Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Unlike Mother, My Daughter

Twelve and I are very different. Yes, we're both snarky and sarcastic and occasionally funny, but last weekend I spent approximately 23 hours rescuing a vintage quilt top. I was obsessed. I declined a dinner/movie invitation because I was two hours into the (ultimately) twelve-hour process of hand basting the quilt sandwich.

While my sewing room is a testament to many projects started but not quite finished (yet), I was determined to finish this quilt. I found the top at our neighborhood thrift shop for $12.50. It's a not-terribly-special Log Cabin pattern from perhaps the 1940s, half hand-pieced and half machine-pieced. The fabrics are worn; some are nearly transparent, many are the original calicos that are reproduced everywhere now. It's not skillfully done, either; many of the seam allowances are too narrow, and the squares don't always line up. But I just couldn't bear to pass it up, despite the little old lady at the thrift shop who shook her head over the 'high' price tag ("It would be different if it were two fifty," she said sympathetically, as I spread it on the counter for inspection.)

I'll rescue it! I'll make it into something useable
, I suddenly resolved, and hied off to the fabric store for cotton batting and wide muslin for the back. Thirty-five bucks later, doubt began to niggle at the back of my mind, but I held fast to my plan and put the muslin in the washer for pre-shrinking.

Once I had the patchwork mended (oh, did I forget to mention that the patchwork needed mending?), I laid out the sandwich and got the layers pinned smoothly, then realized with resignation that it would be impossible to machine-quilt the damn thing without hand basting it first.

Had I realized that it would take an entire day, I'd like to think that I would have bailed, but by this time it was too late. I was in for the long haul and felt compelled to finish, come hell or high water. Twelve would never do this. Twelve declined my Mother-Daughter Bonding Time invitation to help baste for a few minutes, even when I said we'd watch Downton Abbey together while we stitched.

(Twelve tends to invoke Mother-Daughter Bonding Time to get her way. It sometimes works for me, but mostly if what I want to do involves shopping.)

Bins and baskets full of unfinished projects notwithstanding, I was about Twelve's age when I learned about sticking with and finishing seemingly insurmountable projects. I was working on a little gray corduroy backpack with a drawstring closure. I was sitting in front of my mother's Featherweight in the utility room, with a pile of belt loops for the drawstring next to me. I remember doing the first one and then assessing the stack of unfinished ones with dismay. There were so many! It was at that moment that I realized that I just needed to sit there and do them, and then - eventually - they would be done. And so I did, and so they were.

That self-same drawstring bag is hanging on the wall of my sewing room. It has a grand total of eight loops - I just counted them. I may have remembered there being a much bigger stack, but I refuse to allow the memory to be cheapened!

I persevered, and got the thing basted and quilted and bound with red fabric of which I happened to have just the right amount. It's beautiful. I'm in awe. All I have wanted to do this week is sit with it in my lap, but I'm kind of afraid to touch it.

One of my recurring worries about Twelve is that she doesn't really have any hobbies; she's not really into anything, and isn't really working on anything that could be termed a practice in the philosophical sense. She does volleyball, but she doesn't work on skills outside of scheduled events. She reads, which is great, but it's for entertainment and doesn't qualify as a practice. She likes to buy fabric paints, but she never seems to do much with them. I've sworn that she will not leave my household without knowing at least the basics of running a sewing machine, and she has done a few coasters on the machine I've designated as hers, but with zero enthusiasm.

She has discovered the magic of mending, however; she was visibly impressed when I restored a hoodie and a pair of yoga pants to like-new condition with some cones of black thread and the safety four thread stitch. Perhaps she will come to sewing through mending, acquire hobbies later in life, or perhaps she won't ever have any hobbies (how does that even work?).

Or perhaps it's okay that she's not like me, and I will just become resigned to that.

(We'll always have sarcasm.)

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