By the skin of my teeth.

Dear friends,

I finished my very first quilt earlier this week . . .

. . . the one I started in this post, and struggled mightily with in this post, and finished the “flimsy” in this post. (By the way, a “flimsy” is a quilt top waiting to be quilted.)

If you’re doing the math, I started and finished the quilt top in about month. Then I did nothing for nearly three months.

Well, not exactly nothing. Actually, I started six additional quilts and finished five of them. But the first one — well, it languished.

I can’t explain why because I had a deadline. And it was the most sentimental of all my projects. I had intended to finish the quilt in time for Kate to take it back to college. I knew it might take a month or two for a quilter to quilt it for me (waits of 4-8 weeks are common in the quilting world), so by mid-July when I had failed to wrap up the finishing touches, I knew I had blown my deadline. Earlier this summer I had purchased Kate a store-bought quilt for her home bed, so I told her to take it to college instead and maybe we’d have her mother-crafted quilt ready by Fall Break.

So a couple of weeks ago I knuckled down and spent a Saturday finishing up the final details. I pieced a backing and I spent a few hours hand-embroidering Kate’s name and the date on one of the blocks. Then I bundled the whole thing up and delivered it to a friend’s mother who promised to put it in the hands of her favorite expert quilter several hours away.

Unfortunately, the “expert” was backlogged past November.

This did not fit into my plans.

Fortunately, my friend’s mother graciously agreed to do it for me instead. (This is a woman who’s been quilting for decades and had more than one quilt accepted at the prestigious Paducah quilt show, so I’m not really sure how she doesn’t consider herself the “expert.”) She knew Kate had left for college two days earlier and my deadline was blown, but she inexplicably decided to do it right away anyway.

There is where it gets weird.

Turns out, Kate ended up coming back home unexpectedly. She had left a week early in order to attend a wedding and shuttle her tennis teammates from the big-city airport to their small-town college. But with several days left before classes started, she decided to make another trip home for more gear.

About two hours after Kate arrived home, my friend’s mother called to say she had finished quilting Kate’s quilt. This gave me a little more than 24 hours to bind the quilt and FINISH-finish it before Kate headed back to college. It wasn’t ideal, but I stayed up well past 2:00 am that night and crossed the finish line with less than four hours to spare.

And Kate drove back to college with quilt in hand, as originally planned.

Can I get an amen?

Oh yeah . . . Would you like to see it?

(I thought so.)


Here’s a close-up view:


And here’s a photo Kate texted me after she made her bed at college. It sure made my heart happy to know she’ll be sleeping under my labor of love every night.


(It didn’t make me happy that she didn’t pack an iron and her new bedskirt is wrinkled, but that’s the mother in me, I suppose.)

With gratitude {for serendipitous but totally cool outcomes},

Joan, who thinks the Pottery Barn Teen sheets we snagged on deep discount are a perfect match

No experience necessary. Unless you want to finish.

Dear friends,


I’m not sure why I thought with no instructions and no experience whatsoever I could become a quilter overnight.

I’m one of those people who is blessed with confidence. I’m convinced I could have been an architect or a filmmaker or a novelist (to name but three professions I believe I’m suited for) if only I had tried. That I ended up in my current (unnamed) profession that’s really nothing like those I just named has more to do with the vagaries of decisions made in my 20s than talent. Or that’s the story I tell myself. Still, I’m smart enough to know that if I woke up tomorrow and decided to actually become an architect, I would need education and training.

So nothing explains why I saw this quilt on the internet  and — even though the pattern isn’t identified and I’m breathtakingly inexperienced at this sort of thing — went to bed Saturday night thinking I was going to wake up Sunday morning and make my own pattern and construct myself a quilt. Forget the fact that I’ve never taken a class on quilting, nor read an instruction booklet, nor even watched a video tutorial.  “I can wing it,” I thought.

The thing about winging it is that it’s not the fastest way from point A to point B, usually.

Try not to laugh out loud, but it took me about four hours to produce that single quilt block shown in the photo. Actually, I LAUGHED out loud as I typed that last sentence. Because if you look at the picture, it looks so simple, right? It’s eight little pieces of fabric, for Pete’s sake, and there’s not even any weird curves or points.

I thought about the quilt quite a bit as I fell asleep the night before. I had it figured out in my head, or so I thought.

Turns out, figuring it out in real life is very different than in your head.

I did everything wrong. I measured wrong, I cut the fabric wrong, I stitched the wrong sides together, I pieced it wrong, and I even ironed it wrong. (Who knew there was a right way to iron until I took a break and watched a couple of online tutorials for simpler patterns?)

And in the middle of stitching all those wrong pieces, I even threaded my bobbin wrong (because I ran out of thread and it’s a new machine and, of course, I didn’t read the instruction booklet on how to wind my bobbin).

The upside to making every mistake possible is that you eventually stumble on to doing it the right way. (The ol’ blind squirrel theory applies to crafting, I suppose.)

Anyway, now . . . now I think I’ve got it! The finished block is 1″ smaller than I imagined, but who cares? It’s not like I’m following a pattern.

I’m hoping that next weekend I can make several blocks. I need 42 to make a full-size quilt, which is the size I’m going for unless continued extemporaneous stitchery leads me elsewhere.

With gratitude {for improvisation skills learned in high school speech and drama},

Joan, who in the interest of full disclosure wants you to know she intends to make a quilt top, which she’ll ship off to somebody else for the actual act of quilting, an activity she has no desire to master anytime soon