During a recent visit, my husband’s cousin, Karen, told me about a quilt top and quilt blocks her mother had given her many years ago. They had been stitched many decades ago by Mom Mary, Karen’s — and my husband’s — grandmother. They were not dated, but my mother-in-law, Mom Mary’s daughter, told us they were made in the mid-1930s.
There were 47 blocks, each one appliqued with a butterfly, each unique, all hand-sewn on unbleached muslin fabric. Karen asked if I would be willing to make two quilts for her granddaughters out of the butterfly blocks. They were delightful to look at, and I was excited at the prospect of creating a beautiful quilt from these precious blocks.
The quilt top was a different story. The pattern, “Trip Around the World,” was sewn with a variety of fabrics. As often happened during that time when the quilter ran out of one particular fabric, she simply substituted another — whatever she happened to have on hand. This quilt was no exception.
Some of the squares measured two inches square, others resembled trapezoids more than squares. Not only were some fabrics mismatched, but the back was messy. Some of the squares were machine-stitched, some were sewn by hand, and some seams had been stitched and re-stitched multiple times. And, different colors of thread were used — white, black and red — which did not match the fabrics used.
As I examined the stitches, I came to the conclusion that Mom Mary must have had help assembling this quilt. Her stitches were usually very neat, and what I saw was uncharacteristic of her talent.
I found many places where the quilter missed the edge of one of the fabrics when sewing two squares together, leaving open seams. There were puckers, loose threads, and ravels. I had to completely replace one square because it had been torn and repaired, creating a pleat in the square that prevented the top from lying flat. And, it held 90 years of dust and grime in its fibers.
But it was beautiful, and I loved it.
So often, we expect everything in life to be flawlessly arranged, to go according to our plan. Often, our plans are upended, causing us to adjust our expectations and goals. As I lovingly snipped the loose threads and sewed the open seams together, I was reminded of the many ways a quilt resembles life.
Life isn’t perfect, and it is sometimes messy. Sometimes, we need help getting the mess cleaned up.
Life isn’t perfect, but there is still beauty to be found, if we look for it.
Life isn’t perfect. We all have lessons that we are taught throughout our lives, and sometimes, we experience the same lesson more than once.
Life isn’t perfect. Even when we are able to repair the wrongs that we encounter, there are still scars left behind to remind us of what came before.
Life isn’t perfect. Make the most of what we have.
Life isn’t perfect. A little planning can often prevent us from wandering off in the wrong direction.
Life isn’t perfect. Live it and love it anyway.
Life isn’t perfect. Be thankful anyway.
As I work with these cherished blocks, I feel a kindred spirit with Mom Mary, who I had the pleasure of knowing just two short years before she passed away. And I am honored to take what she started and make something beautiful — and hopefully worthy — that will create new memories for someone else.
It won’t be perfect. But I’ll do it anyway. And I will love every stitch.