Running Out of Thread

Running Out of Thread

It seems that people are always running out of something these days. They might be running out of time, out of patience, out of money, out of luck. Or, if they are quilters, they could be running out of thread.

For a quilter, running out of thread can be a disaster. Consider: here is a quilt that has been worked on patiently and carefully for three hundred and forty six hours. It is seven-eighth completed, and the quilter is about to stretch her back and rejoice when the inconceivable happens. The thread on the big cone has started to run out! “So, go and buy some more, why don’t you?” some unsympathetic friend might suggest. “There are quilt stores, aren’t there? There is the internet. Stop tearing your hair and get with the program!” However well meant, such advice is useless, for the thread is the last of its kind. Found long ago on sale, it is a discontinued brand with colors that cannot easily be matched. The quilter at this point is… running out of options.

Did you think that quilting was a serene and relaxing pastime? It is. It can also be inspirational, fraught, joyous, frustrating, calming or simply… fun. Any quilter will tell you of days spent battling the tension on the sewing machine, of trudging back and forth to quilt shops seeking the right fabric, and of midnight hours during which a long overdue quilt is finally, finally, finished. That same quilter will also recall wonderful hours spent stitching, talking and sharing in the circle of like-minded friends, or tell of the chance-met enthusiast with a fabulous new idea. This last is fairly common as regard the woman I met on a swaying bridge in the Cloud Forests of Costa Rica. She drew me a machine quilting pattern on the back of a Kleenex, and I have used that pattern a dozen times over.

Quilters share patterns and ideas all the time and often share stories as they go. After all, quilts are not only valued for their beauty but also because they are repositories for small histories. One quilt, perhaps, was made by a great grand mother, long gone but remembered for her sparkling blue eyes and wicked sense of humor. Another might have been bought somewhere along the way from a very old lady who sold the most delicious moon pies on the side. Still another specimen could have come across the sea, the prized possession of an ancestor who left home and family behind but brought all their love stitched into the designs of a quilt.

Many of us have made such quilts for love—love of a child, a grand child, or for the wedding of a friend or a friend’s daughter. Stitching hopes and dreams for someone special is a quilter’s fondest past time, and when that quilt is made, it’s no wonder that an extraordinary energy thrums in the finished product. At other times we all try to turn away sorrow or worry by quilting something for a friend or a sick loved one, a loved one lost or one who has suffered loss, or who is in harm’s way on a distant battlefield. Into those stitches go so many prayers and hopes—be happy, I miss you, be well again, oh, be safe—so that those quilts held their own powerful magic.

Sewing this springtime…
Blind to pattern and color,
Thinking just of you.

Every quilter has a favorite story. Mine happened about ten years ago when our grandson, Ben, was not quite four. He was fascinated with the workings of my machine and, after helping me choose fabric to sew, he volunteered to work the machine pedal with his hands. Every few minutes he would pop up to ask, “How is it going, Grammy?” and I would tell him all was well. And things were going well until I noticed that the rhythm of the machine had slowed considerably. I asked him what was happening, and after a moment’s pause a muffled voice replied, “Grammy, I’m using my head to push the pedal. Isn’t that a good idea?”

We quilters use our hands, our heads, and our hearts. And though we may sometimes run out of thread, we never run out of ideas!

Quilting with grandson
So many years ago
In this sun-warmed room.


About Maureen C. Wartski

I’m Maureen Wartski, writer, artist, wife, mother, grandmother; you can see that I have many of the bases covered. I was born in Ashiya, Japan, a (then) small town which lay cradled between sea and mountains. In the evenings, we would walk along the road that ran past Osaka Bay, and a great moon would rise out of the water to turn the world to silver. I’m told that my first words were, “Big moon!” All my life I have felt the tug to write something, draw something, put together something with fabric, string and color, and the urge to create has grown through the years. I suppose, then, that it’s a natural thing that this blog be full of the things that so many of you enjoy doing…drawing, making something with fabric, and writing. Yuri's Brush with Magic, my newest book for middle schoolers follows the adventures of a brother and sister, the magic of words, and the incredible magic of the natural world. I'd love to hear from you! You can send me a note at: My blog is here: Or friend me on Facebook!

5 responses »

  1. Hi Maureen,

    Just last night, I was looking for a spool of white thread for sewing on buttons. I did find one. Thank goodness mine didn’t have to be a perfect match the spool used earlier.

    I felt like I was right there as you shared your story of quilting with the grandson. You have a real knack for that. I loved the humor of him pressing the foot pedal with his head. Precious! Thanks for sharing those sweet memories.

    Linda A.

  2. Maureen,

    What is a string-pieced placemat? Could you post a picture of one in a later blog post? I love that you made a project together. How special!

    My mom has a small pillow in her den that my son made in home economics class. She treasures it.

    Linda A.

  3. I don’t think I have a photo, but… ‘string pieced’ means that you take strips of different pieces of cloth (they can be the same width or not, but they are of the same length) and sew them together. Later, you can cut these in half and sew them together again. It’s really a fun craft, and you can make all sorts of interesting designs!

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