Monthly Archives: June 2009

I Am Not My Mother

I am not my mother.

When I was a teenager I wore that statement like a badge. Why I thought it was a crime to emulate the ways of the woman who gave me life, I’m not sure I’ll ever completely understand.

As a young adult I rejected the life my parents led. I thought it shallow and pretentious and I set out to arrange my existence in contradiction to theirs. (It would be many years before I realized that the person lacking the depth was me, and that the goal of being like my mother was in fact lofty and perhaps even beyond my reach.)

My mother’s house was immaculate. Not once during my childhood did we ever run out of toilet paper or toothpaste and no one ever had to go out at some ungodly hour to buy milk. Her organization was legendary. Every room was decorated to perfection and our home was a showcase of family photos and decorative art. I thought my mother’s obsessive list-making and clothes-folding and paper-filing was the key to understanding her generally anxious nature and I grew up believing that if I ignored details like those, I could relax.

It’s no revolutionary idea that when a woman has children she views her own mother through different eyes. What I remember now looks sharply different than the way it looked to me when I first left home. Her attention to detail that I once saw as incessant now looks like an undying will to provide a comfortable home. What once appeared to be obsession I now remember as commitment. Her need to get everything right and give everything a place provided my brother and I with a safe place where we always knew what to expect. Dinner was at the same time every night and there were always three courses and set tables. No one ever spent extra time looking for things because everything was always where it belonged. And both of my parents were always there to support me when I needed them.

To say that my house isn’t like hers isn’t even close to describing the situation. If I’ve figured out what’s for dinner by six o’clock, it’s been a good day. If we’re not ‘borrowing’ toilet paper from the neighbors (thanks Chris and Cyn) I declare victory. We spend far too many of our precious hours looking for things that were never put away (because they didn’t have a place to be put), and our clothes are always wrinkled. I’ve lived in this house for over eight years and I still have the paper shades on the windows that I put up for privacy when I moved in. My dishes don’t match and we don’t have towel racks in the bathroom. Dinnertime is a revolving door of boys. Some nights Jake is here, others he sleeps at Sean’s. Each morning when I wake, my first thought is—who slept here last night? I wonder what that must feel like for Quinn. I’ve accepted my divorce and take great pride in the true friendship that I maintain with Sean but I still mourn for Jake’s not having the family life that we wished for him. I know we are setting a good example and I believe that the more people who love him the better. But he still has to be away from one of his parents most of the time that he is with the other. I always got to have both of mine.

I know I’m not the first adult to realize that they’ve been influenced by a parent’s behavior to perform in the opposite way (there’s hope for my kids yet). But until recently I had taken pride in my laid-back brand of ‘housekeeping’. I felt that I was setting an example for my kids not to sweat the small stuff. I thought that I was focusing on filling other needs they had. But I was only partly right. While I do think I’ve managed to be more relaxed than my mother, I’ve surely not succeeded in avoiding anxiety. And though I think of my house as having a less than uptight atmosphere I’ve clearly not taught Jake how to be organized (Quinn is too young for me to have screwed up this part of his upbringing—yet). And while I’m teaching him the value of creating things with his own hands I’m not sure he has any understanding of how to respect his own things.

We are not very alike, my mother and me. I am calm where she gets tense. I prefer to be alone while she likes to be surrounded with friends. I like simple and plain and she tends towards frilly and pretty. I opt out where she participates. She doesn’t sit still and I can’t think of anything I’d rather do. And all this is fine with me. What isn’t fine with me is that when it comes to how I run my house: I am not my mother.

Roundabout Quiltalong :: Part One (Fabric, Cutting and Layout)

Welcome—so glad you decided to quilt-along. We’re going to do some serious immersion therapy to get over our fear of piecing curves.

Business first: the finished quilt will be approximately 53″ x 75″. The finished blocks will be (edited 7/1/09 from 11.25″) 11″ and set five across by seven down. This tutorial is going to assume a few basics about quiltmaking—I’m going for more of a pattern tutorial than a learn-to-quilt tutorial. If you’re looking for information about how to use a rotary cutter and details about sewing perfect 1/4″ seams take a look at these sites for some really well-written beautifully-executed tutorials.

For the quilt top you’ll need thirty-five twelve-inch squares in a mix of colors and patterns.

For the original I sorted by color and then put them into groups: pinks, oranges/yellows and blues/greens. With this version I’m going cooler (remember the whole point of making this quilt is to trick Jake into liking it better and getting mine back). I think it’s really important not to get too hung up on the fabric though. My general philosophy is: if you like it, use it. So after you decide on which fabrics to use, cut 12″ squares out of 35 different fabrics. I usually cut a few more fabrics than I need so that I have a little room to mess around with the design. I’ll use any extra blocks to piece the back.

After you’ve got your squares cut, click here to download the template. Be sure to print the template at 100%. Cut along the pattern line and trace it onto a piece of cardboard or template plastic (I used the back of one of Quinn’s drawing paper pads). Cut out the cardboard template *using your paper scissors*. I know of what I speak here people. I’ve ruined a pair or two of nice scissors in my time by being lazy about this.

Lay the template onto one of your cut squares. Using a sharp pencil and taking care not to pull the fabric, trace along the template edge. Now cut along the traced line (using your special-reserved-for-fabric-only-don’t-let-the-kids-use-this-pair-scissors). Repeat with each of your squares.

I sort the pieces by color group but you can use any sorting technique you like (hue, value, scale of print, etc.). And then the fun begins!

My preferred method of designing is: get it up on the wall and leave it there until it’s right. (My design wall consists of a not-quite-large-enough piece of white felt hanging by two thumbtacks is in my very high-tech studio/bedroom/office.) Every time I walk by and I see something that isn’t working, I move it and go about whatever I was doing. Eventually it starts to settle into a pleasing layout and I just know when it’s done. I also get a lot of (sometimes unsolicited) advice from the architect and the eleven-year-old in my life (who are usually right).

With the first quilt I didn’t stagger the circles but with this one I think I’m going to. It’s up to you. My concept here is to have the circles be comprised of one color group and the surrounding squares be of another. But I’ve taken a little leeway with this.

If you want to share photos of your fabric choices or process or care to discuss amongst yourselves, come on over to the flickr group I’ve started. I’m also happy to try and answer any questions you have in the comments. It’s my first attempt at this, so please be gentle with me.

I’ll give you a few days to get going and then we’ll come back and get to the sewing.

I’m hoping for a weekend full of bare feet, grilled meat, open windows, bathing suits on the line and

wet naked babies.

Here’s wishing you whatever you think of as a perfect summer weekend.

Excuses and a Quilt-a-long

A few

small projects

have gotten in the way of the tutorial I promised.


But I’m on it now.

So how about if we do it like this: I’ll post stages of the process of making the Roundabout Quilt and you can follow along (quilt-along if you prefer) or wait until it’s all finished and I’ll put it together in one handy PDF. This is a great pattern for curve-piecing-newbies and I think it’s fun for more experienced quilters as well. The finished quilt will be a perfect napping size of approximately 52″x72″.

If you feel like quilting along feel free to grab a button,

spread the word (the more the merrier after all) and come back Friday afternoon for the fabric and cutting requirements. There just may be a giveaway at the end of the rainbow!

*Coffee cozy pattern is courtesy of House on Hill Road and quilt-holding courtesy of Jake.