December 15, 2006
The first job in organizing the sewing room mess is to deal with the fabric. This is not a strategic choice, it is a defining choice. If I don't re-bond with this fabric, then I have to stop calling myself a quilter. Many thousands of dollars were spent on it, so pitching it and rebuilding another stash is not an option. Either I love this fabric and yearn to work with it, or I give up the idea entirely and clear it all out. Heaven knows I could use the space for other activities, such as walking and sitting.
I used to make a lot of quilts and wall-hangings, I even used to work in a quilt store. But when my son was born in 2000, there wasn't so much time available for sewing. Then in 2004 I started grad school to get my librarianship degree, and there was no time at all for sewing. I buckled the Bernina into its case and moved it off the desk top.
Now grad school is completed and my son is old enough to amuse himself near by me, if I don't mind a few Power Rangers, Spidermen, and Sponge Bobs underfoot. So I can quilt now--but it's been a long time. Do I still want to? Do I still have the fire in the belly for quiltmaking? The answer is spilling out of these fifteen or so large tubs spread around the room.
So I open up a tub as big as a cedar chest and begin.
The colors, sorted long ago, are now all mixed up. Big pieces smush the littler ones so that all are wrinkled. I pull out about 20 pieces at a time, smooth them and sort them by size. I iron the little pieces and sort them by color, to be put in their own ziplock bags. Everything 1/8 of a yard or under goes into them. The larger pieces go by color into fresh new plastic baskets.
It feels very soothing to be working quietly in this way. For a few weeks, I get up half an hour earlier in the morning to spend awhile here. After many mornings, the first tub is finished and I start the next.
Other times of the day, after work especially, I listen to podcasts of Garrison Keillor's "Writer's Almanac" while ironing and sorting this pile that seemingly never diminishes. But when my son is with me, he won't listen to "that guy," so we put on Christmas music cds, often hitting the "repeat" button on Alvin and the Chipmunks' Christmas Song. He also likes Fleetwood Mac and a disk of Halloween tunes, so we get a break from the Chipmunks.
Sorting through the fabric brings back many memories... This piece I bought at that quilt store just over the Kentucky border, that one came from a store up north that had a wonderful Samoyed named "Winston" and my daughter got to pet him while I shopped. I remember the collections some pieces came from, and how excited we were when they arrived at the shop: the first Smithsonian collection, the first one from Country Threads, a new Jinny Beyer, the Hoffmans that always just flew off the bolt.
They also bring back memories of what I made with them and what I dreamed of making with them. I always had more ideas than time. When my daughter Emily was young, I let her use my fabric to make scrunchies for her hair or various doll accessories. Sometimes I run across a piece of fabric that bears her mark (a hole cut out of the exact middle) and I have to show it to somebody so we can laugh. And sometimes I come across some complete mysteries: there's a hunk cut off this piece, but what on earth did I make with it? And what happened to it? A few things I sold, many more I gave away. I guess I've forgotten them.
My only records are rags.... Well, if I stay a quilter, I'll keep better records. After all, I'm a librarian now.