For as long as I can remember, the women in my family were quilters. Gram was (and is!) an exceptional artist when it comes to fabric. Her corners always match with razor sharp edges and perfect, tiny, even stitches. I remember her big quilt frame filling up the living room on cold winter nights, and her head bent in concentration over her work. There was magic in those stitches– the precise, even beauty of a craft honed over decades of practice.
And then there is my Mom, who is also excellent at pretty much everything she does. She used to make many of our clothes, growing up, and she taught my sister and me to sew as soon as we were able to reach the pedal on the sewing machine. And yet, I fought her every step of the way on it. I hated sewing. It seemed so miniscule and tiny and ridiculously difficult. But she kept teaching. And, grudgingly, I kept learning. And slowly, I grew to enjoy it.
Today I’m working on a Mariner’s Compass quilt– a pattern I have always admired both for its beauty and for its intricate difficulty. A few years ago I made a Double Wedding Ring quilt, and I didn’t think anything could be more difficult. But of course my eye was drawn to the one pattern that was harder. But it’s beautiful in its difficulty.
The pattern symbolizes generations of seamen . . . the weathered mariners who faced the wind-swept sea with courage and bravery. The compass symbolizes their strength– their unyielding spirit in the face of adversity. It tells a story that all men true to their roots will return one day from the sea . . . that all hearts will come home, in the end. I imagine generations of women working together over this quilt, hoping that their positive thoughts and hard work would somehow bring their loved ones good luck wherever they were and however far away they wandered.
But today, as I lay out those quilt pieces over my bed, just like my Mom did, and like my Grandma did, and probably like my great Grandma did . . . it started me thinking. With my mouth full of pins I get annoyed, and rip out and redo stitches. And I think to myself . . . I am doing exactly what my Grandma and Mom did. Here I am, standing in a sunny room with my quilt pieces, getting annoyed and ripping out stitches, just like they did.
I measure, and then I measure again. Measure twice, cut once. Cut out the shapes. Match them, pin them, and sew them.
And, somewhere along the way, we improve. We rip out the old, and we learn, and we grow. And we get better. And the true compass continues, as steady as the day you found it. There’s a life lesson in there, somewhere.
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