As a culture we are in danger of falling out of touch, not only with objects, but with the intelligence they embody: the empathy that is bound up in tangible things….A well-made object is informed by thousands of years of accumulated experiment and know-how. Whenever we make or use an everyday tangible thing, or even when we contemplate one seriously, we commune with this pool of human understanding. ~Glenn Adamson, from the book Fewer, Better Things
I’ve been reading Adamson’s book, Fewer, Better Things, and have underlined quite a few different passages. Not everything in the book is a home run, but I love having books on craft, on quality, or on making available around my house, for just a few lines here and there can re-center my quilting universe. Like this one:
“William Morris, the great craft reformer of the late nineteenth century, was one of the earliest writers to espouse environmentalism, over a century ago. ‘Surely there is no square mile of earth’s inhabitable surface that is not beautiful in its own way,’ he wrote, ‘if we men will only abstain from willfully destroying that beauty.’ He also famously asked his contemporaries to “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” This sentiment still rings true today, particularly if we add the idea that objects should be meaningful. Let’s not think of things as ends in themselves, props to put on the mantelpiece. Rather, let’s consider them as points of contact between people.”
Last week I was in the overwhelmingness of QuiltCon, a series of “mores.” More color. More shapes. More wokeness (this got to be a little bit much, frankly). More quilts. More ideas. More fame. More longing. More more more, until it was just more exhaustion. I loved it all, and am so glad I went to this virtual presentation (Karen and her crew did a fabulous job), but by the end, I was kind of glad they took it all down, freeing me to escape that blotto-in-the-brain feeling for a few days. Sorry I missed you all last Sunday. It’s sort of like this:
And then I got an idea.
This idea has been preceeded by a long slow couple of months, as I was worn out by allthecovidstuff, and my bandwidth to accomplish or do things, or even to reach out was limited. So my idea was to set a goal to finish up at least one quilt from the past — and I chose my temperature quilt, newly renamed Wealth of Days (I’ll explain in a later post).
And my next idea was to use up all those triangles that I’d cut and were leftover from piecing together the quilt top, and turn them into a border somehow, because I felt like just the triangles in the center weren’t enough. So I just sewed and sewed.
And began to realize I had some problems.
I’d started making this way back in 2019 (obviously) but it was right after my second shoulder surgery. Rotary cutting is pretty much out of the question after a surgery like that, so in the beginning everything that was cut was scissor-cut. And this little imperfection of scissor cutting had — as quilty problems do — spread throughout the quilt. Some of the problems I could fix on this go-round, as I squared up and trimmed little slivers off the new flying geese to get them straight and true (above).
But…it started to look like the gimpy triangles in in the main quilt weren’t going to match up with the new, refined flying geese in the border.
Nevertheless, she persisted — and then decided to re-think some things.
It became obvious after all my sewing that I really could not fit the borders to the quilt. I started sewing the slivery-est of seams over and over along the outer edges of the inner section of the quilt, trying to ease in the extra fullness of those out-of-shape geese. I took off that lovely aqua skinny border, and cut a darker one:
I marked the new darker border strip every 2″ as I was going to force this quilt into submission, which of course…never really works. (I’m hoping my quilter can quilt out some of the bulk that shouldn’t be there.) I then retooled the inner border to make it really really skinny, and kept sewing those triangles into geese. But then. The corners. What to do? I fiddled and sketched and browsed, but when I couldn’t come to a solution, I took Steinbeck’s advice:
This is what the committee of sleep came up with. I’m happy with it.
So here it is. Wealth of Days quilt top all completed. I have a few moving parts for the backing, then I’ll call my quilter and hope she can work miracles with the limpy-gimpy triangles, evidence of my craft at that time. I will explain the quilt title when it is finished, and I can do a proper showing off with the fun stuff for the back, too.
I did a search for #temperaturequilt trying to see how people finished off their quilts. I came to the conclusion that not too many have finished off their quilts, but I want to finish mine. Working on this quilt this week, remembering my physical self in January 2019 and allowing that woman’s imperfect making to be a part of this quilt, made me realize how vital making quilts is to me. It is not only a noun — as Adamson notes below — but a verb.
When we casually dismiss craft as a vital factor in our lives, however, we miss out on many satisfactions….When many people hear the word “craft,” they think of humble, decorative things: pots, baskets, or macramé plant hangers. But if we consider “craft” in its active form, treating it as a verb rather than a noun, we immediately realize it is much, much broader than that.
When we say that someone crafts an object, we mean that they put their whole self into it, body and mind alike, drawing on whatever skills they have acquired over the course of their lives. This is a deeply meaningful human activity, which can be observed not only in suburban garages and hobby shops, but also in factories (where people craft machines and prototypes) and fine art studios (where people craft paintings and sculptures). All these process-based experiences imbue materials with associations that resonate far beyond the act of making itself. ~Glenn Adamson, from the book Fewer, Better Things