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This is not sponsored, endorsed, or administered by Epic Games Incorporated. And we continue with our American stories. And our next story comes to us from a listener, Paul Bauer, a regular contributor out of the Great White North, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Here's Paul with a story he's entitled, I Admit It, I Sew Quilts. I think most of us have seen them, beautifully colored squares of fabric sewn together by hand into various patterns, transforming into a magnificent homemade quilt. My grandmother made one for me, all pajamas that she had cut up and sewed into a lovely quilt. My church has a quilting club, and each year they're friended ladies, put on their hard work on display, and sell them at our church festival.
Making these fine works of arts seems like the perfect hobby for older women with lots of time on their hands. While it is fair to refer to me as old, a woman would be a stretch. I'm a six foot six inch, 250 pound, 59 year old man. It is not uncommon for a complete stranger to ask me in passing whether I ever played football or basketball. No, I would tell them I was a hockey and baseball player back in the day. But not once has a single person ever come up to me, big fella, and asked if I sewed quilts. But it's time for me to admit it. I'm no longer gonna keep it a secret. I do in fact sew quilts.
Yep, a handful of years ago, I made my very first one, and surprisingly, I became hooked. But I don't wanna get ahead of myself. Sewing quilts was the last thing I ever imagined I would be interested in doing. I'm always on the go. I'm horrible at sitting still. As much as I enjoy watching a football or baseball game, I can't sit still long enough to watch a complete game.
Sitting in front of a television for that long is not for me. But nowadays, I can sit for hours and hours in front of a sewing machine working on my latest quilt. How did this come to be? It started by chance seven years ago when my father-in-law Ron passed away. When it was time for Joan, my mother-in-law, to go through Ron's belongings, she came across his collection of T-shirts. Ron loved classic cars. He owned a 1962 Corvette that he restored.
Ron enjoyed going to classic car shows and mingling with the other car lovers. He started a tradition of buying T-shirts at each of the stores he attended. When Joan started cleaning out dresser drawers, she didn't know what to do with all these T-shirts. Ron was a big man, and Joan figured his shirts wouldn't fit anybody in the family other than me. I didn't want to disappoint her, so I said, sure, I'll take them.
I knew I would never wear them. Classic cars are not my thing, but I graciously accepted her gift. The shirts were, after all, a nice reminder of my father-in-law. Later that summer, I attended my niece's high school graduation open house. There, hanging on display in their garage, was a quilt made of the various school sports jerseys my niece wore over the years. It was unique and inspiring.
Aha, I said to myself. I now know what to do with Ron's T-shirts. I will turn them into a lovely quilt and surprise Joan, gifting back to her the T-shirts that she gifted to me, with a slightly different twist. I mentioned this idea to my daughter, Katie. Katie learned how to sew from our neighbor, who was an avid sewer, working full-time at a local fabric store. She invited Katie over to their house now and then, and taught her how to use the sewing machine. I asked Katie if she would teach me the basics, so I could sew these shirts together for grandma. She was surprised in my interest in learning to sew, but she thought I had a good idea. So she said, sure dad, I can show you how to sew. I don't know if you have the patience for it, but we can try. So that night, I went to our local Joanne fabric store, and I bought myself the cheapest sewing machine they had.
This was only a one-time deal. This machine only had last me one quilt, and then I would store it away or give it away, never to be used by me again. Katie set the machine up for me, showed me how to thread the bobbin and the needle, which was not an easy task for these big mitts that I own.
Finesse, that's not my strong suit. She showed me how to put the two pieces of fabric together face-to-face, and using a quarter-inch seam allowance, how to start my project. I did lots of practicing on scrap metal, and once I felt I had the system down, I started in Ron's t-shirts. They were starting to come together. I could see a few flaws, and the lines were not perfectly straight, but I had my first row done, three shirts, side-by-side, separated by two inches of maroon fabric. When Katie came over, I proudly showed her my progress.
Look, my first row is done, unable to hold back my excitement. Katie examined my work, and to say she was not impressed, we'd be putting it mildly. Dad, she said, in a tone that only a daughter could have. You have no idea what you are doing. You have a good idea of giving this to grandma, but why don't you just pay someone to do this for you? This looks horrible. I was taken aback, shocked by her blunt review of my hard work. I sat there for a few seconds, putting my ego in check, and thought about it a bit before responding. Perhaps she is right. I am indeed out of my comfort zone, and the start to Joan's quilt is a little bit sketchy, I had to admit.
But then I responded. Katie, I said, you are right. I could pay someone to make this for grandma, but I don't think it would mean as much to her. I think she would like it a lot more, knowing I made this for her, flaws and all. I'm not so sure Katie was convinced, but I was. In my mind, I knew I had a good idea, and I was determined to see through.
I ain't no quitter. The next day, when I started working on Joan's quilt again, I realized Katie did me a huge favor with her honest assessment. She provided me all the motivation I needed to put this quilt together for Joan.
The competitive side and me kicked in. Not only was I gonna finish this for Joan, but now I was determined to show Katie I could do it as well. I gave myself some more time to practice, and then started back on the quilt, and before I knew it, my first quilt was finished. Yes, it wasn't perfect, but I think it looked pretty darn good, and as with most gifts, it's the thought that counts. Joan was indeed surprised, but she loved it, and to this day, she has it on display in her living room, draped over the back of her sofa, mission accomplished. I put that cheap sewing machine away, never to be touched by me again, out of sight, out of mind. A couple of years later, my son Tim passed away unexpectedly. This time, it was me who came across drawers full of T-shirts.
Tim's two children, my grandkids, were ages eight and two at the time. I didn't want them to forget about their daddy, so my next two quilts were born. T-shirt quilts for my grandkids, with an added twist of photos I printed out with them and their dad, enhancing some of the squares. I started getting this T-shirt quilt making down, and I have to admit, each one was getting a little bit better than the others. I was getting the hang of this sewing thing. I started enjoying it so much, that I began looking for additional reasons to make my next quilt.
I volunteer some of my time at a local assisted living center, and in doing so, I got to know some of the residents quite well. Don is the resident there, became my weekly cribbage partner. I learned how he had a Harley Davidson, and he loved to ride motorcycles back in the day.
He was even a member of a motorcycle club in Montana, along with his friend, Evil Knievel. So one day, I went to a nearby Goodwill store, in search of Harley Davidson's T-shirts. I found a few that I knew would work quite well in his quilt, along with a Harley Davidson leather jacket. Perfect. I purchased these and cut them up, sewing the shirts together, along with the pockets and zippers from the jacket, and I gifted these to my good friend, Don.
His surprise and his smile, that was priceless. But I still only knew how to make the basics at this point. So I stopped into my local Joanne fabric store, and told the friendly lady at the sewing counter, my latest idea, and asked if she could show me how to sew a stitch that I had in mind. Sure, she said. She was eager to show me some of her tricks and shortcuts. She sat me down in her machine, showed me how to start and stop this new stitch, and how to set it up on the machine.
Sit here and give it a try, she said. So I took her practice fabric, and with my hands close to the needle, I started. But suddenly, I screamed, ouch! And I pulled my hand away. The nervous employee yelled, oh no, are you okay? Slightly, I said, just kidding, and showed her my hand was just fine. At first, she gave me a mean glare, but then a few seconds later, she had a big smile instead of with a chuckle.
Nobody has ever done that to me before. Maybe there were not a lot of pranksters in the sewing community, but sometimes I can't help myself. At this point, I had run into a problem. My cheap sewing machine, while it lasted longer than the one quilt I had bought it for, was starting to act up.
It was breaking down. That Christmas, my daughter Katie, the same daughter who I loved so much, and who motivated me with her honest feedback, this precious daughter of mine surprised me and gifted me a sewing machine. Not the cheapest at the store like I had picked out, this one was much more advanced, with many more stitching options. It's even digital, and so much easier to use.
I almost feel like I'm cheating when I use it. As you can tell, I could go on and on, as I have made many others as well. Who would have thunk it? Me, six foot six inch Paul Joseph Bauer, maker of quilts.
That has pretty nice ring to it, and it is a badge I now wear with pride. So anyway, next time you meet a stranger who's built like a middle linebacker or a tight end, and you aren't sure how to break the ice and start a conversation, perhaps rather than asking if he ever played football, you could ask him if he sews quilts. Imagine your surprise if he responds with a resounding yes, and he begins to describe the various quilts he has made, and how he has found an enjoyable way to spend cold Minnesota winter evenings in front of a fancy sewing machine, rather than in front of the television. And a special thanks to Greg Hangler for the production on the piece, and thanks to Paul Bauer, a regular contributor in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
And my goodness, the image of a six foot six gentleman wandering around a Joanne's for himself, and probably alone, is worth the price of that story. And by the way, I admit it, I love to iron. I'll iron my clothes, my wife's clothes, my wife's mother's clothes, my daughter's clothes.
I'll iron the cat if it's possible. The story of Paul Bauer's sewing passion, here on Our American Stories. When the world gets in the way of your music, try the new Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2, next gen earbuds uniquely tuned to the shape of your ears. They use exclusive Bose technology that personalizes the audio performance to fit you, delivering the world's best noise cancellation and powerfully immersive sound, so you can hear and feel every detail of the music you love. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2, sound shape to you.
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