Amanda’s 27th Birthday Mary Oliver Quilt

IMG_2860This is the absolute truth: If I make you a serious quilt it must mean one of 2 things: A) I love you deeply and you’re my absolute soulmate B) You are holding me hostage and forcing me to sew under some kind of fascist regime. I mean, why else on earth would I subject myself to hours of painstaking detailed excruciation when I could do almost anything else?  One thing remains true in all of this: I love my partner. If she said, “Sew me a  blouse,” I’d probably sew her a blouse. If she said, “Sew me a set of numerical plushies so I can do fun snuggly calculus in bed,” I wouldn’t even question the weirdness of that idea. And if she said, “Sew me a quilt in two days for my birthday,” I’d jump up and go buy some batting.

She didn’t tell me to make her a quilt, it was wholly my idea. I knew I wanted to give her something that incorporated poetry, math, and a blue and green color scheme.  I knew I wanted to wow her, and make it really special. So at work I sketched out a simple enough pattern on my lunch break incorporating 81 squares  that would hopefully sew up to be exactly 5″ by 5″ each when the quilt was fully constructed.

IMG_2729I’m no expert quilt maker. I mean, I am an experienced seamstress. But quilts? My grandmother quilts by hand. The pillow cases on my bed were handmade by her, and are composed of 1.5″ by 1.5″ squares. To me, that’s lunacy. Lunacy and beauty tied into two gorgeous pillowcases.  My 90 year old Nonna sits and sews tiny squares together by hand on long car trips. The idea of it fills me with jealousy, confusion, and wonder.

IMG_2723Perhaps it’s how I was introduced to quilting. I learned how to quilt in the 6th grade through 4-H Cooking and Sewing. At the end of the year-long sewing lesson, it was expected that you finish a quilt. Our quilts looked relatively the same, pink and white squares of various ugly floral prints, and in the center of the quilt we appliquéd an equally ugly girl in a bonnet and a pink dress. I was quite proud of my little quilt, though I recognized how ugly it truly was and when it only one a red second place ribbon at Expo, I wasn’t too surprised. While the process had led to my very own quilt, making that damn thing was relatively boring and anal. I really haven’t quilted much since then, though I have to give the experience credit for several sewing techniques that I still use today.IMG_2732

So the fact that I literally had 2 days to pull this quilt off before Amanda turned 27 (or as she likes to refer to it, “3 cubed!”) meant getting down to business. It meant going immediately to the fabric store and investing in : 7 shades of fabric, batting, and rotary cutter, and finding the perfect poem.  After choosing Wild Geese by Mary Oliver (a favorite), I realized I also wanted playful cut-outs of flying wild geese to bring the whole thing together. In short, I may be no quilt maker, but I am an artist.

IMG_2728What ensued was 2 days of nothing but: cutting, sewing, working, an optometry appointment, sewing, Amanda’s mother coming into town an telling me all about her recent trip to Switzerland, sewing, ironing, sewing, ironing, sewing, sewing, (around here I realized that my grandmother must be completely insane.) burning myself with the iron, basting, hand stitching, swearing miserably when I stitched the right side to the wrong side, sewing, ironing, finally finishing the quilt off, writing out the poem, cutting out perfectly elegant little geese, and ironing the geese on. Sigh! A lot of work.

IMG_2733IMG_2735Alas, the quilt was a hit with the person that matters, and it now shelters us at night when we sleep upstairs in Amanda’s room. Not all the squares lined up perfectly, and there are parts that I see where with more than 2 days I might have added more details. Yet under it’s warmth we curl up and fall asleep beneath Wild Geese, where I truly feel the weight of this beautiful poem:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

IMG_2858I also made a stunning vegan chocolate beet cake with berries on the inside, and berries on the outside, a perfect cake for a perfectly wonderful leo and the love of my life.


I think being 3 cubed will suit her well.


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