Sew On, Crazy Cowgirls and Cowboys.

posted in: Paean, Quilting 25
Square-in-a-square unit finishing 3''. Patch and scan: Me.
Square-in-a-square unit finishing 3” and featuring the last of that scrumptious vintage DUCK PRINT. Oh, little duck! I’ll miss you. Patch and scan: Me and the ducks.


I’ve often remarked on the strangeness of it: I talk about quilts all the time, I write about them. I read books about them, I teach people how to make them. And at the end of the day, after all that, most of the time all I want to do is sew.

As it turns out, when you expend a colossal amount of energy getting honest in the public square, sewing is all you want to do then, too.

After spending a day working at the newspaper and reading through a constant stream of classy, intelligent, thoughtful responses from both sides of the political landscape posted by you all to yesterday’s PaperGirl*, I came home, dropped my stuff, and made a beeline for my BabyLock and just started cutting and sewing patches. I don’t have a quilt in mind. I just cut some 3 1/2” and 2” squares and stitched square-in-a-square units like the one above. (Quilt geeks: Check me out matching up ‘dem directional ducks! Bam!)

I know that some people have to sew for work. Some people don’t know how to sew and will never learn. Some can’t afford it, with their time or money, some have zero desire to begin with. But there are those of us on this planet who sew patchwork for pleasure and we are the luckiest people that have ever lived, I think. The whir of the sewing machine. The satisfaction when you press back a crisp corner. The delight in seeing a finished block. This is bliss tonight, just sewing in my warm home while it Januaries outside in Chicago.

Maybe that’s what undergirds any political view I hold or have ever held: a desire to figure out how to make a world where anyone, everyone, can find the kind of peace I can find when I sit down at my sewing machine on a Monday night, after a full day of work and tough weekend.

It’s how we think we ought to get there that makes us different. The desire for peace and a good quilt, this is the same. We can get there.

*My only shame now is that I ever doubted you. 

25 Responses

  1. Judy Hart
    | Reply

    One of the thing I’ve come to realize living in America, it’s a great thing to have two different parties. Can you image how boring it would be if there was only one party? It’s okay for everyone to think differently, it would be nice though if we could rationally talk about those differences. That’s okay, the quilts call! LOL

  2. Barbara Martin
    | Reply

    I firmly believe that the fabric, the creativity, the satisfaction when you master a particular technique AND, maybe most importantly, the bonding between quilters, has provided comfort and sanity to many. I know it brings me great joy and has brought some incredible people into my life.

  3. Jennifer Moore
    | Reply

    Fully credit sewing and quilting with saving my sanity! There’s just something about it that soothes my soul and gives me a new sense of purpose. I’m on the youngish side, and hardly anyone I know outside of this community sews, and my heart’s desire and calling is to change that. Millennials and younger teens could all benefit from this activity. On a daily basis, I wonder why I didn’t try it sooner? Also – that I wish everyone could experience the joy I get from sewing. I also wish the same for the world – thanks for putting these thoughts into words Mary!

  4. L.Scott
    | Reply

    I find comfort in quilting. It was my salvation when I was treated for cancer. It was my joy during recovery. It is helping me deal with the heart break of man’s in humanity to man. It is something I can control in a world that I have no control of. It helps me maintain my sanity.

  5. Jen
    | Reply


  6. jean m
    | Reply

    I make quilts, just as my great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother before me. It’s. comforting to know this will continue, no matter the political climate. Quilt on, we can leave our own history! Thank you, Mary. You are making history too.

  7. Phyllis
    | Reply

    Creating quilts gets even better when I use a people powered (treadle or hand crank) sewing machine. No motor sound. The repetitive treadling movement and the soft sound of a machine sewing is a form of meditation. My breathing slows and my mind relaxes as I gently treadle. And I’ve created a block or two during my meditation.

  8. Judy Forkner
    | Reply

    I am truly impressed by those directional ducks! Way to go! I read your post from the previous day tonight too & that also really impressed me–I left a comment there too! Thanks so much for being you!
    My mother is a conservative Republican & she has my brother & I completely perplexed at her views–they’ve only gotten more conservative over the years. But she raised her 2 children who turned out to be Liberals–go figure! The worst part is how she fears Muslims & Hispanics. I just keep telling her about the adorable kids we had in the school district preschool program I worked in. Some of them were Muslim & some were Hispanic, in addition to the mostly whites & occasional blacks in our university town. The families of those kids were wonderful! so warm & nice! She’s still scared–I blame it on Fox News!

  9. Johanna
    | Reply

    Hi Mary,
    I totally feel you! Nothing better than sitting down at your place, gathering some of your ever treasured fabrics together and sew off all the aches. Mentally and physically. Sew on, I love everything you create 🙂


    P.S. The ducks are like the cutest thing ever <3

  10. Mary B
    | Reply


  11. Carol-the pencil lady
    | Reply

    I was at the MAGARBO workshop with you a couple of months ago, learned how to make
    the partial seam pinwheel- which was so fun! Left it sitting on the table until a few weeks
    ago when i decided to pick it up and start making the quilt….well it is not so easy to just
    pick it up and start fresh when i have forgotten everything. It made for an interesting,
    and CHALLENGING couple of days!! It has been fun though…and i decided to make it
    my mantra for 2017….i will make it my goal to learn new techniques, try new things
    that have scared me- going to classes (which i did this weekend)…etc. And yes it did
    indeed feel oh so good when i FINALLY got the pinwheel square finished correctly!!

  12. Christine
    | Reply

    I work at a government job that is very thankless, monotonous and boring, but I need the medical insurance, so there I will stay. Quilting is my only saving grace. I love your description. Also, I loved what you wrote about quilting in your quilt book, Make and Love Quilts.

  13. Patti-Ann Kubacki
    | Reply

    You did great, I noticed the match ups as soon as I saw the square. We all find what works for us and you have obviously found yours.

  14. Anita
    | Reply


  15. Susan M. Kerr
    | Reply

    Hi Mary,
    I was very touched by your writing yesterday. You are brave and intelligent and I support your thoughts and ideas. AND…you are a fellow quilter! Quilting/sewing in any form soothes the soul. Sometimes after I have completed a piece I look at it and wonder where that came from. What part of my brain was holding that in secret to be released at just the right time. I love reading your words and ideas.

  16. Judy Mischke
    | Reply

    I remember moving into the first house where I had an actual sewing room! (It was no bigger than a closet, but it was mine!) There were boxes all over the house, but all i wanted to do was retreat to my little corner and sew! Quite therapeutic is sewing!

  17. Deb KimballS H5
    | Reply

    The very first things this this geek saw were the aligned ducks. I stared and pondered the process and finally understood the connection between the quilt and me. I too always have quilts on the brain. A respite fron the day to day chaff and disbelief of our times. It’s my refuge, my artistic outlet, my pride, my challenge, my joy, thank you, Mary, for your words. I am so with you on this.

  18. Jody
    | Reply

    Monday nights are one of my favorite nights of the week to sew 🙂 I did notice that you had all your ducks in a row!

  19. nadine donovan
    | Reply

    I find myself walking into my sewing studio many times when I am stressed out and don’t know what else to do. I am a lover of vintage machines—and I have been blessed by a few of them. I like to sit at them and just sew scrappy four patches. Not sure what I will do with all of them—but rest assured, I will put them in a quilt that I design. Yes—I admit it, I do love to design my own quilts from time to time. They are nothing fancy and I doubt they will win an award–but I love them. When they are done and find their way to a bed in my home, I am filled with much pride and happiness. Thank God for sewing/quilting—It is my salvation in many ways.

  20. Baa Goldfarb
    | Reply

    No shame darlin, we all have doubts, fears worries.
    Thing is nothing is ever solved or changed by them, or so a wise old ( 90) man once told me. Doesn’t stop me usually from them though. So put the pedal down & sew that seam , press that fabric, make that quilt & rest assured that your sewing sisters (& brothers) will keep you in our thoughts & prayers and continue to love you as we do each other.
    Blessings, Baa

  21. Carol Fraley
    | Reply

    I notice that most the professional sewers with tv show use Baby Lock sewing machines! My first purchase of a good machine the store owner suggest a Bernina, so I went with it. I’m looking at getting a new machine and I was wondering what your thoughts on the brands out there.

    I know this has nothing to with the conversations going here today, but I interest in your feedback.

  22. Mary M
    | Reply

    Robert Maurer has said that “When the midbrain is engaged by the repetitive movement involved in many crafts, the temporal lobe is unable to focus on worry or stress.” Sew on, sister! Your ducks look great!

  23. Betty Elliott
    | Reply

    I absolutely love the ducks!

  24. Pamela Boatright
    | Reply

    Awesome job on those ducks! (They are probably about as old as you are, I have some in my stash from way back) I sew for a job and for fun. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to do, takes all the rough edges off when you can just concentrate on sewing those perfect pieces.

  25. Kim
    | Reply

    Beautiful job on the ducks! And thank you for your brave post of the previous day.

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