Newly retired, with nothing but time and I’m invited to join a Quilting Group. This is very foreign territory for me, someone who worked long hours for many years and didn’t really take any time for hobbies. I also have never been a fan of groups of women – I just never felt like I had anything to contribute. I decided to shed my feelings about groups of women and dive in. I needed support on this journey into quilting, so I needed to give the quilting group a try. The joy of quilting (the baby) with the uneasiness of groups of women (the bath water).
I’d grown up with a mom who sewed everything, from wedding dresses, to suits, to drapes; she even re-upholstered furniture…and she was intimidating so I’d decided sewing wasn’t my thing. It was a struggle to overcome this mindset – again, it was important I embraced my inner creativity (the baby) and not get caught up in my intimidation tied to how I grew up (the bath water). I’d found a group of women who were not like other all-women groups I’d been involved with. These women were smart, supportive, creative and most of all had nothing to prove and I felt that, even though they were way ahead of me in skill, we’d learn together. Not only did we sew together, but we shared our lives, talked about important things and solved the world’s problems with thread and stitch ripper in hand.
I also had a purpose: I wanted to make a baby quilt for a friend who was having her first.
Someone had given me a pattern idea, you can find the Fat Quarter Baby Quilt tutorial by Kate Henderson here, and my quilting group offered to help me out. So…off I went to buy fabric. I found out it’s really fun to shop for fabric! I had a creative side (who knew?) and laying out the fabrics and figuring out the color scheme (based on the desires of mom-to-be) took time – a lot of time. The best part was my Quilting Buddies were really supportive – they loved what I chose and they treated me like an equal – even though I wasn’t – and I started cutting.
This was a huge transitional time for me – entering retirement and I was really apprehensive I wouldn’t have a purpose anymore. Diving into this project gave me a purpose, pulled out my creativity and gave me the opportunity to stretch myself to learn something new – that I’d previously been intimidated by – and the chance to become part of an amazing little quilting community.
I started gaining some skills as a quilter – slowly and cautiously. It turned out some of the things I’d used in my 30+ years as an educator were relevant – perseverance, problem solving, a sense of humor, creativity, and the ability to follow directions – actually really applied here. So, never throw the baby out with the bathwater — something that is part of you can have a really amazing and new application. I learned so much about measuring carefully, taking my time, matching, ripping out, redoing and laughing and feeling supported by my group.
I finally got my quilt together. I adapted the pattern by adding another panel and the bigger size was much nicer. Although we had been talking about the machine quilting part, now it was time to actually quilt it. I thought I would just machine quilt – free style – that was funny.
It was not easy and I was worried I would ruin my quilt. I fretted alone one night and then took my dilemma to my team. We problem solved through it and I was made to feel as if I was making the absolute best decision. So stitch in the ditch it was and that was a big challenge at this stage. I did it, with hand-quilted hearts sewn on it as well and presented it to my friend, who, bless her heart, was very happy with it.
I’d done it…but, the point of all this is – without my community of quilters, I would never have completed my first quilt, at least, I can’t imagine having done it alone.
That’s where the joy of quilting really happens…when you struggle through together. I learned the importance of believing in myself and applying old skills to new projects and starting my retirement by opening myself up to new experiences.
Stay tuned for my next project – my social distancing hexagon spring table runner.