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The best therapy there is…

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

This is my first quilt – begun in San Francisco in 1990 and finished in Zürich in 1993. I hand quilted it and really truly spent three years on the endeavour. I still love it, but live in dread of having to wash it as in my ignorance I didn’t pre-wash the red fabric and I just know that it isn’t going to prove to be colourfast 🙁

If I add together the hundreds of hours that I spend making a quilt and even at minimum wage evaluate what this is worth, my quilts start to reach the value of the Mona Lisa. Over the last few years though, I have come to the conclusion that whatever else I could have done with that time, time spent quilting is time well spent. Quilting has serious mental health benefits. Maybe it isn’t so beneficial for my eyesight or my back problems, but, when it comes to maintaining my sanity, boy it’s right up there!

When my children were very small and I lived in a chaotic haze of exhaustion and small-child related mess, ten minutes snatched quilting time before bed or when the kids were napping was enough to reassure me that there was still life out there. I drew enormous amounts of satisfaction from a few inches of fresh quilting. Those inches were the measurement of what I had done for myself that day.

Now life has calmed down a lot; the kids are in school and I can claim an hour or two of quilting in between the ballet run and the fencing club. It still feels good, but maybe it isn’t the snatched lifeline that it once was. Life is still busy, but in a different way, and I have come to value that quilting keeps my feet right on the ground. Nowadays, my days are characterized by the multitasking required of the modern mom. The joy of quilting is that it refuses to be multitasked and that for once I have to slow right down and luxuriate in being able to concentrate on just one thing!

I need to take a step out of the hectic modern world of instant gratification –– to do something that is creative, but won’t necessarily be done by the end of the afternoon. Time spent quilting is a treat and not an obligation – and quilting by hand or stippling on the machine is really rather like meditation. The slow repetitive movement is both soothing and calming. I have to concentrate enough to keep the stitches even  and my mind just automatically slows down. The only thing I can actually manage to do at the same time as quilting is listening to an audio book or the radio. I reckon that makes quilting one of the best relaxation exercises around.

I hope that when I make a quilt for someone, they realize how much of my life has gone into it and of course I expect my quilt to be the one item they would rescue out of a burning house. I hope, and tell my children frequently, that my quilts are heirlooms, which they must treasure and pass down to their children and grandchildren – never forgetting of course to tell them of the wonderful woman who made it. Is quilting my route to immortality? Maybe it’s the best chance I have.

A little regular quilting does more for my psychological well-being than almost anything else I know. Now when I come to think of it, adding up the hours of therapy I have saved, maybe my quilts don’t seem so expensive after all.

Helen

8 Responses to “The best therapy there is…”

  1. Susan Says:

    I didn’t get a chance to comment on the last post. But you are right in your quilting assessment. I took it up because it was for me and only me. It gave me something back of my lost individuality that went when I became a stay at home mum. And regarding the messy house thing you spoke about. I gave up. I can deal with my mess – it’s mine, I made it and I an clean it up. It is everyone else’s mess that does my head in. They dump stuff everywhere and as this is an English house it totally fails to provide storage. Oh for a house with a full basement and closets in just about every room!!

  2. Linds Says:

    Ditto to absolutely everything. When someone asks how long it takes to make one of my quilts, the look of disbelief is really amusing. You have to be a quilter to “get it” – the hundreds of hours. But yes, it is therapy and a life line. I will love it for the rest of my days. The hand stitching……

  3. Kathy E. Says:

    Wonderful thoughts in this post today, Helen! If you don’t mind, I will place a link on my blog to send others here. You have expressed so well why we do this thing called “quilting”.

  4. Tracey Says:

    Do you have “color catcher” cloths in Switzerland? They look like washcloths and attract loose dye in the wash, to keep it from landing on other items. It sounds wierd but they really do work – I invested in a few of them when my sons were learning to do laundry. They might be some insurance if you really need to wash that gorgeous quilt.

  5. Katy Says:

    You need a pack of Dylon colour catchers, ideal for your washday sanity, and readily available in the supermarkets over here, so you can grab some in London if they’re not available there (look near the washing tablets, Vanish and related products)

    For the rest of your sanity, I’d like to say quilting and sewing and other creations rescues mine, but the best I can say is it nails me to a chair for a fixed period of time so I’m not running around like the proverbial blue-arsed fly! I do find paper piecing on a Friday after work and tearing the bits off at the end strangely therapeutic though… 😉

  6. MelD Says:

    I think any lovingly made crafts are priceless and appreciate every stitch or motion that went into them – probably why I’ve learnt to only make things for family and friends who see that!! Then I am happy to be generous… Perhaps this is something we learn early on, watching our grandmothers/mothers/aunts bent over their crafts and being made aware of the personal value and skill involved.
    I think my sanity has been saved many times over by the even pace of domesticity, no matter what particular activity it is. Except the results from crafting are so specactular – you have some gorgeous and amazing quilts to show for all that concentration and time spent!! And you can’t frog a quilt… (says she, as she finishes unravelling a sweater in order to start again with a more suitable pattern!!!)

  7. diane stanley Says:

    I totally agree. I quilt because I think it is one of the few things I think I do well. I don’t have a lot of in person friends who quilt so this community helpd keep me sane and keeps me quilting. Thanks for this post Helen

  8. Fleur Cotton Says:

    I don’t quilt very often, but I do knit and I always say this is my therapy…also makes me feel less guilty when I buy some more wool for another project. Joking apart I think whatever craft you follow that makes you switch off from the stresses of normal life is worth it’s weight in gold.

    Hope you have a very happy weekend.
    Fleur xx