Let’s be frank. Quilting is not easy. It requires that the quilter go through the agony of making a multitude of tiny decisions which may or may not eventually add up to something significant. It demands trips to the fabric store, constant measuring, some second-guessing, some creativity, some basic (or not-so-basic) sewing skills, a dose of anxiety, and if you’re new to the art- an incredible amount of time. What is it exactly that makes us want to sit down with a pile of scraps and create something whole? Why do people who can clearly afford much warmer, much prettier blankets choose to put themselves through the quilting process?
I couldn’t have answered questions like this until I started my first quilt two years ago as a way to celebrate my daughter’s birth. My husband had known for a while that I was interested in getting started with quilting and as a surprise bought me a how-to book from Jo-Ann Fabrics one day. The pattern was for a queen size quilt which didn’t strike me as ambitious at the time because you see… it was my first quilt after all. Now I am informed. Starting small might have been more prudent. It also would have been less adventurous.
Every day after my daughter went down for her nap I pulled out my rotary cutter and my mat and I got to work on that monster. As I finished the blocks I pinned the pieces up on a bulletin board over the sewing machine to remind myself, “You’re doing it! You’re making a quilt!” Finally, the last block was done- I put on the borders and then it sat for a year. A whole year! I was pregnant with #2, we’d had a cross-country move, and other things became higher priorities. Such as entertaining my toddler for example. I have just found someone who is willing to do the quilting for me. Now that I have 2 tiny kids I am realizing that life is too short. It’s the quilt tops that are the fun part. I didn’t set out to make one in order to learn the process start to finish. I just wanted to make a gift for my daughter.
Recently I have found myself wanting to start a quilt for my son who is now 4 months old. It will be a good project to have through this coming winter. One thing no one seems to mention about being a stay-at-home parent is that you put a tremendous amount of effort in to things like laundry and dishes which always need to be done again. Instantly. It’s like the laundry and dishes you did yesterday or even 5 minutes ago never happened. But a quilt- now, that’s something that shows progress- you can count on the evidence still being present the next day, the next year, the next decade. You can present it to your child and tell them, “Hey- I made you this quilt because you’re awesome and I love you. I really do. I love you and I hope that every time you see this quilt it reminds you of that. May you never doubt it, may you never experience a moment’s hesitation, may you always know that YOU. ARE. LOVED.” A mopped floor just doesn’t send the same message.
So there it is. We quilt because it allows us to lock a piece of ourselves in time. Sure, it would be much faster and far less frustrating to make a blanket without first cutting all the fabric into miniscule pieces and then putting it all back together again. But every one of those tiny pieces carries a bit of my soul. I have handled and arranged and cut and trimmed and stitched them all. The quilt is a part of me and I will always be a part of the quilt.
Some quilters might strive for perfection- a color blend that melds together like a sunset or stitching that has never seen an equal. Fancy appliques and frills are not my style. I’m lucky if I do the measuring correctly. For me quilting is a labor of love not for the quilting itself, but rather for the recipient.