Our daughter Rachel, her husband Chris, and our granddaughters Charlotte and Caroline visited us for several hours on Friday. It must have been the first time my quilt hoop had been set up for Caroline to see, because after I arrived home from work, Caroline seemed to take a curious interest in it.
“This is a quilt I’m making for your mom and dad,” I said. (OK, so I started it 5 years ago for their wedding quilt. It will be finished just in time for their 5th anniversary!) Caroline peered intently. I explained the mechanics of a quilt, how they called it a quilt sandwich, because it was 3 layers, and had a back, a middle, and a top. Caroline giggled. “But we don’t eat the quilt sandwich,” she said, her eyes twinkling. I gathered she thought the idea was pretty silly. (It was a great time for inserting something about a “high-fiber diet,” but, alas, when you’re discussing things with a 3-year-old, sometimes you have to forego the puns.)
She asked if she could learn how to quilt. I let her scoot underneath the hoop so she could watch the finger of my left hand from the underside as it deflected the needle. I showed her the callus on that finger, and I explained that actually touching the point of needle was the only way to be truly certain that the needle had penetrated all 3 layers of the quilt.
She then requested to cuddle up with me in my chair and “help.” I let her do so, showed her where I kept my thimble and what it was used for, showed her my tiny scissors that looked like a stork, my spool of thread, and my tiny, tiny needle. When she had absorbed all that information, I showed her how to thread the needle.
Now, you have to understand that I use a size 12 quilting needle, which is the smallest they make. It’s known for its ability to achieve the prized tiny stitches every hand quilter wants. It’s so small that if you ever dropped it, your only hope of retrieving it would be catching a glimpse of a piece of thread dangling from its tiny eye. And it is into this miniature eye that I am supposed to stick a piece of thread on a regular basis.
I do this many times in one quilting session. It never gets easier, and to add insult to injury, the older I get, the worse my eyesight gets, and the smaller they make the eye of the needle!
So there I was, trying to show Caroline how to thread a needle. I missed the first attempt (what a surprise!) and immediately thereafter missed the second, third, fourth, and fifth attempts. I tried all the tricks - wetting the thread, wetting the needle, cutting the thread at an angle - all the usual things - but that thread was stubborn and the needle was mischievous. For a while, I even forgot about Rachel, Chris, Ed, and Charlotte in the room. I even forgot about Caroline, sitting there so patiently. My surroundings just melted away as I repeatedly tried in vain to put the thread through that hole.
I have a needle threader, but gosh darn it, it was the principle of the thing by this time. I’m 52, not 82, and I ought to be able to thread a needle on command.
At last I received the successful outcome I had so ardently worked for. There! Did you see it? The thread went through the hole! I laughed, I giggled, I was thoroughly giddy. I did it!
At times like that, I push the thought from my mind that this is just one of many times I will have to thread the needle in the future, maybe even in the next few minutes. No - all I was focused on was my moment of thrilling success. As Ed says, “It doesn’t take much to amuse you.”
I continued the quilting lesson, letting Caroline pull the needle out of the quilt a few times, showing her how the stitches we were creating were forming a circle of stitches. She said, “How many have we got? I bet there’s 15!” So I counted. We had 8. I let her do 2 more stitches. “How many now, Grammy? I bet there’s a HUNDRED!”
Our little lesson filled me with gratitude. Of course, her interest may wane. Caroline may have had her fill of quilting after a while. But who knows - it may stick. I may be training the next quilter in the family. At the very least, though, I’m building memories.
Next time you hear someone say something is “like looking for a needle in a haystack,” you can smile and think of me. Because the hardest part is not finding the needle - it’s threading the darn thing.