Some were easy. I always do spring cleaning anyway, so this year I just had free time to work away at it. While I can’t say our house is perfect, it’s certainly as perfect as it would be any other year after spring cleaning. So that’s one.
I will whisper the following: ‘I think I have scanned the last of the photos!’ I’m whispering because I have a sneaking suspicion that when I open up my cedar chest upstairs, the one I did not spring clean, I have a feeling I may stumble upon a few straggling photos. I’m ok with that. The album upon albums I was trying to get through are complete. At some point I’m going to count up all the photos, but for now let’s just say there are tens of thousands of them. Eventually, I’ll sort through their new digital versions, discard the ones of no meaning and of poor quality, and create some meaningful books. But not right now. I’m totally satisfied with what I have accomplished here.
The other project I’ve been working on for the last few months is a quilt for our daughter and son-in-law, Kaitlyn and Matt. About 5 years ago, when Kaitlyn had graduated with her B Ed degree, we celebrated by taking them on a one-day excursion to Churchill, Manitoba to see polar bears. There is a narrow, three-week window from the end of October to mid-November when the bears gather on the shores of Hudson’s Bay, waiting for the ice to ‘come in’ so the bears can travel on it to get to their hunting grounds; the open water where they can fish for seal. During this time, excursions are organized out of a few Western Canadian cities to travel to our majestic far north to safely observe them without disturbing them. Out on the magnificent tundra it feels like being on safari.
As I was trying to figure out what to feature on my quilt for Kaitlyn and Matt, I realized I wanted something meaningful; something that would stir a memory. I looked through my pictures of our polar bear excursion and found one I thought could serve as the base idea for the quilt. Jim helped me by tracing the small picture of a mother polar bear and one of her cubs onto a piece of graph paper. I then created a large sheet of grid paper, one the size of the finished quilt top. I copied the design from each little square onto the big squares, transferred this onto a lightweight fabric to use to attach the material, and then set about creating. Using hundreds of strips of coloured fabric, the bears, and then the northern lights came to life.
I finished the top of the quilt about three weeks ago and sent it off to my quilting friend Janet, to work her magic with her long-arm. This is a fancy machine used to quilt the top of the project to the batting in the middle and then to the backing. Janet is incredibly creative and I was excited to see what she had in mind for my quilt. When it arrived back to me, it did not disappoint. Between her swirls in the sky to remind us of wind and snowflakes, to her colourful stitches to magnify the northern lights, she hit the nail right on the head. Her quilting is magnificent and I was thrilled with the result.
The final step to the project was to add the binding. This is the little border that covers all the raw edges and gives the quilt a framed look. It isn’t difficult to do binding. I prefer to machine stitch it to the front of the quilt and then hand-sew the back using an invisible stitch. The only little tricky part is when you attach the binding, you have to start somewhere and end back at the same spot. This means that when you get back to the beginning, you need to tuck the raw edge of the beginning part into the ending part to hide the raw edge. This is how I’ve always done it and it has always looked just fine. However, I watched a little YouTube video of a method that eliminates having any tucking at all. The binding ends up being one continuous piece that fits perfectly.
The technique looked manageable and I thought I could do it. The only scary part was cutting the fabric at the end. It’s a ‘cut of faith’. If it’s done wrong, well, I’m not sure. I guess I’d have to start all over again. My problem didn’t end up being the cut. It ended up that my spacial awareness failed me and I twisted the binding when I sewed the pieces together. Out came my stitch ripper and I tried again. On the second attempt, I got the binding untwisted, but the length of the binding was off by just a hair. I knew that with a little finesse, I could make it look pretty good; certainly, good enough that no one would notice. So, I did. The problem was I knew it wasn’t quite right. Again, I took out the stitch ripper. The third time was a charm. A perfect fit.
That one hour of sewing and stitch ripping and sewing again, has given me a lot to think about this past week. I hope that quilt brings Kaitlyn and Matt good memories for many years. I’ll be proud of the finished product forever. It took me less than an hour to correct my mistake, and it would have been absolutely adequate without my ‘fixing’. I’ve been thinking about how many interactions I have had, how many little conversations, that have gone really well, but that I’ve walked away from knowing that had I spent just a few more precious minutes, could have had an even better outcome.
We all have these. We have those meetings and conversations we come home from and when asked how they went, we reply, ‘Pretty good’. I wonder what the answer could have been if during the interaction, we had decided to rip out a few stitches and made it clear we wanted to get things really right. I have lots and lots of conversations that I can leave at ‘Pretty good’. But there are some relationships, some people in my life, for whom, ‘Pretty good’ isn’t actually enough. These people and these relationships deserve the effort it would take me to notice my miss-steps, go backward and make things right.
As our province eases some restrictions, we are going to be able to have more in-person conversations. These, undoubtedly will be with important people in our lives who we haven’t been able to see for months. I’m going to pack my proverbial stitch ripper with me. After all these months apart, if I have a chance to talk in person, I want to be able to say it went better than ‘Pretty good’.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘What stitches could I remove?’
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups. She has particular expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to become a masterful stitch ripper .