Baby, You’re a Star.

posted in: Art, Poetry, Quilting 12
My first attempt at a Bethlehem Star. Block and photo: Me.
My first attempt at a Bethlehem Star. Block and photo: Me.


In the slam poetry world, there’s a famous saying: “The points are not the point. The point is poetry.”

This is usually said when a good poet gets beat by a bad one (something that happens with fair frequency in competitive performance poetry.) It’s kind of a “Better luck next time, buddy” thing to say, a condolence. But it’s also said because it’s true. The saying actually does get at the heart of the poetry slam. The idea behind the whole thing from the start was to get people to engage more directly and viscerally with poetry; who scored what or which poet won the night was never supposed to matter very much. (Note: When you’re the poet who won the night, it matters a lot.)

The picture up there is a process shot of my first-ever attempt at making a Bethlehem Star. The Bethlehem Star is an eight-pointed patchwork star and is notoriously tricky to pull off. For those who don’t do patchwork, it may look like I made this in the dark while drinking adult beverages, possibly blindfolded; the quilters out there will be able to see that I obviously just haven’t sewn together my eight “prongs,” yet. (Nor have I trimmed my dog-ears.) If I can get this post written in the next twenty minutes or so and still have some juice left, I’m going to try sewing it all together tonight and I might even try to cut my side pieces.

But quilters and non-quilters alike, take a look at those diamonds. The ones within one prong of the star. They’re not great. They’re not bad, but there are some jumps and some zig-zags, some places where the tips of the diamonds don’t kiss.* I may find that these eighth-of-an-inch imperfections add up to big problems by the time I go to set in my side pieces, and at that point, I’ll maybe have to un-sew things and make them fit better. I’m okay with that. I like to sew things accurately not because I’m a perfectionist or because I’m fussy, but because sewing is much more fun if you don’t have to keep fixing everything as you go along. Best practices make the process much more enjoyable overall.

However: If I find that my prongs work out and my set-ins work out, too, those not-perfect diamond points suit me fine. Because the points are not the point. The point is the quilt.

The point is the quilt.

I would rather have a quilt that I love, that is actively being made imperfectly, than a “perfect” quilt sitting in a box in my house, or a quilt that isn’t getting any love up there on the design wall. The points are not the point. My life is the point. The fabric that love, that’s the point. The quilt that I make that I will probably give to someone I love, that’s the point.

What else is there?

*Who ever said quilting wasn’t sexy? Ours is a world where diamonds kiss. 

12 Responses

  1. Ginger
    | Reply

    Love the colors you’ve chosen. Very striking!

  2. Mary Says Sew!
    | Reply

    “Where Diamonds Kiss” is a great title. Maybe a quilt book, a poem, a thesis, a quilt or some other work of art.

  3. Suzanne
    | Reply

    IMHO the best poem you ever wrote;
    The paths you walk down
    lead to the treasures you seek.
    But this one does not.

    But the best quilts keep coming….

  4. A
    | Reply

    Seeing your units as made by an industry professional makes us mere hobbyists feel better about our attempts.

    So many professionals only show perfection. While that is probably selective editing on their part, the effect is resounding to those not “in the know.” We feel, “My piecing is crap, Mary’s piecing is always perfect…”

    Kudos for you to show something less than perfect & for having the courage to point it out.

  5. Robin Gabriel
    | Reply

    #1 That piecing looks pretty darned good to me! I like things “perfect” too, but like you said, if it works in the end, I’m happy!
    #2 The important part is the perfect imperfections! They are going into a quilt made with love, for someone whom you love! Any one who points that out is undeserving of you love and your time! Thank you for showing us all it’s ok to just do your best!

  6. Michelle
    | Reply

    First quilt I ever made was Star of Bethlehem…back in the dark ages when the templates had to be traced from a book & cut out of cardboard, each fabric piece traced & then cut out with scissors & all pieced by hand (double bed size quilt). It wasn’t because I had experience sewing – garments or quilts- but because I loved the pattern and my quilt mentor said, “If that’s the one you want to start with, let’s do it!” It was a hot mess, but I was so proud, my parents were gracious about accepting my gift, and forty years later I’m still making quilts. Glad you are going for it! Keep creating the ones that call to you!!

  7. Christina
    | Reply

    But isn’t it a good day when you can make a perfect quilt that you also use and love? But my window of perfection is a little wider than a strict interpretation of the word would allow. You definitely need to stand back from a quilt before you can decide if it’s perfect. Judging from 2″ isn’t allowed.

    (And continuing on even if you judge it imperfect certainly is allowed!)

    As always, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  8. Linda Duff
    | Reply

    Oh Mary, …”Where Diamonds Kiss” IS a great quilt name .. or a book name … but to that end, “Diamonds Don’t Always Kiss” is sometimes more like real life .. we make the best of what we have .. and might not always be on the mark…we might have a day with more wrinkles and puckers (no pun intended) than kissing . . . . but we forge ahead ….. and hope that we’ll still have a beautiful outcome!
    Keep working on your quilt … will look forward to seeing the finished project!
    Hope to see you around the “W” town soon . . . 🙂

  9. Nadine donovan
    | Reply

    To me- finished is better then trying over and over to be perfect

  10. Pat Hicks
    | Reply

    Mary, your block is beautiful, including your critique. Hope everything fits together. When I am sewing I know how hard it is not to have a super critical eye. I am looking forward to seeing your finished piece.

  11. Barbara
    | Reply

    Mary, you are so right.

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