Heart O’ Mine

posted in: Paean, Work 19
Book-signin' and quilt-rappin' in Portland today. Photo: Amber at EE Schenck.
Book-signin’ and quilt-rappin’ in Portland today. Photo: Amber at EE Schenck.


I’ve been around quilters all day and I’m full of love and a strange sadness. My sadness comes from wanting to be everywhere at once.

When you gather enough momentum as a quilt teacher, you can practically live on the road. PaperGirl readers have seen me come close to that at times; the last time I was in Portland, gigging at Fabric Depot and the Portland Modern Quilt Guild about a year ago, the trip was sandwiched between two other trips, which were themselves part of a travel schedule that I think involved Phoenix, Denver, and Houston — in a single month.

And while it is not an easy life — running for a taxi in the rain in a dress dragging two huge suitcases of quilts is bad no matter who you are or how much you love quilts — it is a life that puts a quilt teacher where she thrives: in rooms with quilters. The more gigs you do, the more rooms you’re in. The more jobs you take, the better you get at making these things. The more contracts you accept, the more gorgeous fabric you get to pet.

And then there are the quilters.

Today, I talked to a person who makes quilts for a battered women’s shelter. She does this because she escaped a violent husband after 30 years of suffering and, as she put it:

“There’s nothing like a quilt when you don’t have much. I make them and I take them over there. It feels good, you know?”

I talked to a grandmother whose pride for her sewing-obsessed granddaughter was so great, she tripped over her words trying to tell me about all the wonderful things Ilyana was making these days, how she’s begun to design.

There was the pair of women who came all the way from California just to hear my talk because, as one of them said:

“You and your mother are my friends. You’re in my sewing room every week! I had to come give you a hug, sweetie.”

My decision to pursue my master’s is the right one. I feel it in my bones, in my sewing machine pedal foot. Synthesizing my writing, quiltmaking, skills as a presenter — this and so much more is what I can do at the Art Institute. But out there with all the quilters today, from 8 a.m. till 7 p.m., I thought, “What if I’m wrong, if I’m being ridiculous? What if I should’ve stayed put? What if people think I’m abandoning them? If I’m not hugging hundreds of quilters every month, does anything I do toward this real-but-nebulous larger vision really matter?”

It’s not about me. I know it. Just one foot in front of the other.

What I’m trying to say is that I missed you.