Occasionally there are these little spare pockets of time, gifts from the universe, when nothing else will do but to scratch the proverbial itch of making something. I don’t know where this urge comes from, and it would not be wrong to call it a compulsion. I am compelled to make things, on a regular basis, to the point where if I go too long without needle and thread (or needles and yarn) I get downright cranky.
I wasn’t really an artistic kid. I loved to color, certainly, and my mom talks about an early Christmas where I said Santa brought me everything I wanted “CEPT crayons and coloring books”. (Apparently I was pretty adamant about it, because Santa didn’t forget those items again until I hit middle school.) I certainly had a wild imagination, up to and including an imaginary brother (until my sister came along and I had a real scapegoat), but it mostly got channeled into reading. I remember wanting to be an artist but I couldn’t draw, AT ALL, EVER, and that seemed to be an impediment. I quickly moved on to wanting to be a physicist, until I found out it involved math, and archeology, until I found out it involved getting dirty in foriegn places that didn’t have real toilets.
But I wanted to DO something. Always. I guess we probably all did at that age. When I was 12, I was convinced that by 42 I would be running the free world, or at least a good chunk of it, and there’s a part of me that finds reality quite a bitter pill to swallow. Some girls dream about being Cinderella; I dreamt about owning my own country. In the 6th grade I was voted most likely to work for the CIA, if that tells you anything.
I didn’t start quilting until after I graduated from college – that long, terrible summer where I was back at my old summer job, despite the piece of paper I had earned that was supposed to get me a “real” job. If it wasn’t my old job depressing the hell out of me it was interviews that went absolutely nowhere, even though I’d spent two semesters at different internships – one at a nonprofit in DC and one in a Senator’s district office. Later it was an endless sea of temp jobs – both at home and in Boston. Some were interesting – I was the receptionist for Frontline for a few months, where I fielded endless calls from people claiming their babies had been abducted by aliens, wanting Frontline to do an expose on the aliens…and then Al Pacino called once, to talk to one of the producers, and I almost hung up on him because I thought it was a prank call. But mostly 1993 was a tough year to graduate from college, and at the time I didn’t know that you could do everything right and still fail. College didn’t really teach me that.
I don’t know what posessed me that summer to haul out my maternal grandmother’s old, cantankerous sewing machine and the fabric given to me and my sister by my paternal grandmother. I just remember sitting at my old vanity table in my old bedroom, piecing together squares of fabric as I looked out my window at the White Mountains. I didn’t know what the hell else to do with my life, but that compulsion to make something was strong. So strong, in fact, that the first quilt I made was so large I wound up having to cut it in two, much to my mother’s amusement.
I didn’t know, couldn’t have known that this sort of crafting was about to experience a resurgence. I never would have guessed that twenty years later I’d be kicking myself for not seeing that the very things I was doing that miserable summer – writing and sewing – would be the two things that would make me happy. Really, really happy. I wish I had known that these were the passions I should have followed, that something called the “internet” would spawn crafting blogs and Etsy and Ravelry. The problem of course being, even if I had a crystal ball, those student loans could not be paid in yards of fabric.
And so, in lieu of world domination, I’ve opted to just keep it warm for a little while.
Why don’t I sell stuff on Etsy? I’ve thought about it, but I’ve done the math. And even using Lori math, it just doesn’t work. A small baby quilt can cost up to $40 just in material and batting. The small baby quilt above took me 10 hours or so to cut and sew the blocks, and then another three hours to machine quilt the top, and then another couple of hours to sew the binding on by hand. The Massachusetts minimum wage is $8/hour, so at 15 hours that’s $120. I’d have to charge $160/baby quilt just to recoup my out-of-pocket expenses and time. We won’t even talk about the ones I quilt by hand, which easily throw another 10 hours of time into the equation.
And then, of course, there’s the cat hair situation. But we won’t discuss that. She’s a little sensitive.