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.