Quilts, like all big projects, eventually become metaphors. It’s no surprise; quilts, like life, are enormous undertakings that should only be started after much careful consideration and, possibly, alcohol. Certainly, I knew how much work would be involved in making my first quilt?my mother’s entire existence seems consumed by her passion for the art form?but I ploughed ahead anyway, without forethought, without booze. Quilting, I figured, is just time, patience, and effort. Surely, with my husband’s help, I’d pump out a blanket with energy to spare.
Steve knew better.
“You’ll have to measure a lot?and keep everything straight.”
“No problem. I sew. I knit. I can use a ruler.”
“No, Sue. Really straight.”
Really straight, Really, What was I thinking? If there is anything I am not, it’s really, especially when sewing. I tend to be abstract: a Picasso of the sewing world. No line cut straight. No pattern followed. I never think of consequences when fudging through a project. Instead, I rely on instinct and chase a finished product I think might be nice. Over the last year, this oddball work ethic has garnered me: a pair of twill pants that become Capri’s when I sit; a red pullover dress that fits with ease and, no doubt, will throughout any future pregnancy; a satin duvet cover that looks good on the bed but slides to the floor at least twenty times a night, every night, without fail. It’s no wonder Steve had doubts.
As do I, now. Quilting is brutal, a gladiatorial sport for the domesticated. Fingers bleed. Backs ache. Eyes strain. Anyone who thinks cutting fabric is easy hasn’t cut 144 equal-sized strips before their morning coffee.
Quilting is also revealing; a how-to-stay-married-forever course at its most creative. In my home, it has jettisoned my husband and I beyond the theory of matrimonial bliss and plunked us down into the midst of a tactile crisis. Artist clashes engineer. Color attacks precision. I design, select, sew. Steve inspects, sighs, dismantles. I stomp my feet. He stands his ground. I relent but huff. He reworks and perfects. I re-sew, annoyed. No one has died, yet.
An amazing feat. All seconds counted, Steve and I have only been together for sixteen months: twelve dating and four married. Like the owners of a new car, we’re still busy sniffing the strange smell in the air?forget being ready to drive out to the highway to see how fast it can go. Quilting, however, replaces the need for such a test. Indeed, it is the test. It is cooperation?the struggle to learn partnership?in action. It is faith in one another. It is definitive, God-given proof that marriage requires an eternal commitment. Otherwise, the headaches and bleeding fingers would seem like good enough reasons to leave.
It is insanity, sometimes. I have decided to give the quilt to my sister and her fiance in January, when they get married. Christmas, it appears, will be spent sewing. Steve and I will no doubt fight and fume but learn. Initial steps on a greater journey: a house is more difficult than a quilt and children are more difficult than a house. Together, we have embarked?, devotedly, soberly. We hope to create a lasting gift for our family, each other, and ourselves.