This post is for my quilters. My homies.
I whipped up a baby quilt top for the magazine to show in a Quilty magazine tutorial. “Whipped up” is a kind way to put it. “Threw it together on my way out the door” is a better way to put it. And I made some errors. No, really. Look:
I taped it up in a box, mailed it to Iowa. A week or so later, I got this email from the Quilty managing editor, whom I adore:
“Hi Mary — We were getting ready for photography, and we noticed there were several places in the baby quilt top that you sent us that the seams don’t match up. While we are not trying to be the quilt police, we thought it was important to address this. We need to do very detailed shots of the quilt top and we can’t photograph it without showing the places that are not aligning. I can send it back to you if you are going to use it, just let me know.”
Here are a few things I think we can all take from this course of events.
1. Quilty (and all Fons & Porter titles) have high standards.
2. Just because you’ve made a passel of quilts, it doesn’t mean you don’t make mistakes.
3. Slow down, cowgirl.
4. COWGIRL! I SAID SLOW DOWN!
5. Be kind to yourself.
6. Were you drinking?
I’d like to expand on #5 for a moment. When this happened, I had a mini-meltdown. It wasn’t a crying, kicking, screaming meltdown, I just had a horrified look on my face, silently wept for about 3 minutes, and felt like an utter and complete failure. Too much? Well, considering it was my birthday and considering the fact that I teach quilting on national television, I think I reacted appropriately.
But after that, I couldn’t let it go of how dumb I felt. That seam? That’s like, really off. It wasn’t the only one. And I didn’t even notice. Sure, I had ninety things to do, but so does everyone else, and besides: I had that particular thing to do and I didn’t do it too well, did I? I felt like a sham. I felt like a fraud.
Several days later, when I was still hearing the word “fraud” in my head over and over, I finally did stop myself and say, “Self, this has gone on long enough. ‘Fraud’? No. Hasty? Absolutely. In need of some perspective? Without question.” It wasn’t an immediate turnaround, but over the course of the next few days, the stung subsided, mostly because I vowed to be nice to myself.
This post is not about vindicating my rejected baby quilt top. It absolutely should have been rejected. This post about vindicating yours.
I’m a writer/editor working in the quilt industry: I see a lot of quilts. I see quilts with problems, both in terms of workmanship and design. I see quilts that are technically flawless but utterly lack soul. I see quilts that would never make it onto the pages of a quilt magazine in a thousand years because frankly, they’re quilts only a mother (or a child) could want. These quilts are all made for a reason. Sometimes that reason is for fame and fortune, sometimes it’s for fun, and the majority of the time, it’s for love.
Look, I read the blogs. I watch the tempests swirl about modern vs. traditional, this sewlebrity vs. that one, the fans vs. the naysayers of the latest trend, latest winningest quilt. I most definitely see people going back and forth about technique. You’d think it was their very soul at stake, sometimes, and all anyone said was “squaring off.”
If you’re going for publication or a job-job in the quilt industry, yes, you need to bring an A-game. But regardless of whether that’s a goal of yours, take the pressure off of yourself to be all things to all people, all the time. Maybe you’re more of a designer, not a blue-ribbon winner. Maybe every fabric combination you choose looks like the dog’s vomit, but MAN are you a crackerjack machine quilter. Can’t turn a binding that doesn’t look like it was chewed by your toddler? Well, fine, but your knack for solving Susie’s (and Joan’s and Polly’s) contrast problems make you the #1 go-to for such things while everyone else is scratching their heads.
Learn the craft. It’s more fun when you know how to do stuff well. Smart quilters say that again and again. I say it. But for heaven’s sake, be nice to yourself. I spent far, far too many hours in the dumps because I made one mistake and of course, I can’t make mistakes. Ever. Lemme tell you, learning to sew on national television was not easy and I thought I could weather any storm after that, but apparently, I can still be felled. And if the editor of a national quilting magazine can be rejected from time to time, you better not feel too bad about it, either, L’il Miss.
By the way, I just finished my latest top. 🙂
I’m misunderstood, you know. Really, I’m a dancer.
I never told anyone, never dared to admit it even to myself. I took dance classes at Debbie’s School of Dance as a kid, but those classes weren’t fun so I wasn’t particularly good at them. That made it seem that I was only an okay dancer, not a gifted one.
Now wait, wait: I’m no dance genius. Have you been to any city ballet company performance recently? watched a Beyonce video? Dancers are artists and they train their whole lives to be professionals. I wouldn’t insult them by saying I have some divine knowledge of their craft. But if you’re talking passion and creativity, I can say with conviction: I’m a dancin’-dancin’-dancin’-dancin’ machine that can match the best of ’em.
You know how I know? It’s because there is no other state in which I am more baseline happy than when I am dancing. Look how happy I am:
I’m dancing, as evidenced by the right foot step forward, there. My sister Nan is mugging for the camera and she’s clearly freaking adorable, but I’m actually not mugging. I’m just caught in a moment.
When I’m dancing (and I prefer good, crunchy remixes to pop music) and in the zone (which most assuredly does exist, a place between intense focus and stream-of-consciousness) I’m alive. I feel my vitality. It’s said that we don’t “have” a body, we are a body. When I’m dancing, I know this and embracing it feels as good as it felt to be with my sister back in that room on the farm in Iowa that day.
How about you? What do you love the most?
These books are diaries. I write in my diary every day, and this photo shows the pages kept from 2005 to this very morning.
These pages (several thousand) are the offline journal, the log, as opposed to the blog; remember, the term “blog” was coined by combining the words “web” and “log,” sometime in the heady, early days of the Internet. I found myself wondering if “weboural” was ever considered, or “wiary,” which I like very much, since it accidentally creates a ubiquitous tech word like “wire.” Besides, “blog” sounds like a heave or an eruption. “She was so sick she blogged up the chicken she ate for dinner.”
Why do I write in a diary? Do you write in one? Why do you do it?
Occasionally, I speak to students about writing and when I do, I share this quote by American philosopher John Dewey:
“If you are deeply moved by some experience, write a letter to your grandmother. It will help you to better understand the experience, and it will bring great pleasure to your grandmother.”
That’s why I keep a diary. It’s why I write at all. Writing helps me to make sense of my life. If someone else is encouraged or entertained, then I have created value for my fellow man. To paraphrase Horace Mann: “Until you have done something significant for humanity, you should be ashamed to die.” I’m not suggesting my diaries are significant in any way, but they are an attempt, a wee flag waving.
They’re also extremely juicy. Like, juice bar juicy. Like all the juice bars in southern California juicy. Did I mention I’m a quilter? It’s an excellent front.
I had a summer fling. Perhaps I can say more about it but it’s too soon in about six different ways, so I won’t.
But my sweet cousin Micala came through Chicago with my mom and they stayed with me last night. When I lamented that the eternal flame had flickered out and that my summer fling was over, Micala encouraged me.
“Did you know Tina Turner is seventy-five and her boyfriend is forty-two? And Madonna is fifty-something and her boyfriend is like, in his twenties? So don’t worry. If you haven’t met the right guy, it’s probably because he hasn’t been born yet.”
Is there vodka? In the pantry? Great, great. Thanks.
I’m writing a series of poems about fruit. Each poem focuses on a single fruit, each written in a different style. Some are almost childishly simple — there are those among you who may remember Cantaloupe In Chorus — while others are more thinky, e.g., Pomergran, a commentary on faith vs. reason modeled after Lewis’ Jabberwocky. I’ll post that one day, too.
Right now, I’m working on a piece about pineapple and I am enjoying the heck out of this one. I’ve titled it The Preposterously True Tale of Pru Huntington’s Pineapple and as you read the first half of it, I recommend doing so aloud to get the meter right. Remember: there is a “grace note” of sorts that one can exploit in these things; I assure you, my meter has been tested and retested for accuracy.
ED. NOTE: Damn! My formatting didn’t make it into the WordPress quotation template. Forgive me; I know it’s wonky.
Oh, and one other thing: the second half takes a wild, utterly unexpected turn. It involves a song — not sung by any human…
“The pineapple’s here!” she cried, “Be a dear, Louisa, and go to the door?”
Pru stood, quite amazed, at the window and gazed at the fruit
She’d been waiting for.
Huge, golden yellow — the fruit service fellow had trouble just lifting it up;
“A centerpiece for the century,” Pru mused, “All the gentry
Will scarcely believe their good luck.”
The deliveryman soon was to stand in the foyer of Huntington House;
He was swiftly paid and excused by the maid, Louisa,
Who wore a silk blouse.
The party that night was the unmatched delight of the
in-the-know every December;
A-listers all fought to be given a spot:
On the guest list of VIP members.
The house was festooned (be-ribboned!) and bloomed with bouquets
stacked floor to the ceiling;
They spared no expense, decorating like this;
(The party, it gave Pru’s life meaning.)
Are you in the mood to hear of the food that awaited each last sparkly guest?
Delights for the eyes and stomach, no surprise,
(Worth making dear Prudence so stressed.)
Piled high on the tables inside the great room, the dishes,
they steamed and they bubbled;
Whatever you please, there were tureens of these,
A spread of deliciousness, doubled.
Racked lamb and partridge and baked ham to boot,
the butcher’s best efforts in meat,
Chicken with waffles, deep-fried falafels;
A trip ’round the world you could eat!
Dessert was a feat of sugar and cake, so heavy the table would droop;
Ice cream? Oh, please! There were dozens of these,
Get a bowl, get a spoon, get a scoop!
But in all of this bounty, a royal spot saved — centerstage,
surrounded by flowers —
It was for the pineapple — Pru’s precious pineapple!
No other food had the fruit’s powers.
Hospitality emblem, oh lighthouse of grace, rough from the stem to the stalk;
Its sweet, fleshy inner was relished at dinner
Throughout the grand Belle Époque.
Let’s turn to Pru, our esteemed hostess who,
at this moment was placing her prize
High on its stage, a fruit for the age,
The Missus had pride in her eyes.
At a quarter to eight, the guests had arrived
and swiftly bestowed with Champagne;
They drank up the stars as valets parked men’s cars,
And hung furs for Anne, for Elaine.
Mingling done, Pru and Barry appeared at the top of an ornate staircase;
And a “Hip-hip Hooray!” for King and Queen of the day,
He donned tuxedo, She — lace.
“Thank you, comrades,” Barry boomed from his post,
Pru so glad she could cry;
“And now let us dine and drink casks of good wine,
To the great room, for dinner is nigh.”
The oak doors were opened, the guests “Ooh’ed” and “Ahh-ed,”
“Tally ho! You’ve outdone yourselves,”
Said Silas The Barrister, then to Pru, to embarrass her:
“Did you hire an army of elves??”
Before they could eat, Pru had a brief speech
which she gave at the party each year;
She stood at the center, Pineapple Presenter,
Elocution loud enough they might hear:
“A pineapple means welcome, and hospitality, too; truly the Huntington way;
We wish you prosperity vis a vis this fruit rarity,
Now let’s all dine and be gay!”
Fair reader, I beg you: believe what I say just then, the party plot thickened —
This is when it gets really good. Keep watching…