Sometimes, quilting seems like magic. You start with these large pieces of fabric (which, if you’re fortunate, have been curated by someone else with a fabulous sense of color savvy). Then you cut them up into smaller pieces, sew them together again, and voila, you have a quilt! It reminds me of labor and birth. You forget all about the hard work of the production when the final project is resting in your hands.
I got a new camera recently, so I’m spending more time taking pictures of my quilting process. This is mostly so I can improve my social media game, but there’s been an interesting outcome: I’m remembering the whole process better. I’m remembering the fun of choosing fabrics. I’m also remembering the problems I encountered cutting out a gazillion 2-inch half square triangles. And now I can’t forget the number of times I refilled my bobbin while I paper pieced at 1.5 inches stitch length. More importantly, taking pictures is slowing me down in the quilting process.
You might think, why is slowing down a good thing? Don’t you want to make as many quilts as fast as possible?! Surfing Facebook or Instagram, crushing over all the beautiful fabrics and quilts other people make definitely makes me want to hurry and get on to the next exciting project, the next gorgeous fabric, the next amazing pattern. But really, is that what creating is all about?
I’ve also spent time listening to podcasts on Etsy, learning to be a more successful seller on the platform where I sell my quilts. In between the really helpful information about SEO, key words, and product branding, I’m reminded of the value of handmade crafting—not just for the buyer but for me, the seller, as well. It’s meaningful, worthwhile to craft things by hand. I’m using my talents and skills to create a product that other people will appreciate and value. It’s fulfilling, and sometimes just plain fun. There are days when I get up in the morning and think to myself, “I get to quilt today!”
In my favorite old movie, Local Hero, there’s an old man, Ben, who lives on a beach in Scotland. He “works” the beach to survive, collecting all the flotsam and treasures the North Atlantic drift sends his way. A high powered salesman wants to buy the beach, and tells Ben he’ll give him a new beach anywhere in the world if Ben will sell him this beach. Ben peruses the pictures of the lovely beaches around the world, but observes that there’s no “living” to be had from those beaches, nothing to do. “You won’t have to work, you’ll be a millionaire!” exclaims the salesman. “Oh, aye, we all have to work somewhere” says Ben.
Work is more than just a job, bringing home a paycheck and providing for our family’s needs. And my work—at least the quilting part of my work (I wear several different work-hats these days)–is more than simply the act of making and selling quilts. Quilting is a way to express my creativity. I derive personal value from it, and most of all it brings me joy. Of course, I’m thankful for the income it provides, but if I spent my time madly creating and selling quilts, I’d lose my love for the craft pretty quickly. Slowing down and enjoying the process is so important, instead of what we’re often tempted to do…anxiously looking ahead to the next project or technique to be conquered.
If you’re feeling stress around your own work, whether that’s quilting or something else, I encourage you to stop and ponder why you do what you do. Why did you start? Why do you continue? Is it still bringing you joy? If not, why not?
Here’s to joy in our work lives,