Most of my quilt blogs are about techniques and skills and quilt history. They may also feature pictures of beautiful quilts. I’ve gotten fairly personal in a few of these blogs – you’ve known about my dad’s death, my mom’s health, and my brother’s cancer. One year my daughter’s cervical cancer was front and center most of the time. My readers have encouraged me, prayed for me, and lifted my spirits so much.
Right up front, I want to say this is one of those personal blogs. In November, I’ll hit one of those milestone birthdays – the kind which end in a zero. I’ll give you a hint, it’s between 50 and 70. You know, you don’t really plan on getting older. I mean, you may plan for retirement, but somehow your brain doesn’t cash the check your body is aging and changing. What’s even more telling is your brain doesn’t allow for the fact your family and friends are aging, too. When you run into someone you haven’t seen in a while, it’s always a shock when you discover they’ve gotten older just like you have. Somehow, at least in my brain, time stands still. These people and places I may not have seen in years are encased in a timeless bubble of how they looked “then”, and I’m always surprised how they look “now.”
Time wrote me a reality check this week and it was difficult to cash. Health-wise, I’m fine. I could stand to lose a few pounds, but overall, I’m good. So, this isn’t about me. This week I found out a wonderful woman I worked with years ago passed away. During the time we were both employed at the same place, we were close. Her son took karate from my husband. There were eight of us (all women) at this place of employment who were very good friends. Eventually, we all left. And as time and circumstances ultimately do, we lost touch. We got together for lunch sometime in the mid-2000’s, but then… nothing. Eventually one of us moved to Georgia. One to Virginia. One to Ashville. One to Charlotte. One to Sparta. Last week, the group got together again, sans me – who couldn’t for a variety of reasons. And it was through searching for one of our group, we discovered she passed away.
Fast forward into the next week. I’ve explained I grew up in a small town and I attended a small high school. We have an active Facebook alumni page which I regularly receive alerts from. I generally know which class is having a reunion, whose grandkids are attending the same high school, and all the little things that make living in a small town and attending a small school so wonderful.
I also receive alerts about who’s passed away. And since it’s a small school in a small town, even if this person has graduated years before me, I know them. I may not know them well and it may have been years since we talked, but I remember them. This week, there was another notice. A man from the class of ’74 died. I knew him. Knew his sister and both his younger brothers. One of those brothers was in my graduating class.
You may be asking why did these deaths hit me so hard when I hadn’t seen them in years?
They were both in their 60’s.
It was sobering moment.
It made me stop and take stock in myself. Who I am. What I want to accomplish. What I want to leave behind. All those questions I need to answer truthfully at this point in my life took front in center. What I need to throw out. Relationships I need to foster and grow and those I truly need to release.
So, what does all this have to do with quilting? If you’re what I call a “Passionate Quilter” – someone who quilts regularly, feels your best when you’re interacting creatively with the art, lives for the fellowship of other quilters, and all of this holds a nearly sacred place in your soul – it means stop procrastinating.
Stop putting your quilting last. Housework will be there tomorrow. So will laundry. You may have to work for a living (if you aren’t retired), but that doesn’t mean your occupation defines your life and most of your time. Creativity is as necessary to the soul and spirit as water, coffee, and wine. It sees you over rough patches and can be part of a foundation when you can’t see your way.
Fellowship with your quilting friends. I’m not trying to be sexist or inconsiderate here, but let’s face it: the majority of quilters are women. Women need other women at every point in their lives. Our circumstances may shift and change, but most of the time – no matter where they’re at – women build networks with other women. We need these webs of friendship and fellowship for many reasons. Support. Encouragement. Laughter. And I’ve found as I’ve gotten older, I need my girlfriends more than ever. There are things I can’t discuss with my mother, daughter, or even Bill. But I can with the group of women I quilt with. And they give me honest (sometimes brutally honest) answers. They call me out when I’m wrong. They love me when I’m unlovable, cry with me when things go wrong, and support me when I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. They’ve brought meals to my daughter when she was sick as well as gifting her with a quilt. As women get older, their lives change. Spouses may die, kids move away, parents are gone…but friendships with women your own age support a solid foundation of good mental health…shenanigans…and usually a glass of good wine (or two). Think Golden Girls with a quilt studio.
Stop putting off making the quilts you want to make. I realize on the surface this can sound kind of selfish. As a whole, quilters are givers. We make quilts for family and friends. We make them for cancer patients and kids and babies. Honestly, we’ll make a quilt for just about anybody. It’s who we are and what we do. And this is great. But don’t let that stop you from making a quilt just for you. In the pattern you want. In the colors you love. With the technique you’re the best at. If you want to try a harder pattern or a new technique – go there fearlessly. If pushing yourself makes you happiest, do that. If you want something you can mindlessly stitch while watching TV or listening to an audio book, do it. In all of our selfless giving to others, remember to take some time to take care of yourself.
Cut the fabric. All of us have that one piece of fabric. It’s beautiful. It may even be on the expensive end of our fabric purchases. With me, it’s within an easy arm’s reach. Looking at it makes me feel a little happier. I love the colors and the design. Chances are, you have a favorite piece of fabric in your stash, too. My question now is, “Why is it in our stash and not in a quilt?” If you’re like me, you think it may be too beautiful to cut. Or I’ll cut it wrong. Or once I use it up, I may never find another piece of fabric I love as much.
Cut the fabric.
Life is too short not to. If you don’t cut it up and use it, after you die, no one will cherish it quite like you do. There’s a good possibility it’ll end up in an estate sale for pennies on the dollar or even worse – Goodwill. Find a pattern or make one. Cut the fabric. Put it in the quilt and love that quilt. Then at the end of things, you can pass it on to someone else who will love it and appreciate it because you loved and appreciated it and it’s part of who you were.
Appreciate your skills and talent. Nearly every time I compliment a quilter or hear one complimented, the usually the first sentence out of that quilter’s mouth is something like, “Thanks, but look at the mistake I made over here…”
I think quilters (or any other artist for that matter) should recognize what and how long it took them to get to the point they’re at today. It took hours of learning and practice and pushing ourselves to obtain certain skill sets. That is not something to be shrugged off or taken lightly. It took time and patience and determination. Don’t wave off a compliment. Accept it. Say thank you. Perhaps offer to show the person how you made the quilt.
But above all else, recognize your talent and skills. You weren’t able to order them off Amazon. You worked hard to obtain them.
Live is short, quilter friend. Make the quilts you want to make. Fellowship with your quilty friends. Acknowledge your talent and the skills of others. Take chances. Push yourself. Don’t allow anyone but yourself to define your own quilting journey. And at the end of it, you’ll know you made some beautiful quilts, maybe even used them to comfort others. You’ll have a ring of friends who will mourn your loss as an artist and friend. The skills you worked so hard to develop will be passed down to others and continue to be explored and perfected even more. Maybe your quilts will hang in a museum. Maybe they’ll live on to comfort your child, grandchild, or great-grandchild when you’re gone. They may be the only “hug” a foster child, cancer patient, or abused woman has. Be fearless….be bold…
And go cut that fabric.
Love and Stitches,
Sherri and Sam