The Fabric of My Life, in Three Piles

"Cotton. The fabric of our lives." That's what the ad says. My sewing room says otherwise. I had decided that the room needed yellow walls. But before I could paint, I had to clean. After weeks of mental preparation I was finally ready. I gathered plastic garbage bags and classic- rock tapes and descended the steps to my sewing room.

The first task was sorting through the fabric I had stashed away, just in case. As in "just in case you have to clothe the population of a small town from materials on hand." The preliminary sort produced three piles: projects I intended to make, pieces for the quilt ladies, and I'm-not-sure.

Then came the hard work: reducing the size of the stash. The first pile was small and done quickly. Pile 2 was not small but went fast, too. Pile 3 was neither small nor fast. Which of the pieces of cloth heaped around me could I shed? The green-and-blue patterned wool I bought in Wales? Granted, that was in 1971. I wanted it for a miniskirt to wear with knee-high leather boots and a poor-boy turtleneck I'd bought in London that fall. Since then, time and my young figure have slipped away from me.

The purple Ultra-Suede I bought with Margaret? It was expensive. I've always been afraid to cut it, but I can still envision a vest. The extra 10 yards of lace from Meg's wedding? I didn't want to run out when I was making pew markers. There was half a silk skirt: the first project Becky and I did together. We got to be friends faster than we could sew. And loose-woven wool with a man's vest pattern tucked into the folds. Elizabeth's boyfriend. What was his name?

I found what I needed for the crazy-quilt pillow top I was making. It was to be the ring-bearer's pillow for a daughter's coming wedding. I also found a swatch of embroidery on banana cloth cut from a shirt my husband had worn when he lived in the Philippines, embroidered linen, a handkerchief and spidery lace once owned by grandmothers, and the sash from a sister's tea dress.

I stroked and rearranged pile No. 3 several times before I gave up and decided to store it in the garage while I painted my sewing room.

"The fabric of my life isn't cotton," I thought. "It's wool and Ultra-Suede, silk, lace, banana cloth, linen. Cotton's there someplace, but so's polyester."

The fabric of my life isn't one fiber or one strand. Like the ring-bearer's pillow, my life is pieced from different fabrics, oddly shaped, unmatched - held together by thread and careful stitching.

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