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


Bolt From the Blue, Part II: PaperGirl Leaders and Endert Essay Contest!

This is just the beginning. The HSTs will finish about 1 1/4'', I think. Patchwork and photo: Me!
This is just the beginning. The HSTs will finish about 1 1/4”, I think. Patchwork and photo: Me.


Yesterday, as I was piecing my Bolt From the Blue quilt, I was dealing with serious regret. The regrets were small but continual: They were waste regrets.

The 2 1/2” x 4 1/2” Flying Geese units I was making (and will continue to make for this quilt) involve some not insubstantial fabric waste. I use the the flippy-corner method for my geese, which means when I trim the back of this particular unit, I cut off what could become about a 1 1/4” finished half-square triangle (HST), if I chose to sew the two trimmed parts together, press them open, and square up the now-existing unit. I apologize to my non-quilting readers for all this quilt jargon, but trust me: Turning the waste from a Flying Goose (ew!) into a mini-half-square triangle is possible. Doing this, using patchwork waste to make other patchwork is sometimes called working with “leaders and enders;” I just call it more patchwork. Either way, it’s a thing.

But I wasn’t doing the HST thing. I was just trimming that unit waste straight into the garbage. Because I just can’t deal, okay? I knew if I sewed them up and pressed them out I’d stare at those dang things for the next two years and wonder what to do with them. But the guilt was really getting to me. I mean, it felt terrible to just throw away all that ready-to-sew potential. All those wonderful little HSTs in such lovely, bright colors, destined for the incinerator, well, it just broke my lil’ patchworkin’ heart.

Then I had an idea.

As I’ve been doing my research (for both my lecture and also for my Fiber department research project) I’ve been sifting through lots of big, thick books about quilts and let me tell you what’s wonderful: It’s wonderful when historians find people writing about making their quiltsbut this doesn’t happen often. When there’s a journal entry or a newspaper article with a quiltmaker talking about the process of making her quilt or how she did this or that, where she got the idea, who helped her with it, well, it’s just gold. We’ve got pictures of quilts. We’ve got (some) records of things. But there’s really not that much in the history books from the quilters, talking about making their quilts.

Then — I’m getting to the contest, hang on — I thought about the PaperGirl Retreat, how much I want to figure out what that is and then do it because I want to get people writing and quilting more. Have you ever noticed that the root word of “textile” is text? How we speak of “weaving” a tale? Yes, just like we weave cloth. Sewing and writing is really, really close in terms of like, culture and life.

I thought, “Well, how about an essay contest? It could get people writing about quilts! The winner could win my little patches and they could do something neat with them. Or not. But they’d be writing about making.” Reader, I literally took all those little triangles out of the trash and fired them through the machine. They’re ready for the next guy.

(I hope it’s obvious that I do not think my little “leaders and enders” are so amazing that people will be just clamoring to win them; this is about creativity and fun and getting you writing.)

So here’s the official deal:

Write 500-600 words about the last quilt you made (or the one you’re making now.) Mail your essay to the PaperGirl post office box. The deadline is March 31st, the end of the month, and that means you need to put it in the mail by that date. I figure I’ll have all the HSTs by then and it gives you plenty of time to really work on your essay. You can count on me throwing in some extra goodies in the prize bag, by the way, but don’t think there’s going to be an actual quilt or anything. I’m thinking some good Aurifil thread or maybe some candy.

I’m sure you have questions. Fire away, BUT: Don’t send me anything first thing in the morning. Think about this. Mull. Because tomorrow I plan to a) answer questions that may arise until then; and b) offer some advice on essay writing and give more details as to what I’m looking for. For now, just think about what you’d have to say about your quilt-making process.

This sounds fun to me. Does it sound fun to you? Even if one person enters, that will still be fun. And it’ll be one quilter writing about her (or his) quiltmaking process. Win. Win.