I’m fortunate to speak regularly with a small group of quilters from across the U.S. The theme this year seems to be cleaning and purging. Two of the ladies did amazing office cleanups and the other two are in the process of moving.
It’s been very motivating to listen to these friends talk about downsizing their stash and giving away what they don’t need. Someday, I will get there. (I might even consider letting go of my rubber stamp collection and my scrapbooking tools!) However this weekend I started on a less emotionally charged path, by cleaning out my closet and giving away clothes that no longer fit.
When we moved to Long Island six years ago, my husband and I left a master suite with a super-sized 8 ft by 11 ft closet ( with generous built-in shelving) for a much smaller 4 ft by 6 ft master closet with a single clothing rack. To make it worse, we moved from the Phoenix desert (where it all we had were warm-weather clothes) to New York (where we have four seasons, including that pesky winter that demands bulky coats and snow boots). So far we’ve had six miserable years with inadequate closet space.
Not any more. Thanks to a recent weight loss, I have virtually nothing that fits. Yesterday I filled 10 grocery bags worth of clothing for charity, and another 4 trash bags full of clothes that nobody else would want. How great it feels to have closet space for clothes that actually fit me!
My friends have been telling me that the purging process is very freeing. I think I have a glimpse of what they mean.
Like many of my friends, I spent much of last week glued to news reports of the sad events at the Boston Marathon. That coverage (on the East coast anyway) eclipsed the horrendous fertilizer fire in Texas, which was a tragedy of a different sort. This morning I’ve put together another packet of information for the IRS, trying to prove that we actually did pay tuition for my son in 2010, because apparently the college’s documents are insufficient.
All of this adds up to stress. I don’t know of anyone who complains that they are lacking stress in their life.
That’s why hobbies are important and I feel so strongly about quilting. I spent yesterday in my sewing room working on a challenge for our local quilt show. I was immersed in creative designs and wonderful fabrics. I was focused, not watching TV, and came away feeling great about myself. For a few hours, I wasn’t worried about terrorism or taxes.
I think that beauty is one of the anecdotes to evil. Our quilts provide joy, comfort and beauty. They make people feel good. The act of creating makes us feel good. There is little that one person can do to heal the world, but I believe that the combined efforts of loving hearts and creative hands can reduce stress, as well as bring some element of peace to our homes and communities.
For the first time in four months, I spent a day quilting! I’d love to say that it felt really good — because emotionally it did — but my body is saying something different. I have been having a lot of hip problems recently and sewing (like everything else I seem to do) aggravated my back. I went online and quickly realized that I am not alone. Here are a few suggestions that I came across:
1. Sew Standing Up. Put your machine on your cutting table and sew away. I know this would take away the pain from sitting, but I think it would be difficult to operate the pedal without putting more weight on one leg than the other.
2. Use a 3-legged stool. One woman learned to sew on a 3-legged stool. This forced her to keep her back straight or risk unbalancing the stool. While this seems like a reasonable idea, the thought of sitting on hard wood — instead of an upholstered seat — is painful.
3. Use an exercise ball instead of a chair. This engages your core muscles and is supposed to be much healthier than a traditional chair. However I doubt that I’m coordinated enough to balance on a ball and use the sewing machine.
4. Take lots of breaks. This is already part of my routine. I keep my ironing board a few steps away to ensure that I get some exercise.
5. Don’t forget about heat and ice. Again, already a part of my routine.
6. Seek professional help. I’ve been seeing an osteopath, an accupuncturist and a massage therapist. Seriously. Do I need anyone more on my medical team? However I decided to consult a physical therapist and see if he has anything to offer me.
7. Medication. I have some drug allergies and can’t take aspirin-related products. That is definitely a shame because I know that anti-inflammatory medications can be a big help.
On the upside, I got the quilt top finished for an upcoming show. I wonder if the design will reflect my pain!
Yesterday I returned home from the Creative Arts Business Summit just outside of Washington DC. This was an amazing group of women who earn their living in the quilt industry — shop owners, longarmers, pattern designers, pattern testers, notion salespeople, and more.
One of the themes of the 3 day conference was “collaboration.” We soon realized that each pattern designer or quilt shop owner or longarmer has something different to offer. We are stronger working together than apart.
A great example of this philosophy is Shop Hops. Many would wonder why quilt shops in a geographic area would work together and promote each other. Yet each shop has different lines of fabrics and sells different patterns. A shop focusing on batiks is not really in competition with a modern quilt shop or a shop that sells mainly Americana fabric, yet shop hops get new customers exploring each location. As we know, many of these shoppers do not leave empty-handed! Working together increases the size of the quilting pie, rather than focusing on just increasing your small slice. More great patterns lead to more fabric sales, which leads to a greater demand for for batting and binding, which leads to more work for longarmers. When projects are finished, quilters begin the process again and everyone benefits.
Quilting’s roots is in collaboration. Women gathered around frames to create finished quilts for their friends and family. Not only did these “many hands make light work,” but it also nourished women’s souls. This philosophy excites me and will ultimately benefit all of us in the quilting world.
One thing I like about quilting is that I know how to do it. I’ve mastered the 1/4″ seam and mostly sew straight lines. I understand how to use the rotary cutter and know how to use my sewing machine. So when I decide to make a new pattern, I’ve already mastered most of the skills and can enjoy the challenge of the 5 percent of the project that is new to me. Quilting is relaxing and fun.
I had the total opposite experience this weekend trying to learn Photoshop (a software package). Actually, I didn’t want to take time to learn it … I just wanted to create a banner for my blog. I hadn’t used Photoshop before and wasn’t familiar with the software or most of the terms. EVERYTHING was unfamiliar and I was incredibly frustrated. Finally I decided to beg my daughter for help and put “Learn Photoshop” on my to-do list.
The Photoshop experience made me realize how important quilting is to me. It’s hands-on. It involves touching and feeling and creating something real. It’s such a needed change from my work day, which now revolves around a computer and a cell phone.
The weekend also reminded me how long it takes to learn the basics — and how frustrating that period is. I know that I’ll eventually arrive at a point of competency with Photoshop. But, quite honestly, I’d rather be quilting.