I am a quilter. And like most quilters my fabric stash is out-of-control by most normal standards, which means by anyone’s other than another quilter. I know I will never live long enough to completely use up all of the fabrics I have, yet I continue to buy more. I also know that there are some fabrics in my collection that I will never use to make a quilt. I won’t ever have the heart to cut into them.
Now here’s the part no quilter will ever tell you: half the pleasure in quilting is the buying, half is the pleasure of looking at what you’ve bought and the other half is spending time in the company of other quilters who share your obsession. The final half is the pleasure of a finished quilt. Now don’t even try to tell me that I’ve got too many halves in there. The sum total for quilters is always more than one. To tell the truth, we’re all a bit insane.
We join quilt groups, visit quilting stores, and take quilting classes. We travel in clumps to shop hops and change our mind when asking for a half yard of fabric to say, “No, make it a yard… no, two.” Scissors aren’t good enough for us. We buy rolling cutters and mats to slice and dice (literally) our fabric faster. I’ve been known to spend $13 on a spool of thread… mind you it’s a large spool. But once you’ve sewn with the best thread, all of your other discount spools will not satisfy.
Now here’s the funny part. The actual process of quilting is demanding, requiring sewing, ripping out, re-sewing, measuring three times to cut once and then go out and buy more of that fabric because you cut it wrong. More sewing, more ripping. Ask a quilter about seam rippers and even the best ones can go on forever about which ones they like and why.
It’s hard work to make a quilt. Your back hurts and your eyes go blurry. Sometimes you just have to stop in the middle because the instructions don’t make sense or you’re getting it wrong or you just don’t like the way it looks or if you have to sew even one more little bitty seam you’re likely to hurt someone. But even as you walk away you know you’ll be back. Because the pleasure of a finished quilt helps you forget the torture of the process.
And you know that every time you sit down to quilt it’s a continuation. We are sisters with our foremothers who ripped and cut and sewed old clothes to make coverlets that kept their family warm through cold cold winters with no central heating or double-paned windows or that pink insulation stuff. Quilts were made with little bitty pieces because even a scrap couldn’t go to waste – fabric was so precious then. And they were beautiful. Because as women we hunger for beauty even when we’re cold, tired and have to use up every little scrap.
Sometimes I wish I could go back to those women and say, “Here, here’s my fabric stash. Help yourself. I can buy more.” I’d even let them take those fabrics that I don’t have the heart to cut into. Because that kind of beauty is made to be shared.
So you see the community of quilters goes way back before the days of shop hops and $13 spools of thread. And every time I sit down at my sewing machine or in my comfy chair to finish hand-sewing the final binding, I am one with those amazing women. And I am in awe.