Thursday, January 1, 2015


Christmas 2014 is the year I made an effort to get caught up, so to speak, on quilts for the great-grandchildren. Three of the seven have a quilt I made. The other four are getting old enough to wonder if I’m ever going to make one for them.
So this year I vowed to make three quilts—not a horrendous job, because simple patterns can turn out  gorgeous creations with the right fabrics. They’re for young children so they didn’t have to be bed size. And I didn’t have to have all three ready on the same day. Christmas in our family is rarely on the 25th of December. On the 22nd I had my first Christmas with my son and his family. And on the 28th I celebrated with my daughter in Ohio and her family.

I was steaming along—finished one quilt, ready for its label and washing, then wrapping in Christmas paper. Had to wait for some John Deere fabrics to be delivered—couldn’t find them locally so did an exhaustive search online and found four. Ordered a yard of each. When they arrived, I discovered three of them could work and play well together, if I used solids to coordinate. No sooner thought than done.
Sewing became a regular feature on my Today List—every morning (the time I’m most alert) right after breakfast I cut or pieced or stitched to get blocks made and rows assembled. Time was passing, of course, but everything looked good. No hitches, no delays.

Then the backing of the John Deere quilt eluded me. None of the fabrics I’d ordered, nor the ones I’d bought locally, wanted to play well together for a backing. But after a wasted day of scratching my head, throwing my hands in the air, and finally digging into big storage totes for possible replacements, I found a fabric that would do the trick: There was enough to make the backing and it coordinated beautifully.
Then disaster struck.

The sewing machine I was using to begin the quilting process quit working properly. Thread broke after only a partial line was stitched. Changed thread. Same thing. Put in a new needle. Ditto.
Changed machines. (This is the value of owning more than one sewing machine. But then I’m a belt-and-suspenders kind of gal anyway.)

Now I was working with my best machine, the one with the most decorative stitches, which I would eventually use when I stitched the binding down.
All went well until the machine stopped dead—a horrendous BEEP sounded—a message showed on the read-out screen: “STOP FOR SAFETY.” Well, heck, I was already stopped.

I took the machine apart and cleaned out the fibers that gather under the throat plate. Changed the needle. Changed thread. Changed tension setting. Nothing I did changed its mind.
About that time, I lost it. Just totally lost it. The tantrum I threw would have been Olympic quality, if there were such a category.

A good thing to do after a tantrum is to get up and walk away. That always worked when my kids threw tantrums—I walked away and resumed some chore or other. So—I walked away from the sewing machines. Looked out the window at what the neighbors were doing. Made another cup of tea.
When my tantrum had truly passed, I sat down and did the best I could with the machines I had to work with. By slowing down (and there was a lot of prayer in there, too) I managed to get the rest of the quilting done without mishap. The binding went on all right. And the decorative stitching on the top, though not the pattern I wanted, at least held the binding in place and I could finally say the danged thing was finished.

Not my finest hour, and definitely not my best work.
Understand—I don’t have to be perfect. If that were a criterion, I’d have given up on making quilts long ago. But I do want my work to be the best I can do. This little quilt, about 50x50 inches, had lots of wonky stitching that I couldn’t do anything about. And I didn't have time to undo it.

On the backing I wrote my great-grandson’s name, the date, and my name as the maker of the quilt. Washed it, dried it, wrapped it in green paper, and--only two hours late--went to my son’s house for a meal and a good visit.
There's a blessing in driving an hour and twenty minutes to get somewhere; if I take back roads and don’t have too much crazy traffic, I can disable my stress along the way. Listened to Christmas carols on CD, took in the Christmas decorations on houses in town and country. By the time I arrived, I had accepted that the quilt that I was giving as a gift wasn’t going to win any ribbons, of any color. But it would be warm. And it had John Deere machines on it.

We had a good meal and visited longer than expected. Finally the three kids were getting more than a little interested in opening the presents that Great-Grandma Palmer brought.
The big smile was earlier...
The quilts were first, of course, because they were wrapped and big and squashy. Intriguing.

When the little guy who’s nuts about John Deere tractors ripped off the green paper, the smile on his face was worth any number of machine problems. He didn’t know the stitching was wonky. He didn’t know the decorative stitch I used wasn’t the one I wanted. Moreover—he didn’t care. He had his quilt, and it had his beloved John Deere tractors, planters, combines, and pickers all over it. There was lots of green (his favorite color).
He threw the paper around, put the quilt on over his head, and danced around the room. One of the best expressions of thanks I've ever seen.
I’d forgotten that my feelings, my judgments about the outcome, and most of all my ego, don’t matter a hoot. If the gift is made with love, and given with love, then it’s a good gift.

My great-grandson’s smile will always remind me of the lesson I learned.

Happy New Year from Thursday's Child! I hope 2015 is a beautiful year for you!