On Do-overs

I first learned that magazines lie when I was thirteen. My sister and I would spend a couple weeks at my grandparents’ house each summer, and my Granny Helen always planned projects for us. We learned to sew, crochet, cross-stitch, dry flowers, and play the piano. When I was thirteen, my grandmother decided that she and I would tackle a quilt, while my sister crocheted rugs from RIT-dyed gym socks. Granny Helen had an issue of Woman’s Day, and the title of the magazine article for her inspiration was “The Eight-Hour Quilt.” While I am sure an experienced quilter could have made the quilt in a day, it took us two weeks.

The quilt pattern was for a round-the-world quilt, using blocks in different colors that create diamonds from the center out—a pattern where the placement of colors makes errors glaringly obvious. We gathered material, read the directions, and cut our pieces. I vaguely remember sewing strips of fabric together in mostly straight lines. Next, we began to assemble the strips to make the pattern. That is when the trouble began. The blocks had jumped out of order. There were black blocks where the blue ones should have been, and pink in the green’s place.

“Is this right?” I asked, standing at the ironing board, pressing the seams and frowning at the miscreant blocks.

“Hm? No, no, that can’t be right. How did that get there? Here’s the seam ripper,” Granny said. I hated sewing it wrong, and often felt like I had failed somehow. Granny was never condemning or mad, she just handed me the seam-ripper and shrugged her shoulders. Do-over.

I sat down and pulled out the thread, releasing the blocks. Then I  realigned the blocks correctly, and sewed another straight line. Do-over.  After the tenth time or so, I realized where I had gone wrong, why the pattern was off. By shifting one block, the rest of the pattern fell into line.

I’m pretty sure the cutting alone took eight hours. The piecing (putting together the blocks) took most of a week. Then the border and backing took a few days, and Granny and I crouched on the hard living room floor together tying off the corners with embroidery thread.

When we finished, the quilt was beautiful. It had taken two weeks and more do-overs than I could count. Sometimes things don’t come together in the time I planned. Sometimes they don’t come together in the way I planned. I hope more often than not I can shrug my shoulders and say “do-over” until I get it right.