To Quilt or Not To Quilt
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.
My 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.
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.
The 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. 🙂