Why is there GUILT?

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Cups Cups Cups!

Someone asked me why I associate guilt with quilting, a hobby I love.  I discussed this a  little bit a while back but here is more from my pot of thoughts.  So here goes: Quilting has become a form of meditation, as I mentioned before.  An active meditation when I am most absorbed…it takes me away from everyday thoughts of news stories and worrisome things and situations over which I have no control.

With quilting, there is always more fabric to see, there are more patterns to examine and…more recently, many for me to design.  There is math to sort out regarding the size and shape of a project.  There is the focus of color to use.  There is who it might be for or which wall it might grace.  For me, a quilt usually begins with color.  I love looking at fabrics to see different designs and combinations. The rest unfolds like the “focus fabric” from which it is made.   Definition=focus fabric is the main fabric around which a quilt is designed.  It is often used as a border fabric or the center of main quilt blocks.  All of this adds up to spending money…hence, the guilt. Spending money when it is not necessary to one’s survival=guilt, hobby, rewards.

The art of quilting nearly died out in the mid 1900’s.  Thanks to some dedicated hippies and other home-crafters, quilting came back into vogue and the market for new fabrics and designs sprang up quickly.  The United States is full of fabric shops, from huge “big box” stores to tiny mom & pop quilt shops. I believe Great Britain, Canada and Australia also have abundant fabric shops with a great focus on 100% cotton and other fabrics suitable for quilting.  Around the world,  fabric now abounds.  Online fabric adds a whole new array of search possibilities.  Fabric is hip, fabric is IN!

For 35 years, I did not sew at all.  These were years when my children were growing up,toddling around, riding bikes, playing soccer, active in drama and attending school events and teen parties.  For quite a few years after the kids were grown, I ignored fabrics, although I would sometimes admire them when I was in a shop looking for something else, like a button to replace one I’d lost.  When my granddaughter Emma was about 5, I made her a wonderful little dress.  I found I loved looking at fabric just for the joy of all the possibilities.  Next came some Christmas sewing for relatives. I had a very old, functional sewing machine.

Then, about 4 years ago,  I read a book which described the underground railroad. One way people helped runaway slaves during the civil war was to pass oral instructions where they could find a safe passage on their journey north to freedom.  I was fascinated to read that those fleeing were told they would see a quilt hanging outside a house in a certain way, for example over the rail of  a porch as if being aired out.  However, it would really be a flag that it was safe to stay in their barn overnight. It that house were not safe for a few days, no quilt would be on the porch railing.

The people chasing the slaves never learned this secret language but those on the run were able to use it successfully time after time.  Hmmm…Quilts as language symbols.  A new concept to me.  I began to think I wanted to learn to quilt.  And so I did.

Again why guilt?  Because it is so easy to buy expensive fabric.  Because it is so easy to pile up many bags of fabric intended to become a quilt and yet not to keep up with that growing pile.  Guilt because how can something so joyful be free of guilt?  Guilty pleasure because any hobby requires good tools, such as a grand new sewing machine, many sizes of rulers, rotary cutters, thread, batting, patterns, books, etc.

My favorite quilt teacher, Victoria, told us in my Beginning Quilting class:

“Never call rulers, patterns, scissors, thread and other items for quilting ‘NOTIONS’.   Notions are not taken seriously by husbands, fathers, and many others.  TOOLS, on the other hand are taken seriously.  Men understand the need for good tools. Call your essentials for quilting ‘tools’ and you will be taken more seriously.”   Victoria Jones, Portland, Oregon 2008.

In stressful times, I find myself seeking the colors and designs of new fabrics. If things feel tough, it is a great distraction with no real health consequences.  Also, I’ve found that cutting fabric relieves anxiety or stress! It is active, it is productive, it is useful in several ways, and it requires that I use TOOLS!  Some fabrics just draw me in by their pattern or color. Some quilt designs call to me by the unique blending of blocks and angles.  It goes on and on. There are so many gorgeous colors!  And new designs to think up.   look at Paula Nadlestern’s kaleidoscope  quilts.   www. paulanadlestern.com

I love feeling the fabrics.  The chemically induced sheen many fabrics have is still beautiful even though it needs to be washed off. And 100% cotton often feels so great to the hand.  Some fabrics are nubby and some are slightly sand-papery while others feel sleek or soft… it is all part of the array of texture available.

I love the weight of various fabrics, even though I limit myself to 100% cotton. and the various textures. I limit myself to 100% cotton because it makes a really great, easy to wash gently, long-lasting product.  Still within that 100% cotton, there is a lot of difference as I run my hands along the bolts of fabric in a store.

I love the heft of a quilt as it gets larger, has borders added, gets the batting and backing sewn on.  I spread it out across the sewing table, it unfurls with grace.  The weight is a lovely drag to my arms as I lift it. It will make someone a wonderful lap blanket or wall hanging or bedspread. I often wait until a quilt is completed before deciding what to do with it.  Although I often have a good idea as it is made, where it might find a home.  Sometimes I make a specific project as a gift but more often I just make something I love to work on.

People have asked if I will make a quilt for them if they pay me.  The problem is that I would have to be content with their selection of fabrics, even if I did not care for the fabrics or agree with the colors. I might get stuck working on something I do not care for. Also, quilting is a HUGE AMOUNT OF WORK and very time-consuming, there is no way I can see to establish a fair price to put on my labor.  It is easy to figure out how much the fabric, thread, etc costs but to try to get paid for my labor, even at Ecuadorian standards, it would make the end product too expensive.  So I think a quilt I make is a labor of love for various reasons.

In another post I will discuss fabric in Ecuador.

Do not get me wrong.  There is guilt associated with quilting but it is not too much guilt to keep me from enjoying the whole process!

So I go on…quilting as I please… while trying to have some attempt at a budget… and enjoying projects as they catch my interest.  That is best for a serious hobby of a retired woman, don’t you think?

This is a quilt I am making because our daughter is expecting her second baby in November.  This actually will be for Blake, the big brother who is 3. It will have  3 borders added to be just right sized for his big boy bed.  Blake’s Dino Quilt!  There will be an update picture soon.

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3 responses »

  1. Great post. To pick up on one of the many interesting ideas in your post, in my world view there is no need to feel guilt for the tools (or fabric, or anything else) that we purchase, use and enjoy. We all make mistakes. (I have a dresden plate plastic template that I deeply regret buying.) However, purchasing stuff we don’t need and won’t ever use is a sin against the scarce resources of our planet. That’s my view anyway.

    I love your design aesthetic. Lovely work.

  2. Quilting is one of the best hobbies in the world. Another is beading. Both of them require artistic view, creative etc.

    Beautiful quilt photos.

    Have a wonderful day!

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