Sunday, November 18, 2012

 Slow down, and enjoy the ride

Quilt-in-a-day, fast-fun-and-easy, weekend wonders, jelly-roll-races. So many projects are all about how quickly we can complete them. Sometimes that's a very good thing, especially when there's a deadline to meet. Birthdays and babies, weddings and graduations, events coming at us left and right on the calendar. None of us has a surplus of time these days, so there is certainly a place for quick projects.

But if quilting is what we love to do, why would we want to rush through it? Shouldn't we try to make the enjoyment last? With that thought in mind, I'd like to put in a good word for the long-term project. I'm not talking about a quilt that takes two weeks or even two months to complete. I mean a real long-term commitment, a relationship. Something to nurture, something that evolves and grows under our hands, and becomes dear to us through prolonged contact.

Block-of-the-month projects are a step in the long-term direction. At the outset, we know it's going to be at least a year before we see anything resembling a completed quilt. If we are committed from the beginning to follow through, we dutifully complete each month's task (even if we're up past midnight on the night before the next class). It's fun early on, but something else inevitably comes along, causing us to set aside the comfy and familiar in favor of the shiny and new, leaving us with a pile of blocks that never gets put together and finished. How sad and anti-climactic. Ask me how I know...

my pile from 2011's $5 block-of-the-month -
out of the box for the first time in almost a year...
Then there are projects that are long-term simply because we only work on them once in a while. I belong to a small quilting group, I guess you could call us a “bee.” Some members have bee-specific projects, worked on only at our monthly gatherings. For at least two years, my friend Cheryl brought the same hand-quilting project to the bee. Hand-quilting is by its very nature a long-term project, one that encourages us to slow down and savor the process.  All those stitches lovingly applied one-by-one bond us with the finished article in a profound way, I believe.

So imagine our delight when Cheryl finally looked up from her work one night and said, “I think it's done!” Her patience and persistence, and her acceptance of that project as a long-term effort finally paid off. She knew, and so did we, that it would be done eventually, and so it was.

Cheryl's hand-quilted "Rabbit" quilt
But my favorite kind of long-term project is the one that has no predetermined end. It begins when we become captivated by an idea, a technique, a vague vision of what might emerge. As we construct and assemble the elements, the vision becomes clearer. It needs time to marinate in our brains, to take shape in our hands. It benefits from an unhurried pace, developing complexity and character as it grows.

I am in the midst of one such project. By now my friends are well-acquainted with my obsession for pieced hexagons, made entirely by hand, using the English paper-piecing method. When I began the project last summer, I had no idea how far I would take it. Over 70 blocks later, I'm still not completely sure. Countless hours of stitching, and I've enjoyed every minute.

Each block has felt like a tiny project on its own, instead of a tiny part of a big project, with the accompanying sense of accomplishment when I complete each one. Looking at that stack of blocks, I can now begin to see what the completed quilt might look like. And I like it!

Hexies on the design wall -
seeing the full effect for the first time
But don't expect to see a photo of the finished quilt anytime soon. I plan to take my time, and enjoy every minute of this ride, until I too can look up and say to my friends, “I think it's done!”


Marian Beskosty said...

Your hexies are amazing. But then again everything you do is amazing. You even got me to leave the comfort zone and try new things. I thank you for that.

judabelle said...

Thanks for your kind words, Marian, and have a happy Thanksgiving!

Cat Lady said...

I totally agree, we need to take time and enjoy what we are doing. I too have hauled a suitcase containing a king-sized triple Irish chain quilt that I was hand quilting each week to quilt group. Other hand quilted quilts have shared that same suitcase. I began my GFG quilt seven years ago while sitting next to my husband's bedside right after his stroke. It is still a work in process.

Melissa said...

Nice article Judy. So true with life and our projects. It has been fun seeing a few blocks at a time, and even nicer to see a bunch of blocks all together. The temptation is to say "I can't wait to see it all done", but I can, because that is part of the process, right? Enjoying the journey. And it will be worth the wait!