Monday, August 28, 2006

Why I Quilt

I can say in three words why I started quilting. I was lonely. I moved to California in 1994 and was working long hours each day, often six and seven days a week. I was working that much because I didn't have a whole bunch to come home to. I had a husband who traveled a lot, and when he was home, he was always with his golfing buddies. I dug out the old sewing machine in 1996 and started making table mats and napkins just to have something to do during that long recuperative year. All projects had to be easy ones that I could concentrate on - remember my brain cells had been a bit "jostled"! LOL.

In 2000 during a long holiday weekend I caught an episode of Simply Quilts on TV. I remembered that 15 years before I had purchased two or three quilting books, but had been discouraged by all the templates. Now I was watching these ladies using rotary cutters and making do-able quilts. That renewed my interest in quilting. So I looked in the yellow pages and found The Fabric Patch near my house. I went over there and looked around, but was scared to try something like that. Would I be able to absorb instructions? Would I be able to concentrate for long enough periods to be able to make a quilt? I thought about it all weekend, and decided that the next weekend I would go back over there and sign up for a beginning quilt class. I figured, "What's the worst that can happen? I screw up some fabric?" Yes, it was worth a try to me. But I was so scared. I had been a success my whole life at whatever I tried to do. Here I was trying something at which I knew I would fail going in.

Well, the Friday night before I was going to take the plunge, I fell and shattered my shoulder. My arm was strapped to my waist for over four months, and then I couldn't lift it enough to even bring a fork to my mouth. So I reverted back to doing things left-handed. (I was a left-hander until I was in the fourth grade when a teacher insisted I learn to write with my right hand.) A year later in July of 2001, I went back to the FP and signed up for Rotary 101 and two beginning quilt classes.

It was tough going for a while. But I stuck with it and very quickly I regained motor skills that I thought I had lost forever after my brain surgery. I had learned in the preceding year to compensate for lack of function in my right arm, and in very short order I was able to rotary cut. Believe it or not, ironing fabric gave me strength in my right arm and a little bit more range of motion!

I immediately fell in love with quilting. Well, reading that sentence makes me ponder it a bit. I fell in love with fabric. I fell in love with the creative process. I fell in love with the ladies I met. I had lived here now seven years and didn't know a single person outside of those at work. All of a sudden I was surrounded by women, laughing and giggling and talking up a storm, busy hands, infusion of colors, limitless creative possibilities.

I progressed very quickly as a new quilter. The reason - I was constantly challenging myself to learn how to do new things. I absorbed everything I could find about quilting. I listened attentively to other quilters. For instance, I took a paper piecing class because I had tried to do that at home and my brain just didn't work. I ended up in tears - frustrated and doubting myself again. That was one of the most difficult classes I've ever taken. The class wasn't difficult, but it was so hard for me to think backwards and to envision mirror imaging. I had to draw out each block and tape a piece of fabric to the pieces so I wouldn't get them mixed up. I pushed aside the fabric I had chosen to use and bought batiks so that either side would work. That eliminated a lot of the problems. The Hurricane quilt is one of my favorites to this day.

When I felt confident enough in my ability to read patterns and follow instructions, I then decided I wanted to learn to applique. I basically taught myself, with a little help from Alex at retreat and from Robyn Pandolph in a four-day workshop. My first project was Botanika - way too hard for a beginner, but for me anything was now possible. That quilt is next up, by the way, to get quilted! It has seasoned long enough in the to-do pile!

I celebrated my five-year quilty anniversary this month. I've made eighty something quilts. I have many times thanked God for leading me down this path. I still get lonely, but now I'm only a mouse click away from wonderful ladies I've met along the way, and to my new blogging friends. I have regained a lot of the confidence I lost after the illnesses, and can honestly say I'm happier than I've ever been.

That's why I quilt, and why I'll be a quilter forever. I'm wondering one more thing, though -- do they let little old ladies at The Home have rotary cutters?

20 comments:

Hedgehog said...

I hope they let us keep our rotary cutters! What an amazing story of how quilting helped to heal you physically and emotionally. I was upset after a phone call the other day and went straight into my quilting room.

Sweet P said...

What a story of courage and stick-to-it mentality. I think quilting helps a lot of us in more ways than we know. Thank you for sharing your wonderful story.

Doodlebug Gail said...

I am so glad you started quilting - you're an inspiration to all of us with your determination, generosity and kindness. (((HUGS)))

Melzie said...

That story is great :) OMG what if there are quilters in the Homes and they have no way to cut fabric? Maybe we should start a little quilt kit for seniors type thing I never thought of that :( how sad. I LOVE your why you quilt story :) ((megahugs)) xoxo melzie

Patti said...

What a beautiful story Vickie - thank you so much for sharing! Such a blessing that you found quilting when you did. It was simply meant to be, that is obvious.

Passionate Quilter said...

my heart just bursts with joy for you and your story. You are an amazing woman who could have turned such a tragedy in your life into a sour, poor me kind of thing. But you chose to persevere and conquer a new challenge. And look what good it has been for you. It's a honor to know you--even if it's in bloggerland! PS-you'll have to join our Quilter's Retirement Village--a bunch of are going to open one when the need arises. We will have pool boys doing our cooking, cleaning, rotary cutting and other things that we don't like or shouldn't do so we can sit around and quilt to our heart's content! Wanna sign up?

EileenKNY said...

Ooh, quilting in the old folks home, there's a visual. lol
Vicky, thank you for sharing a little of your life with us. You've mentioned your shoulder in the past, but brain surgery? You are one very determined, capable, and very interesting lady. Your blog is one that I look for every day, and I read it, wishing there were more chapters, like a good book.

quiltpixie said...

what a wonderfully motivating story. Thanks for sharing.

Ama said...

Oh Vicky, that is so inspiring. Thank you for sharing that with us.

Linda_J said...

They better let us have our rotary cutters but don't forget the needle and thread too--old quilters joke. Wow, once you got going you really started cranking them out and learned from some of the best doing it too.

cher said...

what can I add to the above comments? wow..your story is a wonderful inspiration of being saved by your own creative spirit leading you and NOT GIVING UP..thanks again for sharing.

Darlene - Dazed Quilter said...

I'm not sure that I can say more than what's already been said so I'll just say

WAY TO GO!!!!!

And, I'll add that you are inspiration to me and have been since I first found your blog!

Darlene - Dazed Quilter said...

By the way, I'll take a rotary cutter to The Home, even if I have to hide it. I'm not going without it. LOL

McIrish Annie said...

thanks for sharing your story!

Tracey said...

do they let little ole ladies at The Home have rotary cutters?

Yes...but *only* if they don't run with them, Vicky! :oP LOL! All I gotta say is...THEY BETTER!!

Vicky, I can honestly say that you have gone further in your 5 years than I have in my 15-20 years of quilting. Your work is amazing and your so darn speedy!! Definitely an asset to the quilting community. :oD

Finn said...

Wow Vicky, that is a super duper telling of your quilting life...I love it!
I think it's wonderful that you have accomplished all you have. Starting with the left hand. Many would have just thrown their hands up and quit. Soooo glad you didn't *VBS* Hugs for being juste exactly who your are, a great quilter and a great friend, Finn

JudyL said...

Vicky, that's such a great story. You've been through so much and yet you've always come out on top. I'm so glad you found quilting . . or I wouldn't have found you!

Judy L.

Susan said...

Maybe not, but we will have lots more experience than the young whippersnappers tending us. We can sneak them in. =)

Joanne said...

No, I don't think they let the little old ladies at the home handle rotary cutters -- you're going to have to have all your pieces cut waaaaaaaay ahead of time! vbg.
Enjoy your weekend!

Infinity Quilter said...

What a wonderful story! And look at you now! You could almost start your own quilt store with all the fabric, gadgets and books I'm envisioning that you have. Thanks for teaching me to not give up or into my fears. HUGS!