The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Mt.Vesuvius--Vanquished by the Amish

           I was reading Cathy C. Hall's blog, and she was writing about mistakes we make--in life, in writing. I wrote a comment about my former life as a quilter, and it prompted me to dig up an old wall hanging.

        This wall hanging was made during a retreat. Since I hate using the machine am not overly fond of working with a sewing machine, in times such as this--where the machine was used for lots and lots of piecing--I cursed and spit and threatened my Singer machine...a lot.

      Sometimes you're not thrilled with the writing process when it comes to a particular draft. But be persistent...

    However, as the weekend progressed, I was pleased with the results. The colors, the "movement" in the piece.

     Celebrate the small victories in writing. You crafted a great phrase, a wonderful image, an effective metaphor? Revel in it. And then continue writing...

           All these evil lovely diamonds were coming together--in rows--to create larger diamonds. How cool. It was somewhat of a mystery what it would look like once it was completed, but the parts were far.

       Sometimes, when you're working on a poem, a story, a novel--you're not sure where it's going to go.  Enjoy it when you step off the cliff.  If you know the characters, the story will take off on its own direction in a sure-footed manner. If it's a poem--well, ask Fireblossom what it's like to "freefall" while writing poetry.

      I was ecstatic when I finally got the thing pieced together. The final step--before it was basted and then hand-quilted--was pressing it. I proudly took my creation to the ironing board and started to press. And press.

    Unfortunately, no matter now hard I pressed down with the iron, the center would not be subdued. The middle would not lie down flat. All those diamonds converged in the center and erupted.  The center of my wall hanging was like Mt. Vesuvius--and from the looks of it, it was about to spew.

     My piecing skills--as usual--had failed me. While other quilters' seams are perfectly uniform and unwavering, there were probably dozens and dozens of tiny mistakes I had made...resulting in a "perfect storm" of thread and cotton fabric.

      If your draft is not working, rearrange it. If it's a story, begin at the middle or the end and go back to the beginning. Change genre. There was a memoir I wrote that sucked in prose. But when I put it in the form of a free-verse poem, it sang. Don't be afraid to change things up.

       No amount of spray starch worked. I was ready to chuck it (I was that frustrated, after working on it all weekend) or I thought, 'I'll sew a huge button in the middle, to hide the eruption,' when the workshop leader suggested I cut out one of the eyeball-looking things in the border fabric and applique it in the middle.

       I did, and it looked like I had intended it as part of the design all along. The "eye" kept the center of my cotton volcano from erupting.

       The Amish don't believe in perfection. They don't think humans are capable of anything completely perfect. So, when they make a quilt, they will make a small, deliberate mistake.

       When you screw up a piece, call it your Amish essay # ____.  When you mess up on the rhythm of a poem you're writing, tell everyone it was an on-purpose mistake.

    And then keep on writing...


  1. As a former jazz musician, we believe that if you make a mistake -- hit a note that really doesn't work -- that you just do it again.


    "I meant to do that."


  2. Sioux, this beautiful post really spoke to me! As both a writer and a quilter, I can completely relate. It never occurred to me that two seemingly different things are so alike - must be that both are creative processes. You've made me want to dig out my sewing machine again (I was never good at hand quilting) and start a new quilt, but I've got too much writing to work on first. Thanks for sharing your lovely pictures, too!

  3. Pearl--You were a jazz musician? Is there ANYthing you cannot do? ;)

    Debra--I bow down to you. Every time I'd have to plug in my machine, I'd get frustrated. Hand-quilting (like knitting, now) relaxed me.

  4. Good eye! It really looks like it was planned that way. If only all errors were so easily correctable.

    Unfortunately, some of my correction attempts turn out like the picture George Costanza tried to replace on his boss's desk, the one where Mr. Kruger was drawn in with a magic marker.

  5. Hey, Hope Clark, move over. Here comes Sioux. Great advice and a beautiful quilted piece!

  6. You're on to me. Very often, my poems (and stories) seem to tell me where they want to go, and I just write it down. I honestly feels more like channeling than the painstaking writing process people describe. yes, I work hard editing what i write to make sure i have the best words and the right flow, but most of it just shows up and comes through me.

  7. Good post. I can totally relate to it, since I quilt (a little) and write...and I make mistakes with both.

  8. What a great post and wonderful lesson...not to mention a beautiful quilt! I think when I expect to do something imperfectly, I always do better. It's when I try too hard that I get blocked.

  9. Great post and gorgeous quilt and my daughter says she thinks it's the mistakes in pieces that make it unique and original and never shoots for perfection. Something to be said about that - less stress!


Thanks for your comments. I appreciate you taking the time to stop by...