I sure wish I still had this patchwork quilt (below). As quilts go, I own finer specimens (a good subject for a future post, actually, for what quicker way is there to farmgirlize your suburban house than by its bedding?). But this particular quilt — that’s my younger sister posing in front of it when she herself was much younger — is beloved in part because it was made by me.
Entirely of potholders.
Not the comfy-coziest of quilt materials, I admit. But here’s the more specific reason I love it: The amazing variety of potholder patterns I came up with for the squares. A bag of raw material, time to tinker, the courage to try, allowing yourself the freedom to make mistakes, and voila! Possibility! No such thing as one kind of potholder. Looking at things in new ways is the best kind of momentum I know.
There’s the two-color gingham-esque small check, the small-check/color block quad, the stripes, the checkerboard, the weave. Well, I don’t know what these patterns are properly called, if anything; those are the names I made up for the new ways I found to weave the colors. (My hallmark discovery was the “I” pattern, which looked like interlocking letter Is; I remember it was very popular with my Aunt Irene, and when done in black and gold when my older brother left home to play football for The University of Iowa.)
My potholder phase had begun when I received the requisite metal loom and crochet hook for my tenth birthday, along with a bag full of colorful cotton “loops.” My mom never needed to buy another potholder for the rest of her life. By Christmas, every aunt, grandmother, and neighbor received a stack custom-coordinated to her kitchen. And it must have been my mom’s idea to show me how to stitch together this quilt — I can see how one can put only so many potholders to work in the kitchen. Alas, it must’ve vanished 10 seconds after the picture of my sister was taken, for I have almost no memory of ever seeing it again, and neither does she.
My daughter, Margaret, discovered the craft when she was about the age I’d been. (Okay, so I’d planted the seed by giving her a metal loom of her own for her birthday!) A born improviser, she’s come up with even more new patterns than I did, I think:
It’s a quality that ought to serve her well, especially when life gets bumpy. Someone once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. (Apparently it was a football coach and not the long-attributed Ben Franklin or Albert Einstein, which makes sense, given how strategic the sport is.) Variety is the spice of life — and sanity, apparently.
To get anywhere, you have to tweak. Pull in a different color loop here and there. Mix it up. Try something new. Experiment with combinations you didn’t think likely. Give yourself the time to see what happens, see how you feel about it. Notice how the new way fits in with your surroundings, or how it stands out. (Both can be good.) Start small — a new pattern for a single potholder. Or go unorthodox and go big — make yourself a whole darn potholder quilt!
If you can see it, you can make it.
And once you start noodling, you’ll see all kinds of amazing things.