Mastering a piece

by +CrystalThieringer    @cdthieringer

IDSC01203 have never understood the appeal of needle crafts. My mother once knitted, and made some beautiful things. I remember a sweater in a beige yarn that had gold and rich brown tones mixed in. I wore that sweater until it couldn’t be worn anymore. It was long enough and wrap-around-enough and warm enough to hug me for a couple of years.

She tried to teach me, but I had neither the patience nor the ability to keep a constant tension. By the fourth row of “cast this, purl that”, the tension of the wool on the needles was so tight, a surgeon’s scalpel wouldn’t slip between the stitches.

The tension between us was reaching dangerous levels.

My grandmother was a crocheter, and I have one of her afghans. I love it so much, even though it fits into none of my colour schemes. She too, tried to teach me but I had the same issue. Where her stitches were even and, well, quite perfect, mine started out loose and ended up (once again) tighter than the blood-brain barrier.

Then, there’s sewing. In high school home economics, I was required to sew a dress. The material was blue and printed with apples, some quartered, some halved (I know, don’t judge. It was the 70s). The pattern I chose was a long dress, A-line, cap sleeves. Why do I remember such a thing? Because by the time I’d ripped out three attempts at putting in the zipper, I’d finally managed to sew it perfectly. I’d mastered the flat seam. That is, until I realized I’d sewn it through the front and the back of the dress.

My solution was to borrow a friend’s lighter. The teacher rightfully intervened.

I never succeeded in mastering any needle craft, and my husband knows better than to ask me to sew anything. He does that. It’s easier.

In our home hangs a most wondrous gift. A woman I know creates incredible quilts. They are different than any I had ever seen before. She pieces them together in a way I can’t even comprehend. She has mastered the craft of painting with thread and scraps of fabric. This quilt is particularly special because it showed up in the mail one day, completely unexpected and it had the sweetest note. I feel so loved and blessed each time I walk by it. At least once each week, I touch it, quite amazed at the generosity of the gift and the beauty of what I consider a masterpiece.

My friends and I were discussing masterpieces recently. We were saying how hard it is to share our work, in part because the world can be cruel. The internet can be cruel. Writing (and painting, and dancing, and any art form where you pour out your best work) is intensely personal, and what if it isn’t good enough?

But, I think if we’re honest, that’s only the surface fear.

What if I’m not good enough?

Isn’t that the real question? What if I’m not good enough?

I’ve struggled with this for much of my life, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. It wasn’t until I lost everything, moved across the country and started my life over that I began to believe I never had to master it all. I can only work on one piece at a time. Sometimes, that means getting up in the morning. Sometimes that means learning how to walk on my own, figuring out the secret to pie crust, or being brave enough to press send on a manuscript. There are also days when mastering a piece means stepping back to appreciate the talents that belong to someone else, and to simply enjoy the beauty they bring by being who they are.

At some point in our lives, we need to realize that who we are is enough. That is the only piece we need to master. The rest is up to God. The whole masterpiece thing is his domain, and always has been.IMG_0091


I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation, filled with wonder and awe.
    You have approached even the smallest details with excellence;
    Your works are wonderful;
I carry this knowledge deep within my soul.

Psalm 139:14 The Voice

The art featured here was designed and lovingly quilted by my friend, Elsie Montgomery in 2009. It is called Tall Mountains. I had never seen anything like it, and I love it so much. Visit her Etsy store or her blog ElsieQuilts to discover more about her and this aspect of her work. Perhaps you will find a design that speaks to your heart in the way this one does to mine.

11 thoughts on “Mastering a piece

  1. It’s funny – I sew and crochet and I’ve never been scared to share either of those creative endeavors. But sharing my writing took time and courage. Now, I can’t imagine not sharing. And, I also realize how I have to strike a better balance in time spent devoted to both outlets. I have been neglecting my yarn for too long.

    The quilt is lovely, and a masterpiece indeed!

    1. Your writing has changed lives, Denise. You have a powerful voice. I’m so grateful you have found the courage to share it. Please keep doing that.

  2. Crystal, your post is such a blessing to me… on a day when I feel like “nobody loves me… I’m going out in the garden to eat worms” and needed this encouragement. Thank you for thanking me, and praise the Lord for His timing. I will email you later with more details. For now, know that God is taking care of all of us in ways none of us ever expect!

    1. Elsie, the timing then, was completely God’s. The words in your comment bring a special smile to me. Thank you for the quilt, for permission to use it in my post, and for your long-time friendship. You are a treasure!

  3. Hello dear friend,
    As you might remember, I come from at least two generations of master needleworkers. One is my mother who fears that one day her eyes and her hands won’t allow her to knit and crochet items big and small with precision and speed. The other was my grandma who, according to my earliest observations, was able to sew (hand and machine) and knit items so perfectly and with such intricate design, one would be looking for the “Made in” labels. And, it seemed she could even do both at the same time! So, I, too, tried my hand at knitting (Barbie had a long skinny scarf) and crocheting (Barbie had another long skinny scarf). Sewing became my forte. It didn’t start out well and I give my home economics teacher full credit for her fun-filled yet diligent lessons in all things pertaining to stitchery. Notice, mom’s credits don’t list that craft and I wonder if she even owns straight pins or scissors that slice through fabric rather than eat through it! (Yes, words from the afore-mentioned teacher). In later years, I tried my hand at other trendy crafts (macrame, decoupage, string art) but have always come back to sewing. Now that I’m retired, I might actually make time to keep that machine set up in some well-lit corner and create a….yes, a quilt! I made several of them years ago. Some were for doll cribs, many were for friends’ baby cribs and a few were sold in a quilt shop. My favorite was the one I made for my parents’ 25th Wedding Anniversary. It was the Dresden Plate design and was comprised of fabric scraps left over from my maternity top projects. There’s no rhyme nor reason for matching colors or designs so the purple background ties it all together. I ‘visit’ that quilt each time I’m at home in Saskatchewan. It was ‘good enough’ for one of my first quilt projects and was plenty ‘good enough’ to grace their spare bedroom bed for the past 39 years! It’s not perfect but it’s been sat on and slept under by all who ventured into that room. I know I’ll be bringing it back to Alberta with me when the time comes. It will become ‘good enough’ for a new batch of sitters and sleepers. That, dear friend, is ‘good enough’ for me! I loved your quilt story and how you stitched it together humor, tenderness and prayer. I think of you often and it’s such a blessing to ‘hear’ you reading your words. Take care. Pat

    1. A quilt my Gram gave to me, one they received as a wedding gift, is also the Dresden Plate pattern (I think). It’s hand-stitched, and beautifully made, but it’s showing the fragility of eighty or so years. Perhaps it’s the memories and emotions, and not the fabric and stitches that makes it all the more precious to me–just as your quilt becomes more precious to you.

  4. Your friend is truly a master. I liked your wording of mastering a piece. Somehow it seems less daunting than trying to create a MASTERPIECE.

    1. Thanks, friend. I am content with the amount of time I spend with mine 😉

  5. This post took me back to a time when I would sit for hours reading and my grandmother would crochet. Stitch by stitch the afghans would grow until they covered her legs, the whole of her sofa and then a bed. I have no less than fourteen of these magnificent creations and treasure every single one. Loved your post and the memories it roused. Via

    1. Oh what a lovely tribute to your grandmother, Via. You honour her by holding the gifts of her hands so closely.

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