Tuesday, February 15, 2005

A Whole Other Animal


That’s a word I find myself saying a lot as a beginner to quilting. Just when I think that I understand, something pops up to make me question everything I know so far. I have always sewn and I even went to fashion school in NYC for a very quick minute, but quilting? Now that’s a whole other animal. I read all the books and websites I could. I watched television quilting shows religiously. Who knew folks were so into hand-dyeing? Or that free-motion machine quilting was the thing to do? Was there an obsession with perfection and stitch size? Would my hand-sewn pieces have an “Ooo” factor compared to machine work? Not to mention my old basic Singer machine with only three stitches that isn’t fancy or cool at all. "Terrified" just about summed it all up.

Batiks and batting, rotary cutters and rulers; metallic/monofilament/machine-friendly threads. The variety among quilts themselves are staggering. It's enough to make my head spin, yet it brings me peace. The feel of the fabric between my fingers, the hum of the machine, the gentle give of thread being pulled through by a needle. I feel filled with and fulfilled by that satisfaction and pride of completing a new work of art and beauty. There’s a rhythm, a calm, a mood that envelops me when I'm quilting. It’s what makes me keep on trying even while I sometimes feel lost.

Thanks to the Web, I've seen some wonderful, complicated work and felt very small and clumsy in my beginner’s way—with my fear of half-square triangles and appliqué and curves. As an African-American quilter, I’ve discovered a community of quilters like me and during meeting show and tell at my guild I am awed by my colleagues’ works, because they are beautiful and seem so polished compared to mine. Yet I am inspired just the same because someday, I suppose, mine will be too. I’m getting better with every try. That’s the nice thing about learning and being surrounded by folks who don’t mind sharing their knowledge with a newbie like me—soon you won’t be hearing “Uh-oh” quite as often.

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