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Pieces of sewn together fabric can be a metaphor for living

Pieces of fabric have always amazed me. I love to work with them in all sorts of creative ways. Over the years, I have done just about everything you can to transform fabric into something else. I have created decorative throw pillows, silk Christmas ornaments, beautiful draperies and tablecloths. I have also relied on the use of fabric for various other craft projects. I never seem to get bored with fabric. Almost everyone around me knows it.

In fact, a friend of mine who lives out of town sent me a couple of yards of fabric for my last birthday present. I realize that may appear to be somewhat of a strange gift to some of you, but to me it was wonderful. As I tore into the box, I was greeted immediately by fabric that incorporated realistic embroidered bumblebees hovering over large pink flowers into its design.

Pinned to it was a note that read, “I saw this piece of fabric and thought of you! I know you collect bees. I intended to do something with it myself, but I realized whatever I did would not be as special as what you could. So, here it is! Create something beautiful!” It was signed “Love, Gwenn.” I was thrilled.

The creative wheels and mechanisms in my brain instantly began to move, producing a head full of ideas.

After sorting through the bulk of them, I decided I would use the fabric to make pillows for the window seats in my living room. The colors were perfect. The bumblebee was perfect. All I needed was to seek out some complimentary fabric to back and cord them.

Before any of you jump to the conclusion that I meant I was going to sew them myself, allow me to clarify. That is not to say I haven’t done a little sewing myself in years past, but after many failed attempts, including jamming bobbins and unthreading needles, my mother pushed me aside, and from then on, proceeded to sew for me.

Over the years, I have enlisted the help of many sewing professionals for various projects. I love to coordinate the fabrics and then turn them over to someone who can sew a straight line. One of my good friends, Diane, is just that person. She can sew anything. And I do mean anything!

Just entering Diane’s sewing room makes me a little nervous. Her state of the art sewing machines make the one I sewed on look prehistoric. It is a fabric lover’s dream. There are stacks and stacks of fabric in every color and pattern you could possibly imagine. Diane is a very talented quilter and creates some of the most beautiful ones I have ever seen. I knew she was the perfect one to sew my special bumblebee pillows.

A week or so ago, Diane, her mother and I headed up the road to Atlanta in search of fabric. Diane had been after me to see a couple of fabric shops devoted to quilting for some time. She also wanted me to help her pick out some fabrics for several quilts she was itching to create.

When we walked into the fabric store, we were greeted by a shop packed to the gills with bolts and bolts of fabric. As my eyes darted around each room, the organized bolts of fabric were stacked with such precision it appeared you were looking directly into a colorful rainbow.

Like a kid in a candy store, I began the process of selecting fabrics. Having studied color theory in college, I enjoy how different colors react to one another. We were in there for hours and left with bags and bags of perfectly cut fabric. Let me just tell you this: those quilters are extremely precise when it comes to using a pair of scissors.

We stopped by another store that specialized in quilt fabrics. It was much smaller than the first shop but still had quite an array of woven cotton choices. While Diane and her mother chatted with the owners, I discovered an absolutely gorgeous quilt hanging on the wall. I did a double take when I saw it. It was composed of 50 different fabrics cut into tiny squares and then carefully pieced back together. It was amazing.

Being an artist, I could appreciate all the time and effort that had gone into creating this particular quilt. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. It was very three-dimensional and appeared to be hand-painted. Each and every fabric choice was definitely deliberate and had obviously taken someone quite a while to figure out.

The shades and patterns of the fabrics perfectly blended together much the same way I would use color in one of my paintings, except a brush filled with paint had never touched this “canvas.”

Instead it was all sewn together with thread into a perfectly executed kaleidoscope of various shades and colors. But make no mistake, it was a piece of art.

I couldn’t get that quilt out of my mind. It spoke to me.

Not literally, but it was a perfect example of varied components, each different in its own way, working together to form a single thing of beauty. As we left that shop, I had a thought. I wondered what people could accomplish if we all worked together in harmony for one single cause. Just think of the possibilities.

Before returning to Macon, we visited several more decorative fabric shops. Exhausted from shopping, I was almost dizzy as we left the last one. I did, of course, leave with the fabric I needed for my soon to be fabulous “bee fabric” pillows.

I can’t wait to show my friend Gwenn what my friend Diane was able to do with my birthday gift. Wait. Isn’t that exactly the lesson I learned from the quilt? It took three of us working together to create some “one of a kind” pillows.

MORE from mark

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Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208 or fax them to (478) 474-4930 or call (478) 757-6877.

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