Friday, August 28, 2009

the quilt

Without going into agonizing detail, I am working on a quilt. Its a work thing. The finished quilt square will be 8 feet by 8 feet and will be part of the Alzheimer's Quilt to Remember. Like the AIDS quilt, only not.

So, I've gone to great effort to design this quilt, to purchase the fabric at Fabric Depot on the first day of their 40% off sale when every seamstress in the metro area shows up to stock up. I spent hours selecting fabric, another hour standing in line. I solicited photographs of Jan, the woman we are honoring in the quilt, a woman who has lived with the disease for probably 15 years, has been in a locked unit for eight, has been bed-bound three of the eight.

Tough woman. Tougher disease.

So, I get my husband to make digital photos of the originals of Jan as a baby, a child, a beautiful young woman, a bride, a wife... and print them, magically, from my computer right onto fabric squares.

Now, it is time to cut the fabric.

This is all happening at an assisted living facility, old women with fading eyes and shaking hands cutting fabric and trying to follow a pattern, saying things like, "This is old hat to me." and "Where's the line? I can't see it." I kept telling them, "Hey, no big deal. If it isn't perfect, we'll sew different sized seams and it will all come out in the wash." Me and Jan's daughter marked the lines on the fabric and the old women did the cutting. I was working without a net, as usual, nervous about letting the project get away from me, cutting the fabric badly, having to find more, or god help me, different stuff if they wrecked it.

But they didn't. They did great. Just great. That is, until the REAL quilters arrived. Real quilters, equipped with rotary cutters and transparent plastic grid-sheets. My handmade, tape edged templates were no longer enough.

I started hearing things like, "Some of these squares are a quarter-inch off!" It made me nervous. We kept on cutting, thanking the old women, encouraging them, telling them its fine, don't worry. The real quilters kept complaining about our inaccuracy, finally saying, "Its the markers, not the cutters." And the final blow, "You're honoring your mother with this quilt, I'd think you'd want straight squares."

We were the markers. It was our fault. We had ruined the project. We had dishonored Jan.

Not really.

No, the real quilters stayed on and straightened every single edge of every single square. I was impressed. I did not even mention medication or OCD. Not even once. I thanked them profusely and know they will hang with me to the end of the project, because that's what real quilters do.

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