Posts tagged ‘Hooray’
It’s been so hot here this summer. At first I thought I’d developed some sort of temperature immunity by spending three weeks in Arkansas, but the uninterrupted misery of it has been getting to me lately. We’ve barely used our grill this summer, and have no desire to eat on the porch. Even the cats have just been laying around — oh wait, that’s normal.
But what better way to spend a hot summer day than having a home retreat? Fortunately my dining room converts nicely into a three-person sewing space. Diane came for the weekend in order to attend Quilt Odyssey (more on that later) and we designated Saturday as a quilting day. Rhonda came down to join in the fun, and our machines were humming and our needles were flying!
Now, even with having the support of my friends and a well-appointed sewing space, my quilting is still ultimately performed by me alone. As such, it is subject to human error. Such as when I cut all the brown and cream, and 1/4-1/3 of the blue, triangles for the wedding album quilt I’m making for my friends Matt and Alyssa, and then realized I’d cut them all the wrong size!!! I had followed the cutting directions in the (wonderful and blameless) book, Marsha McCloskey’s Block Party , without remembering that way back in November when I had designed the quilt, I had planned to make 12″ Air Castle blocks rather than the 9″ blocks the book provides. Thus, the 4 1/2″ muslin squares that the guests signed at the reception would not fit the 3 1/2″ subunits I had cut for and pieced. When this realization first dawned, I admit there was a little bit of denial, then a little bit of feeling sorry for myself. Since we were having a little mini-retreat, there was of course comfort food, and I indulged medicinally. Then I realized I had to take a bit of my own oft-quoted advice:
We took a break from all the quilt-induced madness to visit The Finishing Stitch, which was having a nice Customer Appreciation sale, and stopped on the way home for delicious soft-serve at a little roadside place whose midafternoon crowds promised truthfully as to how good the seasonal raspberry ice cream was. Then back to the grind! I got almost all my new pieces recut, unfortunately reinforcing my tendency to buy more fabric than I need for a project, and managed to piece 13 of the 25 blocks needed before the weekend came to a too-swift close.
But if I’d been alone, I don’t think I’d have had the fortitude to bounce right back from realizing I’d wasted all that time and fabric. I probably would have let myself sink into a funk and stew about it for weeks, unable to start over because any thought of the project would remind me of my stupid mistake and send me back into a black mood. However, with my friends here for sympathy and guidance, I was able to pick myself up, dust myself off, and cut a whole bunch more triangles in a bigger size. And therefore, I’m more than halfway done with a quilt top I’ve been guilted over for months.
(I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this topic, but suffice to say that ever since Boing Boing pointed me toward Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project”, I’ve thought about making happiness, my own and that of my family, friends, and coworkers, the subject of my Lenten efforts for this year. Quilting makes me happy, but I’ve spent too much time here already talking about the anxiety- and guilt-ridden aspects of it. Without turning into Pollyanna, I wanted to make sure I also made some unmitigatedly optimistic posts here. The subject for the first one presented itself immediately.)
I’m back from my EGA retreat; I had a great time, as always. Retreats are an amazingly productive experience for me because it’s such a completely supportive environment to work in. I don’t have children, and I’m frequently home by myself, so some would wonder why on earth I would pay money to have to pack my clothes and all my supplies, hoping I didn’t accidentally leave anything crucial at home 45 minutes away, to sleep on a strange bed and sit in a room for a weekend, doing exactly the same hobbies that I could have done at home for free. Yet at least three times a year, I do exactly that. Here’s why:
1) Focus: Most people can certainly understand why women with children living at home like coming to the occasional retreat; it’s basically a vacation from the normal demands of a family, where one can concentrate on pursuing hobbies that one doesn’t always have time for. But what about the rest of us? Why would we want to work on a folding table under fluorescent lights when we have perfectly good studios at home? For me, it comes down to focus. Even if there are no other humans making demands on my time, when I’m in my own home, the house itself pulls at me. I should be doing laundry, or organizing the mail, or sweeping the kitchen floor. Even if I manage to resist the siren call of housework (which I somehow find the fortitude to do on a far-too-regular basis) there are all the alternate distractions: books, magazines, TV, the phone, the internet, dozens of little pastimes that seem innocuous one by one but can collectively whittle down a full open day of opportunity into a few frantic minutes. At retreat, I’m wearing blinders. All I have is what I brought with me, and despite the welcome and inevitable socializing, eating, and show-and-tell, I can concentrate on my work to the exclusion of everything else.
2) Inspiration: The best thing about retreat is that it places me in a roomful of people who get it. We may not all be friends; in some cases we’ve never even met, but we share a common bond in that we all find quilting or needlework or rubber stamping or what have you to be important enough to our senses of self that we’re taking an entire weekend out of our busy lives to devote to it. Being in that sort of environment is different from any other aspect of my life; I imagine it to be analogous to an immigrant’s gathering with others who hail from the same country. Here are people who share my culture and speak my language, and I don’t have to explain my points of reference. Just breathing the air at retreat seems to ignite a passion for my hobbies, because I get to see the enthusiasm that others bring to it and the beautiful things they create.
3) Cooperation: Having other people near me who are interested in what I’m doing creates some accountability to actually do it. (This is also, in part, why I’m a member of guilds and why I write this blog.) Having company and entertainment also helps me get through the tedious and awkward parts that I might use as an excuse to go downstairs and get sidetracked if I encountered them at home. Fellow retreat-goers are also a great sounding board when I run into trouble or just encounter a conundrum in a project — in fact, they’ll frequently weigh in whether I want them to or not! Seriously, the best way to get at least three-quarters of the attendees at a quilt retreat to surround you is to put a set of blocks up on a design wall, stand back with your arms crossed, and stare. The value of that many sets of eyes when trying to get a set of scrap blocks properly arranged is absolutely beyond measure.
As shown at the top of the post, I brought along “Ruby Wedding” and spent the first several hours I was at the retreat completing the applique. It’s exhilarating and gratifying to have that huge top finished, but I’m a little terrified to quilt it. More on that later. I also worked toward finishing a cross stitch project I had worked on at least 5-6 years ago. I had cross stitched and beaded a set of Nativity figures designed by Mill Hill and had planned to finish them as stuffed stand-up figures I could display on my mantel at Christmastime, but then left them languishing in a ziploc bag in the basement. This weekend, I assembled and stuffed them.
I only got the twisted cording trim attached to the Holy Family figure; I still have eight figures to go. Now that I’ve finished the applique on “Ruby Wedding,” this may need to be my handwork project until they’re complete. As I said in the title, Hooray for Retreats!