My fingers graze the stash of fabric Grandma has collected for years. One by one we match colors together, switching, rearranging, replacing until it’s perfect, But not too perfect, as Grandma says. Oranges bleed into blues and greens, soon to be connected by careful seams.
Then we measure and cut, my least favorite part. Grandma makes me do it so I can learn. The math doesn’t make sense in my head. I always forget to unlatch the safety button on the roller, what I call the miniature pizza cutter. Cutting takes three times as long because I want the edges to be perfect, But not too perfect, Grandma says over my shoulder.
Next we stitch at the machine I learned on before my foot could reach the pedal. I still can’t sew a straight line. I unstitch, ripping out rhythmic seams, and restitch until it’s perfect. But not too perfect. There is a divot along an edge. Grandma won’t let me fix it. She says it will still work.
Now we press. Steam unfurls from the iron and shines my face. Always fold the light fabric over the dark so it disappears. One round, I forget to do this. I don’t realize Grandma is watching as I try to fix my error. I want it to be perfect, Grandma. But not too perfect.
Quilting comes next. Grandma’s long-arm machine is foreign. I white-knuckle the handles, commanding the stiches like an apprehensive ship captain. Not too perfect, Grandma says as I uncurl my stiff fingers during a break. I know, Grandma, I know.
Last, we bind. I rush. My lines are crooked and twisted and uneven. I surrender the task to Grandma. Even as she takes over, she teaches. She guides the unfinished edge through the machine with an ease I ache to learn. She snips one last thread and says, It’s finished.
It’s perfect, I say when I stretch the quilt across my arm span to see the whole. But not too perfect. That’s how you know it’s made by human hands. By love.