It’s not square. And my corners are crooked. But it’s fine. It’s a goal reached, a project finished, a dream achieved. A pretty, handmade quilt, assembled and stitched by me.
I’ve always wanted one. Bed-sized, not too thick but warm and cozy, with a history. Grandmother was famous for her quilts – her prize-winning embroidered Fairy Tale quilt was displayed at the Heart of Texas Fair. She made beautiful baby quilts which she gave to her great-grandchildren on their birth. Used as blankets they were really works of art. My daughter’s Noah’s Ark quilt and my son’s Rocking Horse quilt adorned our walls during their childhood. But making a big quilt was too daunting for me.
For years I searched estate sales and found quilts I loved but not enough for me to part with hundreds of my hard-earned dollars. Then some friends from church announced they were moving and had an estate sale. I told Pat I couldn’t wait to explore her gorgeous home and find a few treasures. Jackpot.
I spotted the handmade quilt top in an upstairs closet. Old fabrics pieced together in triangle shaped patterns of delicate floral, checked gingham, and paisley print interspersed with pink squares and remnants of soft beige cotton. It was just hanging there, waiting to be finished. Waiting for me to find it. I gathered it over my arm and went downstairs. Pat said a friend had made it. She had intended for a seamstress to finish it but never got around to it. She was delighted for me to have it and I couldn’t wait to begin stitching.
I should mention I know nothing about quilting. My past encounters with sewing machines were wrestling matches where the machine always won. I can sew on buttons, mend tears, hem pillowcases and darn socks but producing a finished product using a pattern, bobbins, electricity and a foot pedal escapes me.
I consulted my seamstress sister and purchased batting, quilt pins, edging material, and backing fabric and got to work. Pinning the top, batting and backing together was the hardest part. My inexperience and impatience to get to the stitching part resulted more in untamed cloth than stretched quilt materials, but I got it done. From my collection of sewing needles and spools of thread I selected bright greens and blues, soft pinks, a bold red, a pale yellow, and the perfect shade of purple to match the colors in the quilt. I envisioned my grandmother nodding approvingly from heaven, anticipating with me a quilt worthy of her.
For eight years off and on I stitched my way across the quilt, switching out thread colors and re-pinning as I went. I stitched while watching television after work. I stitched in the car on road trips. I stitched in my hotel room when traveling for work or a guest room when visiting family. If I traveled by car my wicker basket with quilt-in-progress, sewing accessories, and clip on light was never far. I stitched in snippets and pockets of time, convinced that one day I would finish and have an heirloom.
Along the way I showed my sister the imperfections, lamenting that my work wasn’t as good as grandmother’s. She would inspect it, share helpful hints, and insist that I not cover up the bad parts. “Grandmother would say, ‘That’s the part that gives it character,’” she reminded me.
My quilt is definitely handmade and it certainly won’t win any prizes. There are wrinkles where fabric should be smooth, age spots and stains in places, and uniform stitches mixed in with long stitches, short stitches, stitches that took a detour. The edges are uneven and corners are totally independent – one comes to a point standing at attention, another is rounded where the ends meet, one just a humble horizontal line. And the back. The back is a hot mess of knots, tangles, mangled threads, thread loops, and random folds moving wildly across the beautiful lavender material.
But I finally finished it. I spread it out and examined my work, admiring places where the stitching was even and giving myself grace elsewhere. In some of the solid squares I’d sewn symbols of faith and family, those I liked. But others were empty, needing something. I grabbed a marking pen and lettered out some favorite Bible verses: Psalm 1, 1 Samuel 16:7, Philippians 4, John 11:25-26. A sprinkling of scripture in just the right places.
When I look at my quilt I see beauty. I see love and effort willingly spent to produce something long awaited, a cherished covering. The way God sees us, His creations, despite our rebellious mess of tangles and stains. When we are wrapped in Christ-covering He sees us without imperfection, able to stand in His perfect presence.
The scripture sprinkling made it complete. My work is finished, my covering in place. I pray yours is too.
Kim Robinson is an author living in Austin, TX. She and her husband have six children and fourteen grandchildren and enjoy spending time with family. Passionate about parenting, she writes and speaks about a variety of issues facing parents and professionals dealing with teenagers in crisis. She enjoys speaking at retreats and to various organizations.
Kim's debut novel, Chased by Grace - A Story of Survival, is available now.