The Fat Lady Sang in My Studio

I’ve been composing this post in my head for several weeks. I started thinking about it right after the fat lady sang in my studio.

Amalie_Materna_as_Brünhilde_1876_-_IL1Yes, that is the image I see in my head when I think about these past four months. I tried. I tried some more. And then finally the limits of time made me realize it just wasn’t going to happen.

According to Wikipedia, “It ain’t over untilthe fat lady sings is a colloquialism and has been classified as a proverb. It means that one should not presume to know the outcome of an event which is still in progress. More specifically, the phrase is used when a situation is (or appears to be) nearing its conclusion. It cautions against assuming that the current state of an event is irreversible and clearly determines how or when the event will end. The phrase is most commonly used in association with organized competitions, particularly sports.”

Quilting is my sport. I wanted to have a pieced in Quilt National 2017, and the only way that could happen is if I create new work and submit it for consideration. You can’t win, if you don’t play.

It started in May, right after the amazing events of Fiber Art International 2016.

thumb_IMG_3639_1024I did a day by day coverage of the event. These are some of my favorite posts from this year.

Fiber Art International 2016 Thursday
Fiber Art International 2016 Friday
Fiber Art International 2016 Saturday 

My  plan was to work furiously for the next seven months creating three large pieces for my Quilt National application AND writing a book. I had cleared my calendar, and theoretically every minute of every day was mine.  The quilts needed to be done by September 1st, and the book deadline was November 1st. I ran the calculations in my head over and over again and determined it was possible.

Maria Shell Quilt National 1I was out in McCarthy for almost two months this summer most of it without my family. Friends would stop by to entice me to go on adventures. I would tell them—I get to BE in McCarthy, but I don’t get to have FUN in McCarthy. I am working.

Maria Shell Quilt National 2Every morning, I would write and every afternoon I would stitch.

Maria Shell Quilt National 1As I assessed my time, it quickly became apparent that I would be able to complete only one piece for my Quilt National application.  Yes. I could do one.

Maria Shell Quilt National 2Every morning, I tapped on my computer and every afternoon I made bits and pieces.

Maria Shell Quilt National 3Both the book and quilt were new territory—chaotic and exciting. I was to the point where I was dreaming in quilts.

Maria Shell Quilt National 8Computer in the morning, sewing machine in the afternoon.

Maria Shell Quilt National 10I logged more then 200 hours on the quilt, and it still was not done.  The piece was huge—eight feet by eight feet with thousands of pieces—and it still was not done. Time was running past me. Each day a zen experience of focus and fiber.  I truly love being in that state of working all the time without interruption.

Maria Shell Quilt National 11And then the day came. I realized I had made a construction error—the pieces of the quilt were not going to fit together—at least not with each other.  I now had two half-finished quilts.

Maria Shell Quilt National 1I had to choose. Quilt or book? Well, the book was a contractual obligation, and the quilt was simply a desire to play the game. This is when that opera singer showed up and said enough is enough.

fat-lady2I have a hard time understanding that I don’t get to do everything. I am delusional when it comes to understanding how many hours are in a day, and how much I can accomplish with each of those hours.  I sometimes think that because I wish something,  it will be so.

thumb_IMG_2777_1024Do I get to write a book, teach in Valdez, Beijing and Houston this fall, and have a three person show in Florida in December—YES. I do. Do I get to have a piece in Quilt National 2017. NOPE. That is not happening, because I will not be applying.

thumb_IMG_1317_1024I was sad for a couple of hours. My Quilt National 2017 dreams ended early.  It is okay. Now every hour of every day is spent working on the book. I am focused and the work and the writing are truly coming together.

thumb_IMG_4172_1024And the quilt? It is neatly tucked away, waiting for me.

Maria Shell Quilt National 1It will happen. Just not now.

This entry was published on August 20, 2016 at 11:12 AM. It’s filed under Quilt Stories and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

31 thoughts on “The Fat Lady Sang in My Studio

  1. Robi Witulski on said:

    There’s always next year. I learned that a long time ago. You put a lot on your plate, and accomplished an incredible amount of work for three people for one year. I for one can’t wait until your pieces “ripen” and you take them out of their bags and create another masterpiece.

    • Thank you Robi. It is funny, I always think that I am trying to do too much and not really getting anything done, but at the end of the year, I tally up things, and it is always more than I thought it would be. Just constantly working a little bit at a time, can make things happen. And of course, sometimes there are major set backs. Like this one….Thank you for stopping by and commenting!

  2. Sad/happy for you. Nice post. Like McCarthy, you can’t do it all….all the time.😙

    • Thank you Mark! It is so true. You can’t do it all…all the time. But if you pick wisely, life will be full of good adventures. Glad to hear you won Tall Tales. Grandma Patt says she is in hiding.

  3. …and your work on the book will be even better! Good luck

  4. Oh Maria! Each time I read your blog, it is like reading a passage from my own life. (as I say this, I am flattering myself as if I am even close to your standards). There will be another Quilt National after you finish your book. And you will be able to cram enough minutes of your day into finishing your hard work on the quilt you have begun and make 2 or more as well. You are an inspiration with your clothing, your quilts and your teaching. Keep going girl. You are a conqueror.
    PS, I’ll be first in line to buy your book.

    • Thank you Mary. It is good to hear you say that. I always hope that when I share a story, it will resonate with my readers. So it is great for you to say that it does!

  5. Diane Holman on said:

    Love your work and your posts. Where in Florida will you be in December?

    • Thank you Diane! The three person show called Right Lines and Circles will be at the Ormond Memorial Art Museum and Gardens which is in Ormond Beach. I will fly into Daytona Beach. The opening is Friday December 2, and I am hopefully teaching a class there the next day Saturday December 3rd, but we are still working out the details. It would be great to meet you there.

  6. Jean Jankovich on said:


    I know the feeling having a quilt in process and then realizing that the pieces aren’t right together .. Charity quilt time -:)

    I’ve often used that phrase, “that it ain’t over til the fat lady sings!” … Glad you have a strong work ethic!

    Enjoy the book writing process … please keep us posted on your book and enjoy a little sunshine before your part of the world turns dark for the winter!!

    P.S. Glad you are a Bernina gal… They are the best!

    • I love my Bernina 640. I know she is a bit old school and if I didn’t have a long arm, I would consider getting an 820, but my 640 has been so good to me. After all this business wraps up in December, I think I am going to try and find a second one. Yes to sunshine. Thank you Jean!

  7. Sharon E on said:

    There is always next year, and you are so far ahead for that event!

  8. Yes, congratulations on the trip to Beijing. My friend Georgia French is going with you and very excited. She, too, is working furiously on work to take to Beijing. She is also the coordinator for our Master Art Series with Hollis Chatelain in Silverton, Oregon. We finished year eight in June with two more to go. After that, who knows what we’ll do.

    • Wow. Eight years of study. That is super impressive. I am glad to hear that Georgia is your friend. It is a small stitching world isn’t. Looking forward to seeing you in Houston!

      • I should have added what a stellar job Georgia does in organizing the 5-day workshop. When she announced the opportunity in China, the first thing everyone said was how much she had earned it, knowing the work she has done for SAQA and how much we appreciate her.

      • I am looking forward to meeting her! She sounds like my kind of quilter–generous,organized,and adventurous!

  9. Maria, you can’t do it all. And it’s not worth the stress. The book is going to fabulous!

  10. Oh my what a summer you have had, working so hard. Deadlines motivate me to get things done, but take the fun out of the project. So much easier to just have a GOAL and feel the satisfaction of accomplishment when you have reached it. Change that deadline on the quilt to a Goal. The one thing I thought of when you said the 2 pieces would not “fit together” was to enter 2 items. A pair of quilts; hung side by side… 2 panels……
    Your floor looks like mine when I am in the midst of something! I am working on a mosaic and cutting little bits off of blocks and the middle of my desk looks like a scrap heap on my mat! It sounds to me like the book will be fantastic; and your trips too. Try to have some fun along the way! Enjoy the last bit of summer if you can.

    • Thank you Mary. I created templates for the huge quilt and just went about working, working and working. Never thinking that maybe I should give thoese templates a trial run and stitch them together. After making dozens of pieces, I finally did try it and realized that my curve was off! What a senseless mistake. You are right. Goals are better, but deadlines make it happen for sure. I hope you are enjoying your summer too! Fall is here. The winds have come and the leaves are flying everywhere.

  11. Well, I am looking forward to seeing your book and seeing your next fabulous quilt.

  12. Thank you Debby!

  13. savagepinkus on said:

    Okay, so I have to read your blog to find out you’re coming to Florida? Humpf. You’re not sending me engraved invitations? Ha!

    You know… there is this thing, I don’t know if all women have it, but so many awesome great creative women I know have it. I have it. Doitallitis. We think we can do it all. And we probably can, but we might not get to smell enough roses along the way if we do.

    Get that book done, girl! It’s going to be fabulous.

    • Well, it is good to know that I am in good company! But yes. Lounging around eating bonbons once in a while would be nice. I will be sending out info about my Florida visit once I know the final details, but there is a good chance I will be teaching a one day workshop at the Ormondo Memorial Art Museum and Gardens. Thank you for the encouragement on the book. It is exciting and daunting at the same time.

      • Maria, love your post on trying to do it all! And would love to get the details on your being in Florida too! Please let SAQAFL know too, I’m sure there will be many wanting to know. 🙂

      • Thank you Susan! I will for sure let you know the details when they are set. It would be great to connect with some SAQAFL people. I love meeting new people!

  14. I had the feeling all summer that you were pointing your stitching towards Quilt National, but the book, now that was a surprise. I’m looking forward to seeing that because I really enjoy your writing style. Goals are great, but sometimes they need to be readjusted?

    • Penny, I am not sure how much of my writing style is going to show up in this book, but I will say that the new work that I am creating for it is super fun. I am really enjoying that, and I hope my readers will too. It is an experience that has been daunting but exhilarating at the same time. Thank you for your support!

  15. I am still amazed at all that you are doing and have done. Even if you didn’t get the entry for Quilt National complete. A book is a HUGE project! And teaching, and a 3-women show!

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