“If I Wanted To Make Perfect Objects, I Wouldn’t Use Fabric.”

posted in: Quilting, Tips, Work 16
Sampler Friendship Quilt. Maker unknown. Pennsylvania, c. 1860-1880. Image: Wikipedia.
Sampler Friendship Quilt. Maker unknown. Pennsylvania, c. 1860-1880. Image: Wikipedia.

I had a marvelous day in Ashburn, VA today at Sew Magarbo. We learned how to make the Sweetpea Star block, a partial-seam block that is the coolest block in the land. We drank wine. (Just a little; later in the afternoon.) I connected with two ladies that I already knew or knew of: the brilliant Carol, who sent me pencils in the mail last year and the always effervescent Meredith, whom I met in Beaver Dam this spring when I had a revelation about my career.

Though everyone I spent the day with is officially a pal at this point — it’s automatic — special shouting-out must go to Marj and Jim.

The couple came in this morning but only Marj was taking my class; Jim just wanted to pop in and say hi because he’s a PaperGirl fan. I’ve encountered this before; some quilter laughs at my trials with my printer and the day I squeezed the avocados and the spouse finally goes, “Well for crying out loud — what’s so funny?” and suddenly she’s forking over her iPad. For a blogger, there can be no better compliment than two people fighting over a tablet that has your latest post on it. (One lady I met awhile back told me her husband reads two things every day: The Wall Street Journal and the ol’ PG. Fabulous!) Jim was an absolute sweetheart, as evidenced by his love for Marj and his cap.

For her part, Marj helped me perfect a very important “line” I say a lot. I put quotes around “line” because while I don’t work with a script in class or onstage, there are certain things I say over and over again that take on a kind of shape. This is what I said at one point today and what have been saying lately because it’s true:

“I’m not interested in making perfect objects. I make quilts. I make quilts for people to use and love. My quilting is not amazing. My piecing is pretty good at this point, but it’s not perfect. I don’t want to be perfect. If I wanted to make perfect objects, I don’t know… I’d be working at NASA or something.”

The sentiment is right on, but it needs a little editing, a little revision to really get to the point, which was eluding me. So I say all that today and then Marj, in a quiet, non-interrupty, matter-of-fact way:

“If you wanted to make perfect objects, you wouldn’t be using fabric.”

I gaped at her. Then I smacked my forehead. Yes! Marj! That’s it!

If I wanted to make perfect objects, I wouldn’t use fabric. That is exactly right. Because fabric is woogy and mutable and stretches and gets wet and shrinks. Threads are different, dyes are different. Material gets torn. Fabric is not perfect. Neither am I. Neither is Marj, though I’m suspicious.

Marj, thank you. The credit is yours. You helped me craft a line, sure, but you helped me discover a truth about myself as a quilt maker — as a person, even. If I wanted to make perfect objects, I wouldn’t be using fabric. Incredible.

At the end of the day, Jim came back to pick Marj up and we all shot the breeze for awhile. I’m proud to report I completed two partial seam blocks while chatting with four people between sips of red wine. I only had to un-sew one seam twice.


16 Responses

  1. Pat Clements
    | Reply

    That line about fabric and perfection is absolutely brilliant! I like to say that some of my best stuff was someone else’s first

    • Vivian D. Gutierrez
      | Reply

      I could not think of a better way to express our craft. I believe that God gave us talents where we can strive to be our best, but perfect is not one. Thank you for your creativity.

  2. Brandy
    | Reply

    Sounds like a perfect day!

  3. Jay
    | Reply

    I like it. I quit striving for perfection and it was very freeing!

  4. kitty
    | Reply

    To create a perfect object does not depend on the material that is used, to depends on the person who creates and the standards by which it is evaluated. All objects will disintegrate due to fate or time.

  5. kitty
    | Reply

    sorry about the “to” that should be “it”!

  6. Deb M
    | Reply

    That’s what my husband keeps telling me!!! As a former accountant I ‘m learning to “relax” certain behaviors. Numbers must always be perfect but you can’t expect perfect when working with fabric.

  7. Carol
    | Reply

    What a great day, love the quote!

  8. Susan
    | Reply

    Love those precious moments when the perfect line comes together, the points match or when the quilt finally gives itself the perfect name! Magical moments!

  9. Sue
    | Reply

    Sounds like you were in Ashburn, Virginia, not PA.

  10. Gina
    | Reply

    Mary, you were in Virginia not Pennsylvania…..or did you have another Colleen moment?

  11. Lisa Gainey Floyd
    | Reply

    Awww Mary we love you so much.

  12. Carrie
    | Reply

    It was sew great to meet you! Had a marvelous time, & learned partial-seaming & a new block! Sew fun!

  13. Carol-the pencil lady
    | Reply

    Can’t wait to make more of the SWEETPEA STAR blocks for a new quilt…it was such a fun day with you, meeting Precious and her great kids—->shout out to Casey, keep dreaming, you are going to do great things! And meeting other quilters…well, it
    was just a perfect day and i mean perfect WITH the fabric!

  14. […] question: are quilts art? Mary Fons (the author of the article linked to) also keeps an interesting blog, mostly about her life, that is a nice departure from the typical craft blog because she almost […]

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