Monday, January 26, 2009

Bless Her Heart

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.


Muddling Through said...

Karen, what you've done is take a very primitive work and transform it with your artistry into something much more beautiful and durable. You've done a masterful job. As always!

Susan Loftin said...

Karen you did a wonderful job with this quilt. You honored this quilter and inspired many of us.

Millie said...

Karen you did a good job and may I say "Bless her Heart". The quilt model did a good job posing with all the lovely quilts in the background.

Leanne said...

Karen - you've done a wonderful thing. Bless BOTH your hearts!

Ginny said...

Wow, you did an amazing job on this quilt. I can see why it would be such a challange! And Bless YOU for taking it on and allowing Mrs H's family to have a beautifully quilted piece. Because even with all of the problems involved, you did a beautiful job! They will always cherish this quilt (expecally if it is her last).
So, bless you thank you for shareing with us.
and nice to see you back, I have missed you.

SrStewart said...

What kept coming to mind was that the owner really seemed to live to have this quilt quilted. perhaps she too had gone through her own "honing" and realizations of her weaknesses, and the quilt done in later years, made perhaps more with her heart than with her pride, and she wanted to have the quilt finished for all it meant to her. Your own "growth" becomes a part of the quilt, and each quilt has it's story and intertwinings. Her daughter will see the quilt with a different eye than you or her mother, but it will be with love also. I'm crying as I write this because quilting is such an important part of my life, yet I'm not a perfect quilter, at all.

Vicki said...

Karen, bless your heart. You worked hard. I know. I have an 80 something friend that I quilt for and I have started touching up her quilts. mostly the borders are wavy. She is so proud that she can still sew.

Zlaty said...

Hi Karen,
I am sure Mrs. H appreciates all your hard work! Bless her heart! I did watch all 87 pictures, wow, she put a lot of love and considering her age she tried her best...Karen, bless your heart!!!

Happy Sewing!

angtoyou said...

Oh Bless her heart! You did an absolutely beautiful job on the quilt even though it drove you crazy. You have to remember that whoever gets that quilt when Mrs. H is no longer with us all will know it was one of her last quilts to make and cherish it forever. :) Great job!

Pam said...

Isnt' it great to finish something like that.. what a treasure for the family..
Loved seeing Pixxie. :0)

fancystitching said...

Karen, I TOTALLY understand. I quilt for a lady that is 92 years old. At first, I complained to my DH, but I realized that if she is still determined to quilt at 92, then I really needed to show her more grace. I so admire her spunk and determination to keep at the hobby she has so enjoyed. I never knew her in her prime, but at a recent quilt show I was so suprised, and blessed, to see that the absolutely LOVELIEST Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt, was done by her in previous years. I loved your article.

Laurie said...

I sure hope I don't get one of those until I'm a bit more experienced. I hear there is a group of long armers that you organized. Can I visit?

Karen E. Overton said...

yes Laurie, you are more than welcome to visit our longarm guild. Email me and I'll give you details. The more the merrier!

Susan said...

Wow, what a story. Bless her heart for still sewing at 93 but I hope that is me someday. I am a fairly new quilter and although not a perfectionist, I would find it hard to quilt someone's work so I give you kudos. It would keep me up at nights. I obsess over little things. Thanks for the story and the insight of a longarm quilter.

Marilyn said...

Bless your heart. We have several older ladies in our hand quilting group who can no longer sew like they could but still want to. We wonder at times what would be the best way to handle their diminishing abilities. So far we have decided to allow them to keep on quilting as long as they can and if necessary to take out their stitches but most of the time we cherish the idea that our quilt may have the last stitches they were able to make on this side of heaven.