it away to be finished another day. Sitting there now looking at the quilt I realized why I had put it up….it was ugly. Seriously ugly. But I could hear Mom’s voice echoing in my head, “finish what you start”. It was Mom’s voice because Dad didn’t actually say it, he just demonstrated it, never quitting until he had accomplished what he set out to do. To be honest I think he was just too stubborn to quit. I argued with myself for a bit about finishing the quilt. I really think Mom was talking about chores, school projects etc, but I guess the lesson could be applied to things like ugly quilt projects too. Besides between Mom’s lessons and Dad’s stubbornness, I knew I was going to have to finish the darn thing.

Besides being unsightly, it had some technical challenges too. Shortly after I started the project I knew I was in trouble. Like usual when I decide to learn something, if a little is good, a lot must be fantastic. So why not start with a extra large queen size quilt? Lord have mercy on my pea picking brain. Looking back I wonder why one of my many talented sewing friends didn’t try to dissuade me. I remember when one of my friends was  reviewing basic sewing supplies with me and she help up a seam ripper. My response was, “I know what that is. I’m really good at using a seam ripper”. Clearly that should have been an indication that I needed a reality check. But alas, it didn’t happen and here I was, trying to work up the enthusiasm to finish the beast.  (Life lesson #3 – It’s wise to test the waters before diving in headfirst into unknown territory.)

I remember when I was talking to someone and I casually mentioned I was sewing a quilt and they mentioned how they struggled with their points. I had no idea what she meant and so I just vaguely nodded my head and changed the subject. I went home and looked up quilting and points. I sat back stunned. You mean all those corner pieces are supposed to line up perfectly? Were they serious or was this some sort of cruel quilters joke? That was an eye opener. Obviously quilting wasn’t easy even if you knew how to sew (which I think we’ve established, I didn’t). (Life lesson #4 – know when you’re in over your head)

With the snow keeping my home bound there wasn’t many distractions so I figure I might as well buckle down and get it done. My husband wandered by a few times early on, but hearing me mutter and curse under my breath, he wisely chose to avoid the area. It was several hours later before he approached me to ask how it was going and wonder aloud why I was putting myself through this. Several answers ran through my head, because I still wanted to learn the skill, because I’m too stubborn to quit, because you have to finish what you start, but all I said was, “It’s a family thing”. He’s been married to me long enough, he just nods his head and pretends that I’m make sense.  (Life lesson #5 – Family matters. Whether you chose to embrace them or avoid them, they shape the way you look at life.)

A few hours later I had finished  the quilt top with its imperfect points, riotous colors and crooked seams. I called my husband over to admire the mess. Then I explained to him that although it was mandatory for me to finish the quilt top, I drew the line adding the batting and backing. After all my mom didn’t raise a quitter but she also didn’t raise a dummy. I also explained that the amount we would pay for someone to finish the batting and backing on would probably be more than we would have paid for a really pretty  store bought quilt.  His response was perfect, “yea but that wouldn’t be the same. This one you made.” A perfect response.

So this tale was my long winded way of saying, if you know of someone who finished quilts, has an adventurous spirit and is up for a challenge, feel free to drop me a message. (Life lesson #6- know when to ask for help.)  HELP!

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