Confessions Of An Imperfectionist, Part 4: Hey, I Meant To Do That

WordPress tells me my last post was #500. Not paying much attention to these things, I just happened to notice, but–mazel tov, me! That milestone’s a good enough reason to carry on blah-blah-blahgging, right?

I’ve written in the past about my imperfectionism as it relates to the arts of baking, music, and quilting. This latter trait came to light big time this fall when the Mate actually commissioned me to make a quilt.

More specifically: a window quilt, something to insulate our sliding glass door in the winter months. Since we heat exclusively with firewood, blocking that giant heat sink was going to save us a lot of logs.

His request happened to coincide with a one-day workshop I took from Grace Errea, on a new method of adhesive applique. Grace’s quilts are jaw-droppingly beautiful, so I thought–aha! Here’s an opportunity to use what I’ve just learned.

Since this quilt would be blocking our view of the sunset over the water (which, admittedly, we only see between late April and September, before the sun moves south)  I adapted one of Grace’s sunset patterns to place just where the sun would be. I chose my fabrics, cut out every tiny, curvy piece, applied the adhesive on the back, ironed the whole thing, and…

Voila? Non. Not quite. See, I had been taught to sandwich my pattern with tin foil before ironing, so’s not to get the adhesive on my iron. But I must have missed the part where Grace specificied which side of the tin foil to place next to the fabric. I chose the dull side. I chose wrong. It stuck.

Since I wasn’t planning on blogging about this topic, I did not take pictures of the resulting disaster. You’ll just have to imagine me peeling miniscule strips of tin foil from the back of my painstakingly-pieced pattern…each pull dislodging the pieces from the adhesive I’d so carefully applied.

When at last all the horrible silver stuff was gone and it came time to sew, of course I found most of the edges of each fabric strip were now misaligned. So not only did I have to try to re-align them while sewing by machine–which I do not recommend if you enjoy all your fingers–I actually had to do quite a bit of hand-sewing to repair gaps the machine could not accommodate.

The result was a wrinkly mess.

Or was it? Here’s where my Imperfectionism came to the rescue. “Those aren’t wrinkles, those are texture,” it said. “Nature’s not two-dimensional! All those rucks just make your scene look more real.”

Go ahead. Look closely. Sigh.

Thanks, Imperfectionism. You’re the best friend I’ve got.

All those wrinkles? Meant to do that. Yup.

The light wasn’t great when we set up our window-quilt, so I only took close-ups. You’ll have to imagine what the whole thing looks like–and now, of course, it’s partially obscured by our Christmas tree. Probably just as well.

But y’know, when you step back…it’s not so bad.

But I’m still proud of my imperfect sunset–or rather, proud of myself for not tossing the whole thing into the garbage! Besides bringing a huge ray of brightness into our winter lives, it’s a darn good metaphor.



All I Want For Christmas: Hope, Very Simply

This is my symbol for my Merry Christmas wish:


It’s a piece of soap. It makes dirty things clean, and makes them smell like lavender.

It was made by me and a child, for fun.

It reminds me of those models of cells biology teachers assign in high school. (See the nucleus? “Life finds a way.”)

It’s green. We all need more green.

It’s backlit by a Christmas light. We all need more light too.

Merry Christmas, everyone, if that means something to you. And if it doesn’t–here’s to green, and light, and children, and sweetness.

All I Want For Christmas: Not To Feel So Conflicted About Wrapping Paper

What’s better than Christmas presents? If you’ve had a toddler in your life recently, or been one yourself, you know: Wrapping paper! Especially that foil kind which holds its shape. If I had digital copies of my photos from the early 90s, I’d share some ADORABLE pics of my boys wearing Christmas wrap like armor. I have no idea what present was inside; the resulting shiny togs, and the boys’ joyful faces, is all I remember.

Problem is, that stuff’s not recyclable. Too high of a metallic content. In fact, most Christmas wrap, glommed all over with tape, gets rejected in the end: too much plastic. 

This year, to add to my perennial conflict between wanting the brightest, shiniest, bring-back-my-innocent-childhoodiest gift wrap and wanting to, y’know, save the Earth, I was asked by our local Dump to write an article promoting zero waste in the Christmas season. The info they sent me included stats like this:

Garbage increases by 25% nationally over the holidays—that’s an extra 25 million tons. Most wrapping paper is not recyclable, due to metal or plastic content or tape. Then there are those 2.65 billion annually discarded Christmas cards, not to mention 38,000 miles of discarded ribbon, enough to tie a bow around the whole earth.

Sigh…I felt like I was writing that article to myself.

The Dump folks also included a link to this wonderful, crafty blog, Suburble, written by a way-cooler-sounding-than-Martha-Stewart woman named Tara. Tara walks you through the steps of making your own reusable Christmas bags, like this:

I could do that! I could even wear that!

I could do that! I could even wear that!

I have a sewing machine. I have tons of cool fabric bits. What remains is to wrestle my pre-awareness-of-global-crisis enthusiasm for VERY BAD WRAP and translate it into enough enthusiasm for FABRIC BAGS that I will actually sit down and make some.


I could take my own advice from that article, and make gift wrap out of decorated paper bags. That sounds like a fun day for my inner child.


I could take some more advice and collect pretty grasses and dried flowers to tie onto gifts. But it’s pretty wet out there. That inner-child thing’s looking better all the time.

Anyone else wrestling with this? A support group would be nice.

The Warm Blanket of Friendship–Literally: Button Blankets

You’re about to turn 60…or 70. Your friends gather in secret. They spend hours (and hours and hours) preparing a surprise. There are no balloons involved, no h’ors d’oevres, no dancers jumping out of cakes. Your friends are making you a button blanket.

This idea, borrowed from the Native cultures of the Pacific Northwest, is vibrant on my island. Just how vibrant stunned me, though. I had heard of it, even been invited to participate in the production of one (which I had to miss, due to traveling). But not until I saw a display at our community library did I realize how deeply blanketed in friendship we Lopezians are.

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This badger blanket (for my singin’ buddy Kenny), features wool made from Lopez sheep, because Kenny likes to make things out of wool felt.

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Some of the “totem animals” of the person being gifted are very NON-Northwestern, like my friend Polly’s giraffe:

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Sometimes the totem isn’t an animal at all, but some other important symbol:

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I think the “gifted” person’s spouse/partner is usually involved in choosing the symbol, but it could also be done by group consensus. I don’t know, but you can bet next time I’m invited, I will happily join in. Here’s a picture of the process:

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Unfortunately, I can’t credit the photographer, since it wasn’t attributed at the exhibit. But if it’s Pamela Maretsen, the chief craftsperson/designer, then–kudos, Pamela, and thanks not only for making this tradition happen, but for lighting the fire to spread it.

Of course, as soon as you see these blankets, you start dreaming: what would mine look like? If anyone, like, you know, ever decided to gift me with one?

How about a frog? Frogs are cool...

How about a frog? Frogs are cool…


The whole process is very Zen-like. You can’t ask for one. You can’t buy one–at least not that I’ve ever heard. You probably shouldn’t even THINK about one, or wish for one. You should probably just go about the business of being a good person, and one day your friends just might decide to show their love this way:

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I’ve heard of groups of friends making quilts for each other, in the South and the Midwest especially. But I’ve never heard of it being done in secret, and I’ve never heard of men’s being involved.

So I’m wondering: does this happen in other small communities, or groups of friends? Maybe not blankets, but something similar? I would love to see this tradition spread. Maybe, somewhere, it already is? I would love to hear.