Bordering on Blasphemy

19 Apr

I cannot sew. I mean, I can do a straight line okay – so long as I remember how to use my sewing machine – but  let me make it perfectly clear: to call myself a seamstress would be to boarder on blasphemy.

When I was in 8th grade Home Economics class, I made a skirt.  With stripes I had to match.  I managed to put the zipper in under much tutelage from my mom.  Turns out I put it in backwards – like for a boy – so my teacher made me do the whole thing over.  I’m not positive that I can point  my entire mental block about sewing to that moment in time, but I think it’s a fair cop.

My woeful sewing skills came to a head this fall when my sisters and I set out to make a quilt for our mother for Christmas.

Allow me to explain a couple of things.

My oldest sister is a fabulous seamstress. She makes marvelous quilts and crafts and clothes. She makes them quickly, and she makes them perfectly. She has a new sewing machine that can make anything except dinner.

Our other sister is a fabulous crafter. She carves, sculpts, glues, cuts, welds, and owns an excavator. What this has to do with sewing I don’t know, I just felt compelled to point it out.

She also sews.

And then there’s me. An optimist who thinks she can sew but really can’t. An optimist who once made a quilt without a pattern (because I’m too lazy to follow directions) and who forgot how to thread her sewing machine because it had been sitting idle for approximately 8 years.

My quilt had zero diagonals, zero tricks. I walked into Hobby Lobby, bought a bunch of fabric I liked, went home and made the quilt. I added two borders because I wanted it larger.

The quilt I made 8 years ago, sans pattern.

I am rather good with borders. Nice, easy, straight lines – I can handle that.

So my sister – the sewer – asks me if I think I can participate in The Great Quilt Project for Mom. I said yes.

(Remember: I’m an optimist.)

She sent a packet of instructions and cut fabric, oh, maybe August. Lots of time before Christmas.

I sat on it for, oh, maybe 4 months. (Remember: I’m lazy. I’m also a procrastinator. I’m also a people-pleaser. None of these things made for a good situation come last Thanksgiving when I finally admitted to myself, “Shoot. I can’t possibly do this.…”)

My sister – the sewer – had said to me when she sent the squares, “Just let me know if you can’t do it, mail the stuff back, and that will be fine.”

She’s very kind and very wise.

And so, along came Thanksgiving, which, as you know, is close to December, which, as you know, is the month wherein lies Christmas…and the due date of this surprise quilt.

I called my sister. “I can’t do it!!!!!!”

“I told you that if you couldn’t do it to just let me know.” She is NOT cross, she is NOT hollering, she is NOT even being quiet and fuming. She was possibly laughing to herself; I’m not sure.

So I mailed back the packet of fabric, the directions, the carefully cut strips of fabric in pristine zip-lock bags, the brand-new roller blade thingy for my rolly-cutter thing….

Too bad I couldn’t mail back the 4 months I’d sat on the project.

When we went out to Washington to be with my family for Christmas, my dear sister – the sewer – sat beside me while I sewed – in nice, easy, straight lines – the border for the quilt, on her fabulous new sewing machine that can make anything except perhaps procrastinators hurry.

I had border experience, after all.

She allowed me – nay, WANTED me – to do this so that we could say we all three made the quilt for Mom.

Do I have a wonderful sister, or what?

I have, as a matter of fact, two wonderful sisters. Their quilt squares were so fantastic I can’t even tell you.

My borders set them off perfectly.

The quilt in question - along with (from left to right) the excavator-driving sister, the sewing sister, and our mama. Isn't the boarder perfect?!

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31 Responses to “Bordering on Blasphemy”

  1. Ashley April 19, 2012 at 8:36 am #

    The love that went into the quilt is worth much more than the quality of sewing.
    A wonderful memory for the four of you to cherish.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 19, 2012 at 8:40 am #

      Thanks, Ashley! (Though I’m compelled to say that thankfully the quality of the huge majority of it was perfect!)

  2. rhfoxoriginals April 19, 2012 at 8:40 am #

    Really, borders are the fabric frames. The right ones sets off all the rest. What a great gift of love.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 19, 2012 at 8:45 am #

      I agree, Roxanne! They’re fun and flexible and, yes, a frame! Good way to describe them!

  3. candy April 19, 2012 at 8:46 am #

    Your eight year old quilt is pretty! If you can sew a straight line, you can quilt!!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 19, 2012 at 8:49 am #

      Oh, thank you! Yes, I could do the straight line thing…but those squares in the Christmas quite were way beyond me. Give me a nice 9-patch any day!

  4. Ashley April 19, 2012 at 8:53 am #

    It looks like it! I always enjoy looking at theme quilts like that. I make a point to check out the entries at the Clay County Fair. Something new always jumps out at you each time you look at them!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 19, 2012 at 10:14 am #

      Yes, I’ve never gone to that fair but yes, I enjoy looking at quilts, that’s for sure. People are so amazing in what they can do!

  5. Minnesota Prairie Roots April 19, 2012 at 9:04 am #

    Both quilts are beautiful. I bet you might feel differently about sewing if that teacher hadn’t made you rip out that zipper… Yes? No?

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 19, 2012 at 10:15 am #

      Yes, I’m fairly certain that she warped me for life. At least, blaming her makes me feel less responsible. Ha!

  6. Valerie Fletcher Adolph April 19, 2012 at 9:47 am #

    Your school sewing experience brought back memories. In my sewing class I had to hand sew – guess what – good old English knickers. From a fine silky fabric that slipped every which way. I don’t want to even think about the hang ups that have stemmed from that experience. Certainly I couldn’t sew a quilt.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 19, 2012 at 10:18 am #

      Oy, vey! What a silly thing to have to sew! And silky fabric would be enough to make any beginning sewer nuts. The funny thing about the quilt I made, is that it was actually quite easy – seriously – as long as it was in straight lines, It was easy. I did everything with 1/4 inch seams (which, I’ve since learned, is more than in normal quilting) and the trickiest thing was figureing out what fabrics to put next to what. I actually enjoyed it! But none of this fancy sewing stuff…no thanks!

  7. treadlemusic April 19, 2012 at 10:24 am #

    Actually, I loved both quilts AND borders can make/break a quilt, so, huge KUDOS to you!!!! I think a “disappearing 9 patch” quilt made with either a ‘layer cake’ or ‘charms’ would be right up your alley, girl!!!! No excuses any longer! Please, come and join the fun, and foibles, we ALL experience then share in our little blogs of silliness and know we have all ‘been there/done that’ at some point!! Super hugs sent your way!! Doreen

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 19, 2012 at 10:57 am #

      Thanks so much for stopping by! I first must point out that I have now figured out how to spell “border” – so that’s at least something I’ve alredy learned about quilting! I really did enjoy making it…and would like to make one again, as that one is really showing its age as it gets frequent use as a cuddle-up quilt on the couch. So…yes, perhaps I’ve dive back in to the fray…when I’ve finished writing my book…which will hopefully be soon! It might be a nice change of pace…and at least I’ll know how to spell “border” if I decide to include a quilt in my next book!

      • treadlemusic April 19, 2012 at 11:06 am #

        You are so-o funny!! Let me cheer you on!!!! That Christmas quilt/gift was quite a large project-amazing! Don’t think I have done anything that involved myself! I prefer much simpler designs! Your visit means much to me….please, stop again! Hugs, Doreen

  8. cravesadventure April 19, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

    I can hand sew and good luck that is going to do me in life some days. I never gained the sewing gene from my fore mothers. I just hire someone now and let them deal with it. Have a Great Day – beautiful quilt!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 19, 2012 at 4:51 pm #

      I cannot hand-sew to save my life – not if it needs to look nice, at least! There are just some things that don’t matter to me enough to attempt them!

  9. Tami Scott April 19, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

    That quilt is beautiful, what a fun story! Thanks for sharing.

  10. Just A Smidgen April 19, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

    Love. Love. Love. all that went into that quilt, your sisters, and your borders:) (I think I would pin it on that teacher as well.. maybe even sewing pin it!!) xo Smidge

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 20, 2012 at 6:44 am #

      Thanks, Smidge! It turned out wonderfully, that’s for sure. Quilting really is an art – trouble is, like anything it takes work and time…which I’m unwilling to give right now in my life! Writing and cooking are about the only art forms I have time for now. 🙂

  11. whatimeant2say April 20, 2012 at 10:22 pm #

    This probably won’t surprise you – but I’m pretty sure that you are much better at sewing than I am. I have never used a sewing machine. I have one. Just never used it. I can sew a button, though, in a pinch. And I can hem pants with that stuff you can iron on. Yep, I’m quite the homemaker. Beautiful quilt, by the way!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 21, 2012 at 10:52 am #

      You know, it’s good that we are all made differently – just think how boring the world would be if everyone made beautiful quilts and no one wrote hilarious posts to make us laugh out loud! (That would be you, by the way.) I’d like to sew more…and garden more…and craft more…but I have other things to do!

  12. hotlyspiced April 21, 2012 at 7:48 am #

    I feel your pain! I too cannot sew. I can knit so I don’t know why I can’t get it togehter with a sewing machine. My mother is really talented at sewing and made all my clothes when I was growing up. Not one of her five daughters can sew. But look at that quilt! It’s exquisite and such a labour of love for all of you. And your mother must have been so touched. And of course, it wouldn’t be anywhere near as wonderful, without those borders! xx

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 21, 2012 at 10:54 am #

      I’m so glad you understand the beauty of my borders. Ha! (Or at least that you understand my humor!) I can’t even knit – I’d like to, though. My mom used to make us dresses – many of which I still have. She can’t sew anymore, so they’re very special!

  13. gardenfreshtomatoes April 21, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

    Not only do I have to look up how to thread my machine every time I use it, it’s been so long that I don’t even know where the thing is! Maybe one of my daughters has it…
    The quilt is fabulous, and good on your sisters for finding a way for you to participate.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 21, 2012 at 6:20 pm #

      🙂 It’s nice to know I’m not alone in my ineptitude! Yes, it was lovely that we all could be a part of it. I’m a lucky girl!

  14. Kris April 25, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

    Ah, but Gretchen, you don’t give yourself enough credit. Your procratinating led to your “freak out”. After all, what is (most) quilting, but sewing in straight lines! (OK, maybe short little straight lines, but still straight!:) ) It’s a beautiful picture by the way! And thank you!

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