Quilting Retreat: Planning or Resisting?

To Quilt or Not To Quilt

Antique Quilts

Antique Quilts (Photo credit: Quiltsalad)

It was only a few weeks ago, when I was getting ready to pack up my quilting and accept the fact that I simply didn’t have time for it in my life right now. And as I wrote that post on new year’s day, it came to me that packing up my quilting stuff to eliminate the constant pressure of NOT getting to it, didn’t mean that I had to give it up entirely. I just needed to “contain” it, by giving it some pockets of time. That way, I could still look forward to enjoying some quilting time, but not feel frustrated by seeing everything out on a day-to day basis. Some quilting time would definitely be better than no quilting time. Right?

So I set up a couple of days during this semester break for a personal quilting retreat. This is self-directed. No one expecting me to show up somewhere at a specified time. No retreat leader or other participants to wonder where I am if I don’t show up. I only have to show up to the cutting table and the sewing machine on Thursday morning–36 hours from now.

But I have mixed feelings it. While I’d like to get back to quilting, I feel like the three writing projects, along with the textbook project, are all pushing on me–deadlines looming. And while these deadlines are real, my willingness to abandon a play-date with quilting without a fight seems a little suspicious. In fact, now that I think about it, even though I originally protested the idea of packing up my quilting stuff (and just getting it out for just such planned occasions), packing it up turned out not to be that big a deal. So what to I want? To think about quilting? Or do I want to quilt? Something is definitely going on.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy first clue came about a week ago, I was looking at my fabric stash, arranged in cubbies behind my work desk. Whenever I’m working on my teaching or writing projects, I can just turn in my chair and see the colorful fabrics behind me. I love looking at the colors and dreaming about the possibilities of the quilts that could be created with these fabrics. But on this particular day a week ago, I had a surprising thought about my fabric stash.

I’m not really sure I want to cut into my stash!

What?! Isn’t that what a fabric stash is for? Since it’s impossible to quilt without using some fabric—presumably from my stash, I needed to explore where that thought was coming from. I took a new journal that I had been saving for something “special,” and I headed to my neighborhood coffee shop to do some exploratory writing.

Quilting Memories

I started by thinking about how focused I had been on putting together Logan’s quilt top during the semester break last year–wait TWO years ago! Of course, I already knew about this time difference before writing the post, but this was a major discovery in my journal. How I thought that it had just been a year since the last time I had done some serious quilting, but it’s already been two years. In other words, when I first made the decision to bring my quilting to Taiwan and picked up some fabric, it was for Logan’s quilt. I put it together a few months later, and with a few minor exceptions, that’s been it. What a wake-up call!

Another discovery from my journal was my inability to settle on a project. I am looking at ideas now, but I was reminded that my last couple quilting times were less than satisfying. First, I was inspired to try some techniques I found in Rule-Breaking Quilts by Kathryn Schmidt. While I really enjoy the quilts in the book, my attempts haven’t been too exciting thus far.  My expectations might be too high. Or I may have just given up too soon. My time was limited after all. If I give it another go, and just RELAX about it, maybe it will be more satisfying.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe second project I tried recently involved a set of 18 pinwheel blocks that I made years ago. This is me with one of the pinwheel blocks on my last fabric-finding mission. A couple of months ago, I had pressed all of these blocks, FINALLY squared them off, and was going to finish piecing the last few odds and ends I had. But I couldn’t get my seams to line up. I couldn’t find my seam ripper. I was trying to hard to make time for quilting; almost like crossing it off my to-do list, rather than just enjoying the experience. Plus, I can’t decide what to do with them next. I have started to look at a few pattern ideas, and maybe I’ll actually take the plunge and just enjoy the moment.

I’m noticing a theme here, one that showed up in my journal in a startling way. I started the journal to explore why I was reluctant to cut into my stash. Why do I hoard and collect fabric and color only to hesitate to cut into it? What is the point of a stash that won’t give way to creation? And here’s what I wrote:

Maybe it’s not breaking-up the collection as much as the fear of doing something that isn’t good enough! Good enough for whom? Wow! Who am I trying to impress?

Quilting is a hobby, a break from the stress. I need to stop building pressure into it. Who wouldn’t want to avoid two days of evaluative play time? How can I enjoy myself if I have hidden agendas about what it means and what the results should be? I don’t plan to teach quilting. I’m not planning to enter contests. It’s just supposed to be fun?

Am I resisting fun?

There was a time in my life, before going to graduate school when I made a point of taking a fun break every week. It might be a day to go look at fabric, or a museum, breakfast out, and coffee, meet with a friend. Spend time on crafts. Try new recipes! Read a book! There were lots of choices. I even kept a journal about the ways to keep fun in my life. Go back to the past when I intentionally included fun in my life. I’ve gotten too far away from it. Fun has become expendable.

I feel so stressed at the moment, that I feel like I want to get more of a handle on things before the retreat. I think if I plan play with the idea a little bit more, taking a few minutes each day for the next week, I might enjoy it more. I can find patterns and fabrics I want to explore. I can take a little more time to write about what I want to try. I can focus on process instead of product, and exorcise some of the crazy anxiety that I seem to have about somehow “doing it right,” whatever that means.

If you’ll excuse the pun,it becomes important to “patch” up my relationship with quilting. I have many good memories associated with it. It’s time to recapture those, and figure out where all this negativity is coming from. I have left quilting behind several times, and it always draws me back. Now that I’ve made these discoveries, another week might allow me to approach the quilting retreat with a more playful attitude. I can take time to determine what quilting activities I want to do, what fabrics I want to use, look through patterns. Get a little more self-directing about what will happen while still maintaining the fun and spontaneity. The last thing I need right now is one more thing on my to-do list. That is not the role I want quilting to have in my life.

Anyone want to cast their vote or opinion into the mix? Am I just putting off my quilting yet again, or is it a good idea to “retreat” and regroup for a more thought-out experience. Perhaps an oxymoron.

Stay tuned to Friday’s post to find out what I decide.  🙂

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3 comments on “Quilting Retreat: Planning or Resisting?

  1. I think you’ve been focusing on work so much that you’re basically making quilting into a job too – which is why you’re resisting it and feeling anxious about it. Although it should be fun, creative, and exploratory, you have already made a to-do list for quilting (see the second to last paragraph: (1) determine what quilting activities I want to do; (2) what fabrics I want to use; (3) look through patterns.) I think before you start quilting you need to clear out some things on your actual job to-do list – and avoid the temptation to add more things to the list as soon as you cross one off. This will allow you to relax and look at a quilting not as a job but as a fun, creative pursuit. It may help your to-do list jobs too – here is my reasoning. It is obvious that jobs/to-do lists/left brain activities have influenced your fun/creative/right brain activities. If you allow creativity it’s proper place in your life, it also might be able to impact the to-do lists in a positive way – new ideas and ways of looking at things, forgiving yourself when something isn’t perfect, and seeing the beauty – not just the utility – of containers. 🙂

  2. At the risk of over-simplifying, I’m going to suggest that if quilting itself (rather than the idea of quilting) were really important to you, you’d be doing however much of it you could do instead of thinking and writing about it. I’m not working on either of my novels right now even though writing has always been a passion for me because fiction writing is simply not a good fit with the rest of my life right now. I know why it doesn’t fit and there’s no way I can force it to fit, but I’m working on making some structural changes that will create room for it. Until then, I’m content to visit my fiction and do other kinds of writing to keep my hand in. 🙂

  3. Pingback: Keyword: Fun (Compliments of my daughter, Kate) « Container Chronicles

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