Pickin’ and Grinin’

Photo by Charity Banks.

By Kristen Banks

I’ve been writing a lot lately about those unexpected hard or difficult things in life that we all face from time to time. We’ve all got those things that knock us off our game or throw us for a loop. And the reason why it’s important to talk about them is because they happen to all of us, but not everyone is aware of that.

I think some people put up a nice façade, and make everyone think that they have no real problems and that everything works out perfectly for them. This makes all of us normal people feel insecure and deficient. The thing is, the people who look like they have it all together are probably having as much trouble as you are – they’re just too scared or self-conscious to let you see.

This subject comes up a lot in quilting, especially with beginners. When you are new to the world of quilting you see a lot of beautiful quilts that people more advanced than you have made, and you are tempted to think that those people are just somehow blessed with more talent than you are. That’s not usually true. Behind most amazing quilters is a bumpy road of mismatched seams, too short pieces, and “Wonky Spots” (Wonky Spots: Things that don’t fit/look right, despite your best efforts, for no apparent reason). And even the best quilters, if they’re honest, will tell you that they STILL encounter those same problems from time to time. It’s just a part of life and quilting.

I’ve found that success in quilting (and life) is less about perfection, and more about how you handle the obstacles and imperfections when you do encounter them, as you surely will. I see a lot of people, who are really enthusiastic about quilting at first, lose that excitement when they encounter their first real problem or misstep. I’ve been there; I know what you’re going through.

You pick the pattern. You love it, and it seems really easy. You buy yards and yards of the most beautiful fabric in the most perfect shade of your favorite color, and the first thing you do is cut it all the wrong way. Or you manage to somehow get it all cut right, but sew it all together wrong. You spend the next several hours ripping out seams and wondering why you ever thought that this would be fun in the first place.

You also might have cried…just a little.

It’s really disappointing when things like that happen. You feel like you’re not very talented, and you’re tempted to give up altogether. It’s important to know that it’s normal, and it’s just something that we all face. But more importantly, all is not lost. Most things can be overcome if we stick with it.

True, we might not always be able to figure out the solution on our own, we might need a little help from time to time. But that’s not exactly a bad thing. I’ve learned some of the best lessons by having a problem, and letting somebody else show me how to fix it. I feel like these unfortunate events have actually caused me to grow and learn as a quilter, and I’m pretty sure I’ve ended up a better person for it.

So the next time you face some quilting calamity, I’ll give you a little something to think about to help you smile instead of frown, while you’re sticking with it and ripping out those seams for the 100th time. Here’s a little story about something unfortunate that happened to me.

Several years back we had to do some extensive repairs to the floor of our family home due to a water leak. We opted to live in the house while the repairs were being made. Some of these repairs required the old flooring to be taken completely out to the point that you could actually see the ground beneath the house for a short period of time. My sister and I were living at home, and we were very concerned that some kind of varmint would be able to get into the house through the hole in the floor.

Our extended family had great fun with our fears, and teased us unmercifully. They had us so scared that during this time we would shove towels under our doors at night to keep the hypothetical spiders, snakes, and who knows what else at bay. Also, conveniently around this time we had adopted a couple of cats who normally wouldn’t have been allowed in the house, but an exception was made as we convinced our parents that the cats would keep anything at bay that might try to venture out of the dreaded hole.

I can’t remember where I’d been, or what I was wearing, but it was spring and the weather was just getting warm enough to be a little uncomfortable. I remember coming in, and it was dark in the house. I think everyone was watching a movie. I remember seeing the outline of our cute little white and mostly black kitten, Pitty Pat, sitting on the floor. I scooped her up, snuggled, and greeted her (you cat lovers know exactly what I’m talking about,) and then I bent over and plopped her back down.

As I stood up, I immediately knew something wasn’t right. I then felt something move under my shirt, just around the area of my rib cage. I sucked my breath in sharply, and without even thinking I took my hand and squeezed down with a fist on the spot with all of my might. I stood there frozen in panic for a split second, holding a fistful of shirt and who knows what else?

And then I started babbling something hysterically about “NO NOO! BIG SPIDER IN MY SHIRT!!!” This was the absolute worst thing I could even think of or imagine. By this time my family was well aware that something was wrong and started yelling “What? WHAT!?” from all directions. I didn’t know what to do, but I had to somehow expel this “thing” that I had a death grip on. But did I really want to lay eyes on whatever pest had just been touching my bare skin?

I mustered up all of my courage, prayed that whatever it was would run AWAY from me if I let go, and I flipped my wrist, handful of shirt and varmint, away from my body and released. To my shock and surprise, a lifeless baby mouse lay dead on the floor. Reality sat in, and I began to scream and dance about. It took a minute for me to calm down and explain to my family what had happened and convince them that I wasn’t possessed.

I then went immediately to the shower and scrubbed all of my skin off.

As close as we can figure the cat must have been doing her job and had caught the mouse just prior to me picking her up. We think she then dropped it down my gapping neckline as I bent over to put her back down on the floor.

Now, I want you all to think about that story every time you have to rip out seams. And say to yourself, “While this is unfortunate, it’s a lot better than having a live mouse down your shirt.” If that doesn’t give you something to smile about, I don’t know what would.

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