The seed of these thoughts came as the Christmas season approached, and I wondered what to get a dear friend David. I was reminded by his spouse that he had always expressed a desire to make his own quilt. Perhaps he would like one of my patterns, or even a lesson, she said. It is true, he has mentioned his desire to make his own quilt to me in the past, one or two times, but I wondered if he still felt the urge, as some time had passed. My husband said that perhaps that initial spark had died. What if it never caught fire?
Not your typical quilter but he's all fired up about starting!
As the cold weather sets in, we've been starting real fires in our wood stove to make it cosy on some drafty evenings. We like to have a fire, the heat is warm and even, and it speaks to something ancient in us. But we marvel at how, sometimes, it is tricky to get the fire going, even with lots of paper, twigs and kindling, whereas so many forest fires are started in the wild through negligence. Why is it that some fires just catch easily, and some, despite careful effort, refuse to catch?
Leaving this metaphor behind, and speaking plainly: why do some people follow their whim to start quilting, and become amazing, lifelong quilters, while others never come to the point of actually reaching for the thread and needle?
Clearly, those of us who love to quilt and sew need to do better in sharing what we do, we must provide more opportunities, we have to nurture those little sparks and fan the flames until they catch. Otherwise quilting will be in danger of being lost, as those who love it age and die and do not pass on to the next generation what we know. I look around at the grey heads at our guilds -- realizing I am included in this demographic -- and I think, this is a marketing dilemma for the entire quilting industry.
With this problem in the back of my mind, I chanced upon a book called "Superhuman by Habit: a guide to becoming the best possible version of yourself, one tiny habit at a time." This short handbook gives some interesting methods to make our resolutions habit. Its main thesis is that our willpower to do our best is limited, but by building daily habits, our subconscious takes over the job, and we no longer have to attend to the many details which put up barriers to our success. Daily exercise until habits are well-formed is the job of willpower; once the habit is established, we no longer have to attend to it. We quilt as we breathe, we don't have to fit it into our day, it becomes our day, we no longer have to think about it.
But clearly there is a gap between a mere whim to do something and putting forth the effort to make it happen prior to it becoming a habit. We must value what we want to do more than the bad habits -- including procrastination and time-wasters -- that now consume our day. Where does this value come from? Why do quilters appreciate quilts, and the time spent making them? Why do we love quilting? What was seed of that whim for us? "Superhuman by Habit" has some suggestions for determining which habit we should choose to work on next: it should be something we care about.
Why do we care about quilting? For many of us, quilts invoke feelings of warmth, of family, of home, of sewing together discarded objects, or parts that mean nothing in themselves, to bring meaning to moments and items where before there seemed to be none. It is the success in finishing a quilt. It is a tactile record of moments spent. Quilting is making things matter. It is difficult to convey this sense of accomplishment and meaningfulness, especially to someone who has never actually quilted before. And yet those who have the whim to try quilting must feel something of this, or they would never have even the inkling to try. It is these budding, fleeting moments of meaning that we must nurture in others, if we are to have our friends catch fire.
I resolve, this coming year, to value what I do such that others may see the value in it too. Oh, I've got lots of other habits to work on, to be sure. But this one, although it sounds vague, is probably the most important one. If others around us are going to catch fire, we ourselves must burn brightly, giving off lots and lots of heat and light.
Go ahead and take your passion, and inflame the world.