Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What keeps you from completing more quilts?

I read, in a quilting magazine, readers' answers to the question, "What keeps you from completing more quilts?"  And, of course, I began to question myself.  I have said that my timeframe for a quilt is 3-years.  And that has proven reasonably accurate.

I am in mid-project on three quilts: a 1930's reproduction quilt made from blocks I won in last year's Quilt Retreat challenge; a Stack-n-Whack pattern I am making for my own bed; and hand-quilting my grandmother's bedspread. I fully intend to finish each of these projects... eventually.  I have only worked on one of them in the past month; I haven't touched the Stack-n-Whack since before my move in October.  What gets in the way of completion?

1.  Life: many of the women who wrote in to answer the magazine's query explained about their busy lives, their jobs, their families (often with small children), and other interests.  Yep, I have a more-than-40-hours-a-week job, children (ok, I admit they are grown, but they still need me), a master's thesis to write, dogs, and a house to maintain.  I'm a busy grrl.

2.  Other projects:  well, quilting isn't all I do with fabric.  I make home decor items, I have a soft spot for making bags, I mend (or restyle) clothing, and every so often I sew clothes from scratch.  I have dreams, plans and patterns for toys and other creative-y projects, too.  Quilts are just one of my many interests.

3.  New and shiny:  my favorite part of any fabric project is the planning stage.  I love picking out fabrics (the more the merrier) and dreaming of what this combination and that pairing will look like.  (One reason I balk at using kits, and every month I toss aside 75% of the fabric given to my in my BOTM project envelope.)  I like new patterns and new designs.  I dream up alterations for existing patterns/designs.  I am a designer/dreamer more than a do-er.  I get into trouble by being seduced with the new and shiny; I go out and buy the pattern, or the book, or the fabric; I cut things out and sew a seam here or there.  Thus, I have many, many UFOs.  This exciting mental energy gets in the way of completing the longer-term projects (which are no longer as new and shiny in my mind).

4.  The hard parts:  every quilter has the parts they love to do, and the parts they don't-so-much-love.  For me, after the rush of fabric selection, I most enjoy piecing small bits. 
I have been working the past two weeks on a scrappy piano-key border for my 1930's reproduction quilt.  I love that I can work for as few as 10 minutes at a time (and some days it is indeed 10-15 minutes) and make progress in tiny increments.  I have the hardest time when the quilt gets large and unwieldy.  Each individual step takes much longer, and can't easily be put away.  Thus, I haven't taken my five full-bed-length strips of Stack-n-Whack out of their moving box yet.  I can't imagine ever machine-quilting a large project.  And I have even paid someone else to tack down my binding (shocking!) because I don't enjoy that part, but I want to have a finished quilt, eventually.

5.  I'm slow:  really, I am.  I know this is partly from my ADD-tendency to get sidetracked numerous times in the accomplishment of any one task, from brushing my teeth to sending out a birthday card to completing a quilt down to the *done* stage of having the binding tacked down.  I also know that my perfectionism makes me slower than others (even in the amount of time it takes to slap together a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich).  I keep telling myself that life isn't a race, and most of the time my slowness doesn't make me feel bad about myself.  It just is.

6.  How many quilts does one need anyway?  I don't feel like I should have completed more quilts than I have.  I see the prolific quilters I know (most of whom are retired) making quilts for great-nephews, and colleagues at work, and for charity auctions, because they and all their immediate relatives already have one (or several) handmade quilts.  I tend to be very practical: I want to know what is the purpose or intended recipient for quilt projects before I start them.  So, when I buy patterns or books because I am excited about a particular design, I don't feel obligated to actually make the quilts: who is next on my list to receive a quilt, and what color or pattern actually appeals to that person?

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