As it happens, I’m a quilter too.

I mention this because Nancy, who writes a quilting blog, sent an almost unprecedented number of her readers my way. A whole flock of quilters landed on Murrmurrs and pecked around, and I don’t know if they knew what to expect. Mine is a work-a-day, all-purpose blog. I figure if I don’t specialize in subject matter, I’ll be harder for the trolls to pigeonhole. There are a lot of great bloggers out there writing about politics, or nature, or their cats. I’m more likely to write about the nature of cat poop and tie it in with politics. It’s surprisingly easy to do that.

But quilters’ blog-rolls run by the yard, and if you take a stroll through their material you realize just how much talent is out there–just how many people are stitching beauty together that makes you warm two ways. I make regular quilts. Mostly the old traditional patterns. It’s addictive, watching these things come together under your hands.

The way Dave explains it, if anyone asks, is “Murr takes a bunch of perfectly good fabric and cuts it into little pieces and sews it back together again.” Somehow this description seems wrong, but I can’t find the flaw in it anywhere. It does make the process sound like a waste of time, but in a true waste of time you don’t have a quilt afterwards. Just drool stains and the theme from “Gilligan’s Island” in your head.

Anyway, quilting is no different than life. We’d all like to think we see the whole fabric, but in reality we are constantly slicing and dicing what we perceive and then stitching it back together in a way that makes sense to us. We select the evidence that fits our narrative and discard what doesn’t. There are people who see in every encounter the likelihood of a personal attack, and set out pickets of rage and blame to hunker behind. My own narrative tends more toward loopy cheer, but neither perspective is made of whole cloth. Even in my garden, which is just nature diced and spliced, I will admire all the flowers and mentally edit out the bindweed until the day it takes over.

At some point in any quilting project I’ll discover I’ve stitched something together backwards and I have to get my seam ripper and undo it. Worse, I’ll have run off dozens of the mismatched pairs before I notice my mistake, and that’s a lot of ripping. My current project consists of 48 large blocks, each of which is made up of twenty pieces, with a potential 765 ways to go wrong, requiring roughly–hold on, carry the one–three billion stitches to be ripped out. At one juncture, there were at least three incorrect ways to sew two blocks together. I know this because I went through all three, methodically, in order. And then just for good measure I sewed it the first wrong way all over again. Even Chance would have given me better odds of getting it right. And this stuff is easy. All you need to do is hold the pieces together and say “does this look right?” before sewing them together. Which I do. Unfortunately, the dominant loopy-cheer part of my brain always answers “yes indeedy! Why, that looks perfect.” Even when it isn’t. My brain values optimism over the truth.

This follows a disturbing trend. Whereas ten years ago this might happen once or twice during a single project, now it happens all the way through. That’s what’s different. My head is fast losing the ability to hang onto two ideas at once for more than three seconds. If I get up to answer the phone while I’m quilting, I won’t get back to the machine for hours, because I’ll forget that’s what I was up to. This should worry me, but instead I find it funny. Because that’s the way I like to stitch my reality together.

So it might take me longer than it used to, but eventually, after a lot of ripping, I always get my quilt put together right. I can see my own future, though, and it looks like my elderly friend Mrs. P. I’ll ask Mrs. P how her niece is doing in law school, and Mrs. P will say it hardly even itches anymore. I’ll say that sounds like good news, and she’ll say if it was fine with the bishop, it was fine with her; and after all, what can you expect during strawberry season? And both of us will go off smiling, all our conversational needs met.

I’m approaching my own dotage with a big grin and an even bigger seam ripper, but I know sooner or later I’m going to get all the pieces of my reality sewn together wrong too, and I won’t know it. It will look screwy, but I’ll still be warm.

This simple, beautiful quilt pattern was created by Cindy Carter, who is kind enough to share. I liked it well enough that I’m going to make another one for myself, because I gave this one away. Thanks, Cindy.