The Logs and the Cabin

There’s a plaque in my home office, given to me by a friend who knows me perhaps a tad too well:


Katharine Hepburn is a lot classier than my mantra:  I’ve never met a rule I didn’t want to break.

All of which brings me to the subject my current passion: quilting.

Let me begin by saying there is evidently a long, long list of quilting rules …measure twice, cut once (fabric, not wood); sew a scant quarter inch (which begs the question:  what is the difference between a scant and true quarter inch??), the way to perfectly mitered corners, perfect bindings, etc., etc., ad nauseum…

It’s enough to make me rethink this adventure, except that I’m enjoying the challenge, learning curve and creativity.  Besides, I am only one month into paying off my snazzy new sewing machine.

This morning, at approximately 2:36 AM, I awoke with a start.  I realized I had totally flubbed my newest attempt:  a simple, straight-forward Log Cabin pattern. What could possibly go wrong with a Log Cabin?  If this were real life, my Log Cabin would have tilted and collapsed. In Quilt Land, my logs, such as they were, were all over the place and the colors clashed.

This would have been perfectly fine if I had wanted a wonky quilt, but this was a traditional pattern with straight lines. So, by 2:38 AM, I was back at the sewing machine, ripping out seams, and preparing to replace wonky strips with ones that blended in and had straight lines.  That meant re-sewing the whole lot with an eye to the perfect scant quarter inch. 

At 2:43 AM, the cat stumbled, half asleep, into the room.  BlackJack’s not a particularly nocturnal animal.  He looked at me with his What are you doing? glare, upchucked a hairball and scooted back to my room, and my still warm bed, to resume his slumber.

And people wonder why I’m not in a relationship.

All these quilting rules remind me of a time, way back when I was taking a zillion classes in order to move over on the teacher salary schedule and increase my income following the split with the ex.

While most of the classes were pretty much worthless and added nothing to a professional knowledge bank, I did take one class that has proven time and again to be of such great value, in life, the classroom and perhaps, even quilting. With credit to True Colors, a simplified approach to personality identification, a list of traits was read to the very large class of adult teacher attendees and we all separated into one of four groups based on our answers.  

I should note that while we each have the capacity to utilize all four quadrants, most of us settle on one or two as our primary go-to personality.

The overwhelmingly largest group was Gold, the people who valued tradition, rules, family and structure. They immediately organized themselves into very straight rows and, with folded hands, waited silently for the assignment.

The smallest group was Green, the people who preferred observation, problem solving and engineering/science/math. Those individuals sat as close to the farthest wall as possible, trying to disappear into the wall while not making eye contact with each other or anyone else as they silently observed the rest of the goings-on.

Blue, the second largest group, was the polar opposite of Green, and a group that immediately embraced every other person’s emotions.  They loved nature, peace, poetry, hearts and flowers. They formed a circle of chairs so that everyone in their group would feel included before quietly introducing themselves and making certain everyone felt comfortable.

That left the final group, Red, a small, motley group that formed the opposition to the orderly Gold contingent. We — ahem — immediately sprawled out on the carpet, sharing stories and laughter with our new-found comrades while communally doodling on the provided large poster board paper without waiting for any directions. We were oblivious to the rest of the room, which was probably good as the Golds began focusing scowls and disapproving tsks at our evidently unacceptable behavior.

The assignment:  list all the things that bring you joy; then all the things that drive you nuts.

In hindsight, it was all pretty predictable: 

Blue: harmony, romance, making love, candles, empathy, creativity, sharing emotions, touching, nature vs. conflict, rational reasoning and stark environments. Their poster board was decorated with very sweet pictures and happy/sad faces.  Blues ask Why and they make certain everyone feels good about any solution at hand.

Green: reason, time to process, solitude vs. too many people, touch, emotions, romance, and being asked to express emotions. Their poster board was virtually blank as they were still thinking.  Greens ask How and they design solutions.

Blues and Greens tend to marry each other and drive one another nuts.

Gold: order, predictability, rules, family, tradition vs. chaos, the unknown, people who are late, break rules and are loud and obnoxious. Their poster board was neat and tidy with very straight columns.  The drive-you-nuts list was very long.  Golds ask What and then put the solution to work.

Red: great sex, new adventures, amazing sex, being in “flow” with whatever you’re doing, parties, fun, great sex vs. just ordinary sex, rules, structure, deadlines, no sex, rigid authority.  No one could read our poster board; it was a total mess, but it didn’t matter because we were still coming up with ideas.  Reds ask What if and, out of the chaos, come up with the idea for the required solution.

And, you guessed it… Golds and Reds also tend to marry and also drive one another nuts.

So, you might be asking, what does all this have to do with making traditional log cabin quilts? 

Probably not a whole lot, except that a little wonkiness here and there really doesn’t matter all that much…


Requiem for an Old Friend

It was not unexpected, but the finale still caught me by surprise. Had I been a bit more aware, a bit more focused, I might have seen the end coming. As it was, all that remained was my deep sighing that so often comes with hindsight.

The signs were obvious: the increasing frequency of a missed thread or two in our conversations, a noticeably crooked gait and tensions that could not be soothed.

And, then, one morning, my poor little $99 entry level sewing machine that had been pushed so far beyond its limits while gamely stitching on, simply choked on a wad of thread and sputtered one last time. And with that, my old friend froze and was no more.

It didn’t take me long to realize that I was heading into unknown territory, probably a more expensive territory than I wanted, but now that I am officially addicted to quilting, I knew I needed more than a $99 entry level machine to feed the cravings.

So I headed back to the major retailer, stood in the middle of the enormous showroom and looked something akin to a deer in the headlights.  A young sales man approached, realized I needed more help than he could provide, and returned with a knowledgeable, seasoned fellow who figuratively took me by the hand and began to narrow down my options.

The sticker shock was not as bad as I had feared as the store was having a seriously discounted sale coupled with 60 months interest free financing.  Whoo Hoo!!  This had all the markings of a sugar-coated, addiction-laden quilting heaven.

A couple hours later, I left with the new love of my life, a sewing machine that, as my good friend Gail notes, does everything but bake bread and iron.  Too bad about the ironing.

My old friend was quickly put to rest and my new Soprano immediately began singing.  What an amazing machine. I fully expect it to break into dance at any moment. In short order, I had completed five almost-finished twin and queen quilt tops, their backings and had actually quilted another crib size quilt.

I should know by now that any love brings the expectation that space will be shared, and this one is no different. 

Well, almost no difference. Unlike my old $99 entry level friend or the former men in my life, the Soprano demands a lot of space and, in no time at all, took over the dining room, which was not an issue as it’s seldom used. She also demanded the guest/sewing room.  And the great room. And a couple of closets for fabric, notions and whatchamacallits that I’ve yet to figure out.

Thus far, I’m keeping her out of my bedroom.

The cat looks very cautiously at this new rival, not quite sure whether to simply ignore the intruder or fight for his turf. Thus far, his posturing has been limited to sprawling over fabrics and half-finished quilts,  but he is giving the Soprano wide berth. She ignores him as well, instead singing softly as she swiftly stitches through whatever I give her.

As long as the cat doesn’t get too jealous, I think I’m going to thoroughly enjoy having this new sweetheart of a Soprano around.