We’d been in quarantine two full week, the days marked by a kind of thickness hanging in the air. I can speak only for myself, really, but it seemed as if the entire world was in a state of suspended animation, and there were many questions with very few answers.
In the absolute best of circumstances, I have a hard time adjusting to new things. I’m a creature of habit, extremely comfortable and efficient in my routines. This was anything but the best of circumstances and the transition was unimaginably difficult for me. My mind was racing, I couldn’t sleep, yet I was entirely immobilized and unable to accomplish even basic things like getting out of bed.
People have often compared this time in quarantine to “Groundhog Day”, the film where Bill Murray finds himself repeating the exact same day over and over again. For me, those first two weeks were the epitome of existing in what felt like a haunted cycle. It was dark and it was spinning.
To this day, I have no clue what sparked the idea that I should make a quilt. I’m pretty sure that it is somehow related to the fact that I had spent four full days frantically sorting materials to send home to my students for their distance learning projects because, if it weren’t for that obligation, I doubt I’d have gone anywhere near my supply closet. I ended up with a few scraps of fabric in colors that must’ve demanded they be pieced together because suddenly, I found myself on the floor with my mat and rotary cutter, (not so) carefully trimming strips into squares.
It was a Sunday afternoon, and I was keenly aware that something had imperceptibly shifted. I wasn’t able to name it, but there it was. Two days later, I started writing in a planner, and the following Monday began knitting a blanket for Emet on the day he was supposed to leave for his three-month international exchange to Italy. Shortly thereafter, my thoughts found their way to my fingertips and posts gradually began to trickle into this space and then, all of the sudden, I was flowing.
The quilt took a backseat to the many house projects and school assignments and Google Classroom tutorials that began to fill my days. When I had started sewing the pieces together in early April, I was doing it on the floor, which definitely caused some awkward cramping in my back from being hunched over a sewing machine. It was that experience that really made me think that I might need a dedicated sewing table, and that is how we came full circle to yesterday – when I decided to finish what I’d started in the first place.
The rest of the top had come together in a single afternoon*, and though it wasn’t actually the first thing I sewed at my new table, in my mind it will be distinctly recognized as the project that christened my cherished workstation. Up until this point, I hadn’t purchased a thing for this quilt as the entire top had been pieced from scraps and the batting that turned up in my garage as a remnant from a previous project ended up being exactly the right size on three of four edges (a miracle!). Originally, I had planned to scrap together the back as well, but after seeing how great the top turned out, I decided she needed to be backed with more than just whatever it was I could find.
Pro tip: using a flat sheet is the best way to back a quilt because it is already a large, single piece of fabric and can easily be found in 100% cotton which is essential. I didn’t have any on hand in the right color, but found one at the Target which turned out to be absolutely perfect. I took myself to the Joann’s for the first time since this whole thing began – I can’t remember the last time I’ve been away from the Joann’s for this long – and was shocked to find the racks of fabric bolts nearly empty! All those people making masks have caused a shortage in cotton fabric, and never in my life did I think my beloved craft store would become essential. Love that.
I do not love, however, the fact that I had nothing to choose from except the packaged quilt binding. At least I was able to find a color I was pleased with, and headed home somewhat satisfied and thoroughly excited to complete the quite the following day – yesterday.
After sleeping in a little, I sipped my espresso and browsed the internet, and then promptly got to work. I figured it’d take me until lunch time to finish the quilting and that’d I’d bind it before dinner. It’s probably best I thought that, because if I’d thought it’d take me more than eight hours to wrestle the quilt through my compact machine, I probably wouldn’t have gotten started with such naïve enthusiasm. I should mention that I don’t have a walking foot, either. If you know, you know.
Here is where I tell you that what I wanted to do was sew a quilt, and what I ended up doing was learning a whole hell of a lot about who I am and what I want out of this precious life of mine. And, let me tell you, what I do not want is perfection. Not even a little bit.
I also don’t want a quilt bound with anything other than cotton and, sadly, the packaged binding I bought has a pretty sizable polyester content. That’ll never do. So, I don’t want perfection, but I do have standards.
For now, she’s quilted and cornered and patiently waiting for a binding that is worthy of her exquisite, rustic simplicity. There’s a secret love note to my family tucked in between the layers, and all my best intentions woven into every single detail – a humble and accidental heirloom that began as just a little something to keep my hands busy and my mind focused.
Well, my hands were busy (they still are) and my mind was focused (still is) and my heart can hardly contain all the gratitude I have for finding my way here, to this place. I am happy, I am healthy, I am lucky in love and laughter. I will think of the literal and figurative work I put in every time I pull out the quilt for a picnic, a trip to the beach, a movie night, a fort, and remember that I can always decide exactly how I want something to be, and do my best to make it that way.
* I also “restarted” my sourdough starter, the same day I finished the quilt top. So the circle has come full, in more ways than one.