Monday, January 11, 2010

tiny blind stitches

I've been working very steadily on that baby quilt that I posted a photo of months back. I am really close to finishing it, sewing on the binding by hand. It's only taken me nearly two years...

Of course, I had a lot happening in those two years, so I'm not going to chastise myself about it. As I've been struggling to make tidy little blind stitches all around the edges, I've been thinking about making things, the act of creating and the impetus behind it. One thing that I have discovered for myself since selling the Lompoc is that I really, really love to make things. Facing cancer made me intent on integrating that love into my livelihood. There are few times when I am happier than when I am sewing, knitting, soldering, sometimes even cooking. This, however, can lead to some complicated questions. Does the world really need more stuff, even if it is stuff that I have crafted carefully and with love? (Sarah Neuberger of The Small Object had a really great post about this here, a while back.) Why am I so in my element while I am making things? We're not talking about great art, here. We're talking about a pretty random selection of items, mostly functional to one degree or another, but none of them remarkable in any grand way. Sweaters for babies, needle felted toys, my quirky jewelry, candy; things that bring comfort and some degree of joy, but not art for the ages. If I'm not making something that is going to be Important, is it still worth making? Why am I making it? I began to wonder, while I was struggling to make neat little stitches by hand, if there is perhaps an element of the quest for immortality at play here. My kids and I have been reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, and so the subjects converged for me. Thinking enviously of Mary's ability to make perfect little hem stitches even though she was blind (blind! I can't make a decent one with my good eyesight and strong electric lights), and thinking, too, of Claire's repeated questions about when Laura lived, how she died, when she died. When can we visit her house? What is there of her that we can still see?

I don't set out to make a project with the intent that it will outlast me and therefore be a continuation of my life in some way. No, I'm pretty much in it for the instant gratification. (Okay, maybe not instant, though in Amy Karol's book, I am definitely a "Speed Demon" crafter.) But while working on this project, the heirloom nature of giving a handmade quilt to a baby definitely leads me to ponder my mortality, and my drive to craft things by hand. Am I unconsciously trying to ensure that I will leave something of worth when I die, something by which I will be remembered?

I don't think this is the reason that I get so excited picking out yarn for a project, lining up fabrics for a quilt, building a new silver shadowbox for my jewelry. There is a thrill inherent in the act of creation that doesn't have much to do with the fate of the finished product. This worries me, a bit. I feel like I need to be cognizant that the things I create will eventually land somewhere, and so I need to be careful about their number and quality. I don't want to be responsible for filling up any more landfills than I already am. And it is true that I am happiest when I am working on a project that has an intended recipient from the outset. But if I want my creative endeavors to also provide me with an income, then I am going to have to make things that may or may not find their perfect home. What's a crafty girl to do? There is no doubt that humans seem to have a need to decorate themselves and their dens, so I'm choosing to believe that supplying some of those objects is a good and worthy endeavor. The question is, what to make next?

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