It’s rare that I ever make some thing with the intent to re-use old, worn items in my home that I’m no longer pleased with (if ever I was to start with). Such was the case with this faded, second-hand (donated to my household by my mother) bathmat that began life as a vivid hunter green:
We’ve never particularly made use of this item and its mate (Mom gave us two). We’re far more likely to simply grab another full-sized towel, fold it in half and drop that on the floor. We have a five year old who enjoys splashing – the full size towel just makes sense.
At any rate, in my late evening roaming around the house, due to feeling much less than optimal, I stumbled upon these mats, and pulled them out, with the thought that I should do something useful with them, or dispose of them. In my switch from the IUD to an oral contraceptive, I find myself in an odd nesting phase, with the need to finish things.
A moment spent with a ruler, and I knew what to do… The mats measure approximately 20″ X 28″, and I’ve had several 2.5″ squares cut from my scraps for quite a while, since I made the determination that I need to control my scraps as much as I control my stash. As I chain-pieced squares, I wondered why I don’t do things like this more often… After all, my craft of choice has a strong tradition of frugality and re-purposing, particularly within the American tradition.
So, I put some thought to it, as someone who quilts for pleasure…
I’m lucky, and I’ve never experienced fiscal hardship so keenly that even scraps from old, worn garments are evaluated for their potential future value. I suppose that makes me squarely normal, as I cannot think of many in my social groups that have had that experience.
There is never a lack of new materials for me to select from. Manufacturers of quilting fabrics release new lines on a schedule that is nearly dizzying. As a person who is deliberate in my choice to avoid consumption for the sake of consumption, I am actually fairly ignorant of the release dates for new fabrics. I think of this as a blessing in disguise:
I am never worried that I simply must purchase this yardage, this moment. I never have to consider that a certain print will be highly in demand in the future because it’s by a certain designer. I do not have to stash it because I might want to use it one day.
If I choose to purchase fabric, it is because it speaks to me as a creator of quilted goods. I could probably call myself an ‘artist’, but I don’t think of myself that way… I create quilted goods that marry form and function, because there is no reason in my mind that a functional bed cover cannot be warm and also aesthetically pleasing.
I am awash in choices – in fabric, thread and tools. Available patterns range from simple to complicated, modern to traditional (definitions that I recognize but question the validity thereof). Quilting is at once as accessible and as intimidating as ever to approach as a craft.
I do not create out of obligation. I do not promise my quilts away before they have reached completion – the average person does not look at a project completed by my two hands and see the hours of labor and the cost of materials. If I choose to gift a quilt away, it’s a rare and precious thing, speaking of how much I value that person, that I would willingly give up something that took me up to 100 hours to piece and quilt, if not longer.
As with any craft in which something tangible is produced, that product is as intimate or distant as the artist or craftsperson chooses to make it. The finished product is the result of my creativity – design, color, fabric choice and thread coming together to create an item that must be a masterpiece only in the eyes of the creator… Which could lead to a discussion of how valid the choice to call oneself an ‘artist’ or ‘craftsperson’ is when one only reproduces that which is currently faddish or popular. However, this is not the time and place for that discussion.
In the end, I am not left with any answer beyond: I choose.
I choose to create, from design inception to final, hand-placed stitch in the binding. I choose to purchase materials, or not – typically the latter is my choice. I choose to re-purpose and recycle as I can, as the whim and opportunity present themselves. I choose to share, to teach, to discuss, to learn, to grow.