Beginning Sewing, History of Quilting, The Creative Process

The Quilting Lies I Told Me

A LOGICAL EXCUSE…

One of the most common phrases I hear when I’m demonstrating or talking with perspective students for art, quilting, or any hand craft is,

“I wish I could do that, but I just don’t have the patience…”

And it’s true.  Part of what we have lost in modern society are the values of patience and persistence that are learned through handcraft and cottage industry arts.

CHILDREN LEARNED HANDCRAFT EARLY IN LIFE

The concept that “children should just have time to be children” is extremely new and is leading us towards a society that doesn’t know how to take care of itself.  For millennia, children were part of the family industry from age 4-5 on up.  It is well documented that not more than 100 years ago, children were required to knit a certain amount of rows on a stocking or sew a certain amount on the family tally before they were allowed to go out to play (“No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting” by Anne Macdonald).  They had chores and responsibilities- and it was good for them.  They developed patience and persistence in trying and trying again until they gained proficiency in a skill or craft.  They had pride in being part of their family’s survival and in being depended upon.  They grew up self-sufficient and able to care for younger brothers and sisters at a very early age.

DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT!

So, yes- there’s a reason that so many people today feel like they just don’t have the patience for sewing, quilting, knitting and other forms of handcraft.  They haven’t learned to try and try again, and to keep on trying until they become proficient at a skill because they haven’t been taught.  Fortunately, there’s a cure for that!

  1. Just start- knowing that it’s going to take some persistence at first.
  2. Choose initial projects that are small and quick to finish.
  3. Progress to harder projects that build both skill and your will to work on something that takes more time.

I’M STILL FRUSTRATED…

We are too used to instant gratification in our society today & I think it can have a negative impact on us mentally.  Traditional arts and crafts remind us to slow down and get involved in enjoying the process of something.  They provide healing from modern stresses and mental storms.

That being said, if you do try a form of needle craft and are completely frustrated with it, there may be a reason outside of our new societal norms that many will never consider.  That is to say that different forms of fine art and craft have different intrinsic rewards and it depends on what you are individually motivated by as to what you will enjoy.  What does that mean?  Here are a few examples to help you sort it out.

ENJOYMENT OF THE PROCESS

Someone like myself who likes to take on extremely long term projects (See the waterfall quilt at the beginning of this post!) that are often intricate as well as repetitive is motivated by the enjoyment of the process itself.  This type of person often enjoys the rhythm of the work.  They will likely enjoy knitting and crocheting in addition to hand embroidery or hand quilting.  They don’t mind how long it takes to complete a project.  The process of working on it is the reward itself.

ENJOYMENT FROM COMPLETION OF PROJECTS

Someone like my cousin’s wife is driven by the exact opposite- the completion of a finished project.  She rarely works on more than one project at a time and often makes the same pattern over and over and over again because each repetition of it gives her greater speed.  She feels like she has accomplished something when she completes a quilt or project and flies through several per week!  AMAZING, right?!

HOW WE GET MIXED UP!

I would be extremely frustrated if I took her approach and she would be very discouraged if she took mine.  If you have an interest in something- enough to say, “I wish I could do that,” you probably have a talent in it that can be developed.  The trick is in staying with something long enough to know whether it is simply not the right type of hand craft for you- or if you just need some time to develop your skills.  It takes real courage to let yourself fail at something when you first attempt it and to continue to persist until you can find the joy- whether it is in the process or the completion of the project.

MATHMATICAL 

Think about the kinds of things that you already like to do.  If you are more mathematical and precise, you will probably like something with a pattern and instructions.  You may be one who needs to finish one project before starting another.  You may like the precision of using a machine instead of hand-sewing.  Blocking out time specifically for your sewing might be important in making it an enjoyable experience.  Following the pattern precisely and having perfection in your finished piece is likely to be what gives you satisfaction.  You may become easily frustrated if there aren’t sufficient instructions or if you don’t have a pattern or class to follow.  Or, you may master each step before you start to invent your own patterns or make variations.  You probably get frustrated when someone else doesn’t do it the “right way.”  And that’s okay.  That’s your mojo.  Go with the flow!

Close-up of Yosaic™ Quilting

CREATIVE

On the flip side, if you are more artistic and free-spirited, you may want to learn handcrafts that allow you to make a lot of modifications on the fly.  (Yosaic™ Quilting is great for this!). You’re likely to be someone who has a number of projects going at once- which is perfectly fine!  In fact, once upon a time I thought there was something wrong with me for having so many projects in progress and made myself finish them all before I started new ones.  I have never been more depressed or artistically uninspired in my life!  I discovered that flowing from project to project is what kept my creative juices flowing.  So– good news!  There’s NOTHING wrong with that!  Work it, Girl!  Work it!  You’ll probably carry your projects with you and be perfectly fine with multi-tasking, getting in a few stitches here and there at the ballpark, in a waiting room, or wherever you have a chance.  You’ll see opportunities and ideas everywhere.  Something that has a precise pattern will probably frustrate you.  No worries.  Go with what you enjoy.

THE SECRET…

And, that’s basically the secret.  If you don’t have the “patience” for something that you wish you could do, it’s either the wrong type of art or it’s time to learn patience simply from doing it- the same way our ancestors did for thousands and thousands of years.  If you experiment, you’ll figure it out.  Good luck & have fun!

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