You do know that in the south you can say anything about anybody if you preference it with "bless his heart" or "bless her heart". Sad but true. It's that unspoken agreement between the speaker and the listener that you both know that the person 'couldn't help it' or 'that's just the way it is' or 'that poor soul" among other things. And that you don't think unkindly of the person, no matter what you are saying sounds like you might, and you aren't really gossiping, you are just sharing....
In this story I mean it will all due respect. Bless her heart, she came to me to help her finish her quilt. After all, that's what I do, right?
Mrs. H. was known for her hand piecing and hand quilting. Back in the day she actually taught a good friend of mine how to quilt, so this friend was my testimony to Mrs. H's previous ability. I say previous, bless her heart, because this quilt didn't showcase her true talents.
Not at all. Bless her heart. A complex sampler, obviously lots of love and time went into this creation. And goodness was it a creation -- huge! 95 x 110, or there 'bouts. Yep, bless her heart, the top wasn't quite square. There were a few blocks that sorta zigged out of line, one that I even called pregnant because it reminded me of a swollen belly from a side profile. Not square is a nice way of putting it. Blocks not laying flat was an issue also, that and numerous uncaught seams. But bless her heart, she'd finished it and wanted it quilted. That's where I came in.
Now before you think I've become the quilt police, please read the rest of the story. I most certainly do not make the squarest quilts in the world, never have more'n likely never will. I just enjoy piecing and quilting - not into the perfection by any means. So there is absolutely no judgment in my ramblings! I'm just sharing a story.
I don't know if Mrs. H was a perfectionist in previous quilts, but bless her heart, in this one I know she struggled. For you see, Mrs. H is 93 years old and, bless her heart, her eye sight has gotten the best of her.
Of course I told her I could finish her quilt (what was I thinking!) Okay, what was I thinking? I was thinking that my "mission" has always been to honor the quilt maker by finishing her quilt. And I was thinking of my own dear grandmother who at 96 would love to have the ability to use her hands to piece. I was thinking I need to show respect to Mrs. H for her obvious love of quilting. So I took in her quilt, telling her that we'd need to use poly batting to help ease in the fullness and charged her my lowest price knowing I was going to be putting in a lot of overtime on this one. A LOT!
I think the hardest part was telling her it would be several months before I would even get to her quilt. Bless her heart, you would have thought she'd understand that being a hand quilter and all, knowing that it takes a long time to hand quilt...but I guess the misconception of machine quilting is everyone thinks its so fast. Well, it can be...or it can't be...just depends! I can only do one quilt at a time and I had several in line before her. A concept I tried to explain several times with those phone calls in that sweet little old lady voice "karen, I'm just wondering how my quilt is coming along" -- so hard to try to explain that I wasn't working on it yet...sigh.
As much as I love and respect Mrs. H (we used to go to church together and she's known my extended family for over 40 years) I have to say that her quilt about robbed me of any and all confidence I had in myself as a longarm quilter. Sigh. I lost my joy on this one. Totally lost it.
Every block was a challenge. There was no way to make the block lay flat without some sort of pucker. I felt totally defeated and actually depressed -- for several days. I was also fearful that she's say "you ruined my quilt" that I took photos of each and every step -- including when my hopping foot got caught up in a loose seam. I was paranoid and not a happy camper. Even dinner out with my fellows did little to lift my spirits. I mean, two layers of poofy poly and there was still fullness. No matter what I did it puckered. I began to focus inward and worried about my reputation as a quilter. I tell you, I was totally stressed over this quilt and felt like giving up quilting for the public. I focused on all the unfinished projects I had that I could work on, or the 'quilts in waiting' in my personal pieced pile. As far as I was concerned I might as well go into hibernation and never show my face around another quilter again. What will people say when they see these puckers? Will I be banished from longarm groups nationwide? The vortex was swallowing me. I tried walking away after a few blocks. I tried listening to uplifting music. I'm embarrassed to say I was totally wiped out by this one. And it went on for days.
I have hesitated to even post the photos or this story as I don't want to offend the quilter or her family, but bless her heart, she gave me the hardest challenge of my new year and I wasn't too happy about it, even when it was complete for I now worried about her seeing it and what she'd think.
I may never know. Her daughter in-law came to pick it up. She of course understood that Mrs. H didn't piece like she used to, she commented on her failing eye sight and how it would be difficult for her to do the binding but that she really wanted to do it, that handwork brought her so much joy. The daughter in-law said that Mrs. H had gone to crocheting because she really couldn't piece any more...bless her heart.
Seems Mrs. H is a lot like me -- likes to be productive, always working on something. Bless her heart. Sigh. Seems now I'm connecting with her and it's no longer about the quilt that almost made me throw in the towel as a longarm quilter -- it's back to honoring the quilt maker by assisting her in finishing her quilt so it can be used as intended. I'm not sure anyone looking at this quilt would say it was a good piecing job or a good quilting job. Probably years down the road someone will determine that this quilt isn't worth anything and just trash it -- unless they knew the quilt maker, knew that "back in the day, bless her heart, she was a mighty fine quilter"
I pray that someday someone will offer me more grace than I extended in the working on this quilt to assist me in my 'bless her heart' days.
There's lots of photos here, really too many, but it documents the story. Please take time to review and echo "bless her heart"...please be kind and know that we both did the best we could.