Saying Goodbye to Perfection Through Quilting

At some point around junior high, I stopped doing something that I really enjoyed… crafting and creating.  I had been told at enough times by then, particularly in art class, that I didn’t have enough talent and wasn’t good enough at it.  

Something that brought me great joy pretty much stopped.  I did still write, at least through high school and kept with photography, but a lot of the pleasure of creating was replaced with the things that I could achieve and do well, primarily academics and work.

When meeting with a therapist a few years ago, she asked me to just draw what was in my mind.  The angst connected with drawing led to me shaking and saying “I can’t draw”.  She said that of course I could draw, I just needed to put the pencil to paper.  I had such a mental block about my inability to draw that the activity was completely blocked.  Asking me to put the thoughts in words opened up, and I realised that I had taken my childhood art teacher so much to heart, that as a 40+ year old adult I felt severe panic at trying to draw anything.  

I realised I needed to do something about that.

It started again with photography, when my husband picked up a consumer grade SLR for me shortly after our daughter was born.  He asked me the other day, as I was toting around my big backpack of professional camera equipment, what happened to that camera and why I no longer used it.  I explained that it just wasn’t as capable (the battery didn’t work at low temperatures, it was very susceptible to moisture, the lens didn’t have nearly the range, etc.  But I said that I really appreciated it, because it was part of bringing me back to creating.

With that camera, I remembered how much joy I had in capturing beauty, in creating a photograph.  It gave me the courage to start writing again.  In 2015, I started blogging, which I have done sporadically since then, and now since August, trying to have the discipline to write again weekly.

I also started playing with other forms of creation.  I felt particularly tied to quilting, as I had a legacy of quilters on both sides of my family.  My paternal grandmother quilted, and one of my greatest treasures from her is a quilt that she made for me.  I love to think of her hands working on it, and her thinking of me as she made it.  Although she has been gone now for more than twenty years, I have a memory and token of her love in the quilt she made me.  As well, my maternal great-grandmother quilted, and after my grandmother passed, I received unfinished pieces of her quilts, which I am thinking how to bring together, tying generations who never met through a work of creation and love.

Working on my great big jeans legacy quilt (see next picture)

Quilting has also been a place of challenging perfection.  I am a pretty bad seamstress.  I enjoygreat big audacious work with metaphoric and symbolic meaning more than the fine, detailed perfection.  If you look too closely at anything I have made, you will find uneven stitching and obvious imperfections.  But in a sense, that is also a representation of me:  attacking big and complex projects that can take years to complete, with drive, energy, and courage, but please don’t bother me too much in the details. 

My largest quilt yet. This is a king-size quilt made with old jeans from my husband, daughter, and me, as well as our extended family (Mimi, Grandpa, Farmor, Aunt Katy, and cousin Carlisle). This quilt was ten years in the making, as almost all squares were cut by hand (before I discovered and bought my Accuquilt Studio cutter), and it took a long time to piece together. To be fair, it isn’t completely finished as I need to put the flannel plaid backing on it. It stayed at our summer house in Lysekil and will be backed after we move home.

Hopefully, the recipients of my quilts focus more on the love and effort that went into them, rather than the details.

Looking too closely shows that I am a rather erratic seamstress, even with a good machine.

I hope it is also a message that carries forth into the future, someday when I am long gone, my great granddaughter will find a quilt of mine, and imagine the person who created it, the combination of love, ambition, and self that went into it, and also realise that not being perfect didn’t stop me.

Machines bring us closer to perfection.  If we want a perfect quilt, we can buy a machine made one.  But it also doesn’t have love, and soul, and self in it.  
Whether it’s life, or quilting, I hope that we can have the courage to let more of ourselves be seen.  To accept, and even embrace, the imperfect parts of us as that which makes us unique and irreplaceable.

Now, I’m off for a day of creating.  A stocking for my new great-niece.  And a new quilt for my daughter, who says that is the one thing she regrets not bringing with us (her quilt is in our summer house in Lysekil).

My daughter’s quilt, made from her childhood fleece pajamas and shirts. One part of detailing that I did enjoy with this was adding in and placing all the fun little embroidery and appliqué pieces that were on the clothing. I especially wanted her to have her mommy’s love right in front of her so that she would always have that reminder.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.