I’m going to steal some words for this post from a podcast I listened to recently: this is not a “how to” blog, this is a “why to” blog. Although, I do intend to pass on some crafty wisdom, I created this blog to explore the “why” (a true student of my man Simon Sinek – look him up). What is our craft and why do we do it? What is it about whittling, or canning, or jewelry-making or say… quilting that brings us to life? That calms us down and amps us up all at the same time.
Stressful moments seem to be more common in our day and age. Road rage, due dates, sales targets, staff cuts, report cards, long shifts, bad hair days (amiright?). We are pulled in every different direction, and we are expected to perform better, work longer, complain less, hold stronger. We are expected to be superheroes. But even superheroes have crafty hobbies: Bruce Wayne collects and reads old books, Clark Kent scrapbooks (this has not been independently verified, but it sounds cute), Peter Parker – some could argue – is pretty damn good with spandex, a needle and some thread. So go sew your own cape and get on board! Arts and crafts, after all, have been found to improve mental health. This study found that people who knit, crochet, paint, draw, bake, write creatively, perform music (pick your poison) report feeling happier, calmer and more energetic the next day.
When I’m really feeling like I need a break, quilting is it for me. Something about sewing makes stress slip away. I’ve been sewing almost since birth. My family owned so many old school Singer sewing machines, how could I not. Family heirloom quilts line the shelves in our family cottage, sewing trinkets are treated like gold, old pairs of shorts were repurposed into makeup bags, corduroy jumpers were always hand-stitched; sewing is in my blood. I used to sell purses to my Grade 9 classmates (once I even traded an original purse for a pair of jeans), and weeks ahead of Civvies Day I would start sewing my own, unique outfit. I was even voted “most likely to start her own clothing line” at senior prom. At the time, the award seemed like a glaring mistake next to the “most likely to become a weather girl” award I’d been eyeing, but now I think it makes a lot of sense. If you plop me down in front of a sewing machine I can keep my wild imagination entertained for hours. The world fades away as the fabric feeds.
I may be new to quilting, but what draws me to it isn’t new. I’ve always been fascinated by creating, by imagining a pattern and bringing it to life; creating a really beautiful something, out of a very plain and normal nothing. With quilting, I can take some black and white fabric and make magical patterns. I can dream it up in my head and then cut, sew, press and quilt it into life. And like in life, it’s not always perfect. Sometimes you work for hours one something (like last night’s 12-inch “Owl Block”) and it just doesn’t quite fit together. And. That’s. Okay. With crafting, the joy is in the journey.
“Now you understand knitting,” I can hear my mom saying. I remember how horrified my dad used to look when she would rip out row upon row upon row of an almost fully-knitted sweater because of one little flaw she missed along the way. The joy is in the journey. Elizabeth Gilbert (read “Queen Liz”) would call this the ‘shit sandwich’ that comes with your craft. Every passion, she argues, comes with its own lousy side effects. “Because if you love and want something enough—whatever it is,” spouts Queen Liz. “Then you don’t really mind eating the shit sandwich that comes with it.”
Quilting has turned craft time into craft therapy. After wrapping hand-me-down string lights around a scratchy, hand-me-down, fake Christmas tree for the third time last night, only to find – again – that half of the lights were out, I was ready to blow. Ready to take that 30-year-old wire and shove it into the garburator while still plugged in, with the water running (is there anything more annoying than things that plug in and don’t work??) and shred it to smithereens. “Choose polka dots,” my husband chimed in. Apparently, that’s our new code for “you’re being kind of a nut job, maybe you should go quilt or something?”. So, I stomped my way down to the basement craft nook and about two hours later I had completely forgotten what I was upset about. Quilting calms me. Quilting gets me. Quilting is my soul sister. Quilting gives and doesn’t ask for anything in return. Quilting doesn’t ask me how I’m doing, it just gets to work. The block I was building didn’t even work after all, but I don’t regret the hours lost making it, because they aren’t lost hours. The joy is the the journey. And in this newly one-year-old loving his birthday quilt.
So, what’s your quilting?