The PaperGirl “Leaders & Enders” Essay Contest: First Runner Up

posted in: PaperGirl Mailbag, Quilting 25
Overwhelmed (in a good way) going through essay contest entries at the Merchandise Mart. Photo: Mom.


Real quick, before tonight’s essay:

On Monday, I got an email telling me I didn’t get this thing I wanted. It was a relatively small (but sizeable-to-me) publication grant offered by my university’s student government. I wanted to print a 16-page newspaper I made in my Design For Writers class last semester called “The PaperGirl Review: Extreme Quilt Edition”. The grant would’ve given me the funds and the boost I need to do that project and offer it to all of you. I spent a long time on my application. I wanted it really bad. But I didn’t get it.

I wanted to tell you that before I announce the First Runner-Up for the essay contest. Because if it’s not you, you’re probably gonna feel at least a little lousy; not winning feels lousy. But not winning everything (or anything) is also totally universal. Like I’ve just confessed, it happened to me last week! Don’t let it get you down if you didn’t win this time. You just can’t let it let you down. Shake it off. I will if you will.

As I said yesterday, every essay y’all sent was winning. But choices must be made. And this essay has such a lovely twist at the end and was so unique, it stood out. Congratulations due to Ms. Kurke, Lucy, and Einstein, of course.

First Runner-Up
Kathleen Kurke

It was never about the orange, one way or another. It was all about the dog collar.

I bought it because it looked like Log Cabin pattern. Lucy, the yellow lab of my dog duo, got the quilt-like collar because she was the girl. Einstein, the chocolate lab of the duo, sported a more masculine (but not resembling a quilt block) collar. I looked at Lucy’s collar many times a day as Lucy and Einstein pulled excitedly ahead of me on all our walks, day after day. It worked out well for Lucy, actually, because instead of me sternly telling her to stop pulling, I’d look at her collar and saying to myself, “That collar would make a great quilt.”

One day, I decided to do it: I’d make a quilt like that collar. I started pulling pink and purple from my stash. There was some obvious red in the collar, so I added red to my pile. Off I headed to hang out with my “WDMP Girls”** for a day of stitching and chatting. Upon settling in and starting the chatting part of the day, I unpacked my piles and started ripping strips: lots of pink, lots of purple, and a little red. 

I had started constructing the Log Cabin when one of the Girlz asked, “Where’s the orange?”

“What orange?” I asked. 

“Well, there’s obviously orange in the collar.” 

Orange? I’d never noticed! Turns out, I was orange-blind. Every day, mile after mile, walking the dog and staring at the collar, thinking, “That collar would make for a great quilt,” I’d never noticed the orange.

Generous as quilting pals tend to be, The Girlz quickly pulled from their orange abundance and added orange to my pile. I ripped orange strips and returned to creating my Log Cabin blocks. I picked up red centers and added strips. Pink, purple, red, and now orange strips. Completed block after completed block hit the floor. The collar — I mean the quilt — was coming to life. 

I returned home to lay out my blocks and compose the quilt top. Since my “design wall” is my sewing room floor, I share the space with my dogs — and they expect participation in the layout process. (Quilt blocks go down on the floor and they lay on top.) More than once, their squirming antics have resulted in a rearranging that led to a much more attractive layout than I had originally envisioned. 

The quilt blocks came together beautifully and I saw on the floor what I had dreamed about all those days I looked at Lucy’s collar, except…something was missing. 

I couldn’t put my finger on it. I double-checked my color selection against the collar, thinking perhaps my color bias was bigger than just orange, but the colors in my quilt top mirrored what I saw in the collar. I closed my eyes to rethink the vision I had in starting the quilt. I pictured Lucy, pulling ahead of me. I pictured her collar. I pictured Einstein, walking next to her. 

And then my eyes flew open, realizing what was missing in the quilt: It was Einstein! Not Einstein literally, but the color of Einstein, the spirit of Einstein. The quilt needed chocolate love! So, out came the brown — and the border came to life. 

The quilt is complete, now. My love for my yellow lab, in her quilt collar, and her brown buddy Einstein is now immortalized in my quilt.

**WDMP = We Don’t Match Points


25 Responses

  1. Kathy Darnell
    | Reply

    No acronym could be more PERFECT! Can I spend a day with the WDMP gals? Lovely read.

  2. Sheron
    | Reply

    Love it!

  3. Diana
    | Reply

    Great story! Quilters and furry friends just really go together!

  4. Linda
    | Reply

    I have kicked myself my whole quilting career because I can’t match points. I have tried and tried but somehow those little points slip out of my fingers at the last second. Now I know others do the same thing and seem just fine with it. From now on I will try my best and be fine with what happens too. Kathleen’s story sure brings the love of quilting with the love of friends (woman and beast) together in a unique way. I did enjoy her essay.

  5. diane
    | Reply

    love the story but I’m tickled to hear of your WDMP club…..I have my own personal quilt that I have given the
    name of “Lost Points” quilt 🙂

  6. Linda Shumway
    | Reply

    You gave me a laugh with this story. WDMP indeed. I’ve been quilting for 8 or so years and my points NEVER seem to match. So frustrating, but Saturday when I finished piecing my latest top….THE POINTS MATCHED….90%. I was thrilled and danced all around. Onward, if I can do it once I can do it again. Now I’ve learned WDMP. The pressure is off.

  7. Pamela Keown
    | Reply

    Cute story

  8. Connie Bartin
    | Reply

    I know that collar! I wanted to do the same thing but never got around to it! It was a client’s dog sporting that collar and the dog is passed now. I went as far as sketching the pattern and pulling fabric, but after losing the dog, I didn’t want to do it!

  9. Maura Burke Weiner
    | Reply

    What a wonderful tribute to two great dogs, about a wonderful art by a wonderful woman! XO

  10. Mary Lynn Sutherland
    | Reply

    Another beautiful story well told! Either I’m having an emotional week or these essays are happy tear jerker. Mary, I hope you had a few boxes of tissues for you and your mom when reading the entries! And Kathleen – thank you for sharing your lovely story 🙂

  11. Anne
    | Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing, once again. What a beautiful story and wow the writing skills! Just beautiful! Thanks!

  12. Trena Johnson
    | Reply

    That is a beautiful story. Animal have a way of squeezing in and taking over your quilt life. Thank you for sharing.

  13. Ann Bailey
    | Reply

    Love it!

  14. Bethany
    | Reply

    Hmmmm, my craft buddy, Jack the giant black lab has a collar that I bought simply because it evokes a modern quilt. Now I might actually have to make it into a quilt. I have two other fur babies, but it is Jack who is always with me while I sew. Sometimes he even helps by stepping on the foot control!

  15. Catherine
    | Reply

    Thank you for that story Karhleen! Our fur babies mean so much to us. Thank you, Mary, for this blog and your outstanding writing skills. You are a treasure…….

  16. Kathi Bryan
    | Reply

    Great story and I would love to see the quilt.

    BTW, I visited the Quilt Museum for the first time yesterday. and REALLY enjoyed it.

  17. Linda
    | Reply

    It is amazing what a story can do. How someone else’s experience can bring together so many people. I loved the Paper Girl article on favorite words. Your story Kathleen was really good.

  18. Jenny
    | Reply

    Tears are in my eyes. I love you Kathleen, Lucy, and Eistein. Can wait to read more of your essays. Much love from the WDMP Girl with the very large orange stash!

  19. Sally
    | Reply

    Great story, but please add a link to a picture of the quilt? Pretty please?

  20. Charlotte
    | Reply

    Now I want to see the quilt!!

    • Mary
      | Reply

      I’m going to ask for it! Hang tight!

  21. […] honestly the healing power of quilts in our personal lives. Kathleen’s essay expressed the pure joy of making, the inspiration around every corner, as well as the pricelessness of quilting […]

  22. Barbara
    | Reply

    I love this story and would love to see the quilt, with Lucy and Einstein nearby, or even on top of the quilt. Lovely story, Kathleen.

  23. Karen Seitz
    | Reply

    Another great essay that really connects people to pets and quilting. Nice job, Kathleen!

  24. Neame
    | Reply

    A story that makes me smile is a good story. This story made me smile. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *