Heart O’ Mine

posted in: Paean, Work 19
Book-signin' and quilt-rappin' in Portland today. Photo: Amber at EE Schenck.
Book-signin’ and quilt-rappin’ in Portland today. Photo: Amber at EE Schenck.


I’ve been around quilters all day and I’m full of love and a strange sadness. My sadness comes from wanting to be everywhere at once.

When you gather enough momentum as a quilt teacher, you can practically live on the road. PaperGirl readers have seen me come close to that at times; the last time I was in Portland, gigging at Fabric Depot and the Portland Modern Quilt Guild about a year ago, the trip was sandwiched between two other trips, which were themselves part of a travel schedule that I think involved Phoenix, Denver, and Houston — in a single month.

And while it is not an easy life — running for a taxi in the rain in a dress dragging two huge suitcases of quilts is bad no matter who you are or how much you love quilts — it is a life that puts a quilt teacher where she thrives: in rooms with quilters. The more gigs you do, the more rooms you’re in. The more jobs you take, the better you get at making these things. The more contracts you accept, the more gorgeous fabric you get to pet.

And then there are the quilters.

Today, I talked to a person who makes quilts for a battered women’s shelter. She does this because she escaped a violent husband after 30 years of suffering and, as she put it:

“There’s nothing like a quilt when you don’t have much. I make them and I take them over there. It feels good, you know?”

I talked to a grandmother whose pride for her sewing-obsessed granddaughter was so great, she tripped over her words trying to tell me about all the wonderful things Ilyana was making these days, how she’s begun to design.

There was the pair of women who came all the way from California just to hear my talk because, as one of them said:

“You and your mother are my friends. You’re in my sewing room every week! I had to come give you a hug, sweetie.”

My decision to pursue my master’s is the right one. I feel it in my bones, in my sewing machine pedal foot. Synthesizing my writing, quiltmaking, skills as a presenter — this and so much more is what I can do at the Art Institute. But out there with all the quilters today, from 8 a.m. till 7 p.m., I thought, “What if I’m wrong, if I’m being ridiculous? What if I should’ve stayed put? What if people think I’m abandoning them? If I’m not hugging hundreds of quilters every month, does anything I do toward this real-but-nebulous larger vision really matter?”

It’s not about me. I know it. Just one foot in front of the other.

What I’m trying to say is that I missed you.

19 Responses

  1. Kathi Simpspn
    | Reply

    I’ve missed you too. But dreams are important. Going to school doesn’t mean you’ll be gone forever.

  2. Monica Tillman
    | Reply

    We miss you too but know that pursuing you dreams and quilting aren’t mutually exclusive! Time away isn’t always bad. Slay that grad school dragon and we’ll be here, whipping out another 300 HSTs, and wishing you the best!

  3. Judy Hart
    | Reply

    I miss you too Mary, was in your class last year at Fabric Depot with a friend, and we had a ball. Fun day, and would love to have been able to be there today. Alas, had another class today, plus not qualified for the talk today. Hope to catch you the next time you come to Portland. Don’t forget to come back.

  4. tierneycreates
    | Reply

    It was wonderful meeting you at Trends! You are such a dynamic and authentic individual (and great speaker) and I can tell after just a mini class that you are great teacher! Hope the sock monkey video comes out!

  5. Susan Skuda
    | Reply

    Sweetness! Follow your heart. We’ll wait. But please, please, puhleeaassee never take PaperGirl away!

  6. Karen Daloia
    | Reply

    I say go for your masters while you can. You can fit in the quilting classes that work with your schedule, but try to say NO when you’ve taken on what is manageable. Years from now you will regret NOTgoing for your masters is you quit now.
    That is my 2 cents.

  7. Lori Friedman
    | Reply

    You are right where you should be doing right what you should do….

  8. Maria Shell
    | Reply

    Trust the foot pedal.

  9. Jen
    | Reply

    Hi Mary – This post was so moving to me – yep wet eyeballs. I can’t explain how much I “get it”. I went to grad school (MFA) when I was 36 and during a period of time I had been working in the field for almost 10 years. I 200% applaud your awesome big dream and direction: I’m enrolled in your specific dream (it’s so great) and it has me reflect on my time in grad school & the questioning I went through. I think it’s only now, ten years later, I’m really able to understand the depth of those years. Following the call of a Big Dream is amazing, beautiful, a must-do, a can’t-not-do and can be, for some of us, excruciating, heartbreaking and difficult all at the same time. I’m in your cheering section – totally. -J

  10. Britiney
    | Reply

    We can come here, to PaperGirl, and get a virtual hug 24-7. xo

  11. St. Barb
    | Reply

    Beautiful dress! It looks wonderful on you!

    • Mary
      | Reply


      I need to blog about this dress that YOU MADE! From Small Wonders fabrics! I wore it out on my first gig of the season so I could do just that. Watch this space… xoxoxo


  12. Demise
    | Reply

    That means a lot!

  13. Michael
    | Reply

    It’s great you’re taking us along for the journey

  14. Vicky Marler
    | Reply

    Mary, you will be missed but it’s not forever we can see you when you are done. When you have a spare second you can write a little. You always need to put you first because no one else will. Love and will miss you.

  15. Jennifer
    | Reply

    I love to read, I love to quilt. Whether your career swerves one way or the other, or another way entirely, I have a feeling that I will enjoy and appreciate whatever your life work becomes.

  16. […] Lost and found. […]

  17. Kerry
    | Reply

    If you don’t try to pursue your dream there will always be the “what ifs” and possible regrets that follow forever. We are embarking on a joint dream we had years ago – it is a bit crazy now that we are approaching retirement – we never intended to leave it this late – but if we have at least 10 years doing what we wanted that will be better than looking back and wishing we could turn the clock back while we shuffle around on our Zimmer frames!

    You are still young – do it! Follow that dream. Hmmm sounds a bit like South Pacific – everyone sing along!

    • Kerry
      | Reply

      Or even the Sound of Music! LOL!

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