A year ago or so a woman contacted me about making her wedding quilt. It’s similar to the one I made for us, but instead of only having guests at showers write messages on fabric, she had all of her wedding guests do this. So, her fabric squares ended up being her guest book.
After assessing the number of message blocks, I came up with a pattern using the other fabric she gave me. Once it was completed, I sent her a picture – she loved it, I loved it, all was well, until…
I always wash my quilts after they are done. The washing and drying process reveals any mistakes I have made which I can correct before returning to the customer. Sometimes the binding doesn’t grab all layers of the fabric creating a gap or hole. I can find those after it’s been washed and dried. This is normal. I do this with every quilt.
But this time was different. I had talked with her about the fabric markers she used – she told me they were fabric markers. Since I didn’t have the actual markers or the package they came in, I wasn’t exactly sure how to prep the fabric, so I googled it, as you do. Heat set was the biggest thing – I can’t tell you how many times I pressed each one of those squares. So many times!
However, after I washed the quilt and then opened the lid I was devastated. The markers bled. Green here, pink there. Some of the squares were fine, but the ones with green and or pink markers were a disaster. Not only did those squares get washed out, the markers bled onto the other squares.
I started crying. This was her wedding quilt! I have destroyed her memories! I immediately called my mother-in-law who might be able to help. She told me not to dry it. She suggested using lighter fluid (that’s what she uses to get out motor oil and grease from my father-in-law’s stained clothes). I had already done so much damage, I couldn’t bring myself to do anything else. I let it air dry, then I sent the customer a text.
She was understanding. She realized it wasn’t my fault. But I couldn’t help thinking – why did I wash it? Why didn’t I just let her take it as is and let her be the one to wash it? Then again, if it was going to bleed like that, maybe it was easier for her to have someone else to blame?
I didn’t charge her the full amount. I wasn’t home when she picked it up. I couldn’t face her. A bit cowardly of myself, I see that now. But it was just too painful to come face-to-face with her.
That’s the only major failure I’ve had in my quilting business over the past four years. Considering I’ve cut up wedding dresses and baby clothes and t-shirts, that’s not too bad! This quilt will always stay with me though. The awesome quilts, the ones that customers cried over (in a good way!), those pass through my memory. This one though, the one that I “failed” – it will never leave me.
Part of me wanted my own wedding quilt to bleed and fall apart after washing just so I’d be punished. But, it didn’t. Ours turned out just fine. I had used the right kind of markers. That’s all it was about really – the markers, something I had absolutely no control over.
I’ll probably never have her as a customer again and that’s okay. I had many before here and have had many since then. I could have let that one failure end my business. I could have stopped making quilts altogether. But I love it too much. Ruining her quilt was painful, but not painful enough to never create again.
We all fail. It’s part of our nature. It’s also part of learning. When I fail, I know what to do different next time. Failure teaches me to be resilient – to not let this one thing ruin me. I don’t enjoy failing – who does? But, I do appreciate the lessons that come out of failure. I do appreciate knowing that I’m stronger than I thought I was.
In the end, it’s just a quilt. I didn’t physically hurt anyone. I didn’t ruin a life. However, I did damage some reminders of memories. I trust, though, that the memories carry on even though they are a little harder to read. I trust that even though some pictures are smudged, perhaps she finds some joy when she looks at her imperfect wedding quilt. Maybe, rather than anger or blame, she sees her perfectly imperfect beautiful life displayed in this quilt.