It really feels like a fever. You can't concentrate on anything else. You stay up late at night to keep playing even when you know you're exhausted and you have a full day ahead in the morning. It's like not being able to put down a good novel. It consumes the brain entirely. It's an intense naval gazing that obliterates the outside world. While I feel it, I know it won't last, but I have to ride it until it lets me go.
I first remember feeling this way on the recreation room floor when I must have been three or four. My mother gave me a big paper bag of fabric scraps that were all mine. The bag was stored right in the same pine chest that she kept her good fabric. I could open the chest any time I wanted to. I could sit on the floor for hours and cut and sew fabric pieces together. Anytime I wanted to. As long as I wanted to. All of it. Mine.
The fever hits me in waves that might last a few days or months. When I don't feel it, I don't want to have anything to do with fabric. It seems silly, the importance I felt about making quilts last week. What was I thinking? There are far more important things to do in life.
But then, it rises again, like a bout of malaria. Cooking isn't important, chores are put off, outside commitments become burdens. I retreat into my head and the moving of my fingers with the needle, the pencil, the scissors, the sewing machine. New designs fill up the sketchbook. Fabric comes out of the cupboard and gets rearranged in piles. Imagined future projects clog up the queue.
It's quilt fever.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes it as "flow". Not being a drug user, I really can't substantiate this claim, but for me, it's better than imagined drugs.
It finally lets me go for a time and I can step back and say "Really? This is just a bunch of cut up fabric sewn back together again. What's the point?" But, for good or bad, the fever will be back again.
And it feels so good when it comes back.