I have thought long and hard to try and describe what quiltmaking means to me. Quiltmaking, for me, is more than a hobby, but not a career. Vocation might be the right word. I am not sure. It smacks of the cloister for me and the online definition leans heavily towards trade or occupation.
Quiltmaking has all of the qualities of a good non-work hobby/occupation for me. I can work at it – sewing and piecing. I can study various things about quiltmaking: the history, patterns, techniques. I can meet up with people and talk about quiltmaking as well as engage in group activities around quiltmaking (Sew Days, guild meetings, shows, etc). I can engage one-on-one with people in exchanges, discussions of their projects, or my projects. I can write about quiltmaking, read about it. The list goes on and on providing almost infinite opportunity for occupying my time.
There is so much in quiltmaking on which I can focus that I flit from place to place, trying out different aspects, talking to people, trying out patterns. There is freedom in the art. That has also meant that for some time I was scattered. It resulted in a lot of UFOs and other things. So I started working towards being more mindful about process and tried to lessen the importance of product in my mind and in my quiltmaking. I have been trying to enjoy the journey as well as the finished product. It is always a struggle, because putting that last stitch into a quilt is intensely satisfying. However, it has given me focus. The result of one of those exercises was the abandonment of the PIQF Cross project. The project wasn’t working for me or TFQ and I abandoned it. I just didn’t want to make the blocks. That doesn’t mean I won’t make those blocks in the future, but last Fall was not the time. Process.
Recently, I read a couple of things that really made me think. There were two articles about process by Pat Holly and Sue Nickels. It was interesting read about the process of two artists who work together.
Pat Holly wrote something that really struck me: “I will say, in the end, it is all hand work – my hands draw the design, cut the fabric, hold it in place, and guide it under the machine. And, whatever size the quilt is, it makes my heart happy.” Pat Holly, Inspire column “My Process,” American Quilter, January 2015, pg.62-63.
Hearing about the process other employ makes me think about my process informed by her words. The thought about my hands as tools made me think about ‘handwork’ in a fresh way. According to Pat Holly, I don’t have to always do hand piecing or hand quilting in order to make something by hand. Making it from materials using my hands, even to guide the fabric through the machine, is to make by hand. I don’t know why is was a revelation, but it was an AHA moment.
I visit the YMCA to work out. The Wellness Director writes a newsletter every month and this month (February) was about working on New Year’s Resolutions. She quotes from Dr. Christine Carter, a Sociologist and Happiness Expert in her article about New Years Resolutions: “When starting a new habit, it can be frustrating to fail. But failing is also essential to the process of creating a habit that sticks. Unless you are some sort of superhero, you will not be able to get into a new habit perfectly the first time. And then you’ll have the opportunity to learn something from your failure that you probably couldn’t have learned any other way.
In other words, faltering is a normal part of the process. It doesn’t matter if you have a lapse, or even a relapse, but it does matter how you respond. If you’ve had a slip, don’t get too emotional or succumb to self-criticism.
Take Action: If you’ve started faltering with your resolution, the first thing to do is forgive yourself. Remember: lapses are a part of the process, and feeling guilty or bad about your behavior will not increase your future success. Make a plan for the next time you face a challenge similar to the one that caused your lapse. What will you do differently? What have you learned? What temptation did you face that you can remove? Is there something that you need to tweak? Were you stressed or tired or hungry — and if so, how can you prevent that the next time?” (from a blog post posted Monday January 26, 2015, retrieved 2/19/2015)
Though the post was New Years Resolution focused, a traditional time to start new habits for some, I find it to be relevant in my effort to be healthier. After reading the article, I tried to take a look at it in relation to my quiltmaking. Do I avoid patterns and techniques, because I am afraid to fail? Do I learn less because of it? What does focusing on process mean in terms of failure?
I am not fearless in my quiltmaking, though working towards fearlessness is part of the process. I still am anxious about ‘wasting’ fabric, though the waste in the sense of trying something that didn’t work is, perhaps, not waste. Also, using scraps to fill Cat Beds or cutting scraps up with Accuquilt really help alleviate the feeling of wasting resources.
My health journey has made me realize that I can do poorly today, but tomorrow is a new day. I don’t have to give up on my entire program just because I ate a Snickers bar. this idea sneaks up on me in quiltmaking. Part of the process may be that if a project is going poorly, walk way and get back on the pony the next day. Or it could mean do a test block or a test of the technique, even after starting. It could mean making an ATC using a technique before commiting to a full quilt.
These are the things my mind ponders when left alone in the wild.