Thursday, September 11, 2014

on making things

I finally finished this first lap-sized quilt, made from a bag of hand-dyed scraps, that I started in June. The second one is about 1/3 completed. As usual, now I am struck with the feeling of the uselessness of it all. Even before I started reading about minimalism (what we called “voluntary simplicity”, back in the 90’s) I struggled with the conflicting desire of making things and feeling overwhelmed with too many things. 

On the one hand, my natural inclination is to think about design and implementation most of my waking hours. On the other hand, I see the amount of built infrastructure that mankind has created, from highways and skyscrapers to single-use water bottles and cheap plastic toys and I feel guilty that we (humans) make too much junk. We’ve littered the whole earth with our making. We are makers. This is what we do.

This is one of the reasons I sew mostly by hand. It literally slows me down. It gives me intention in every stitch. It limits my making. It makes me pause before I start a project and commit the time. This design, this project is the best I can do right now. It’s worth the investment of my time for the pure enjoyment of making. If the finished product has a use, all the better.

Making things without an intended purpose makes me feel conflicted. The creative juices are very hard to rein in, but I don’t like making things that are useless. I don't want to be making litter. Even a full-size bed quilt to wrap oneself in on a cold night is hard to justify making. The world market has probably produced more fleece blankets than there are people who need them. Most people prefer a fluffy comforter. Who needs a handmade quilt?

But, here is a lap quilt. I made it. It has my creativity, my heart and my time stitched into it. I love the colors. I loved making it. I love the way it feels. I love the shapes floating across the surface. It exists because I thought it and sewed it into being. I’m already playing with the next one, guilt be damned. 

We are makers. This is what we do.

"doing donuts"
2014, hand appliqued, hand quilted, 39" x 39"