Monday, March 25, 2013

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Frugal Quilter

This essay originally appeared in the 25th anniversary issue of Quilter's Newsletter Magazine (September 1994):

At a recent quilt show, two novice quilters offered their views on quilt design. The first said, "I use onlly Hoffman fabrics." The second insisted, "I use only Alexander Henry fabrics." Their disagreement ended when I entered the fray, asserting, "I use everything, especially if it's on sale." My position was unthinkable to the quilters entrenched in the view that things are necessarily better if they are more colorful, more exotic, more difficult to obtain, and more expensive.

Perhaps it's my traditional New England Yankee upbringing or my thrifty Irish-peasant blood, but I delight in bargains. I save everything I've ever owned, I recycle diligently, and I abhor spending large amounts of money unnecessarily. These traits are rooted in my very soul and influence many aspects of myq uilting. I am what you might call a "Frugal Quilter." And I'm not alone; I am jsut one member of a whole breed of quilters.

You can probably spot a Frugal Quilter or two at all the major (and minor) quilt shows or at your quild meetings. You may even recognize the Frugal Quilter's traits in yourself, once you become aware of the Frugal Quilter's characteristics.

The Frugal Quilter never intentionally buys coordinated fabric. In fact, the Frugal Quilter seldom buys fabric with a specific quilt in mind. Other quilters design a quilt, buy the fabarics, make the quilt, and thens tart from scratch with a new design and new fabrics. A Frugal Quilter could never work this way consistently. Before long, she would have a pile of scraps and would give in to her horror of waste and inefficiency. She would make a scrap quilt from all the leftover fabrics she had accumulated.

I do not mean to suggest the Frugal Quilter never buys fabaric. She buys yards of fabric, as much as she can afford. She buys fabric in every color and every type of print. She buys fabric she loves -- and fabric she hates, it it's a bargain. She buys fabric on the way to work with gas money she saves by combining errands. She buys fabric as vacation souvenirs in lieu of tacky postcards and T-shirts.

Keep in mind, too, that most Frugal Quilters have remnants in their fabric collection that date back to at least their adolescence. This extensive collection is due to the genetic inability to discard even the smallest scrap in the certainty that it will be of use someday.

The Frugal Quilter does not just buy fabric and hoard it forever, though. She makes it earn its keep. Some Frugal Quilters display t heir fabric as a collection, an integral part ofo the home decor, while it awaits inclusion in a quilt. The Frugal Quilter is more of oa pack rat than a collector, however, and isaware that the value of fabric is generally in its use and not in its mere collection. The fabrics become more valuable and useful when made into a quilt, either as folk art or as an addition to the family bedding. Eventually, then, by using her fabrics, teh Frugal Quilter will wring her money's worth from every discount-priced square inche of the fabrics in her collection.

Most Frugal Quilters are as careful with their time as with their money, both of which are limited. The Frugal Quilter is not a fanatic; she can accept some waste of fabric if she is properly "compensated" by other savings. For example, some speed-piecing techniques result in slightly more fabric waste than traditional methods, but they reduce piecing time considerably. The efficiency of speed-piecing appeals to the Frugal Quilter, and she can accept some fabric waste in return for saving time.

Don't confuse the Frugal Quilter with the Miserly Quilter. The Frugal Quilter will spend money on quality tools, including books and magazines for inspiration. The Miserly Quilter relies on shoddy tools, and she limits her sources of inspiration. The Frugal Quilter looks for bargains, but she usually works with unworn, or seldom worn, fabrics in her quilts. The Miserly Quilter uses frayed shirts and dresses in quilts, and her quilts deteriorate rapidly, wasting her time and money to create a quilt that was defective before it was completed.

I am proud to be a Frugal Quilter. Yes, I'm cheap. A tightwad. But not a miser. In the 1980s decade of consumption, the Frugal Quilter was something of a misfit. In today's era of economic awareness, however, the Frugal Quilter may be the result of necessity, of setting priorities, or simply acknowledging a trait that has existed in us all along. It's a good time for us to return to the fundamentals of quiltmaking: creating fiber art or folk art that overcomes the constraints of available time and money. It's a good time to encourage and challenge the designer within us, to cultivate the creativity that overcomes economic limitations and creates beauty from the mundane.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Warm & fuzzy virtual world

I'm not a warm and fuzzy person. I'm too practical, too results-oriented, too impatient to ever linger with the hugs and the cooing and other nurturing sorts of behaviors. It's not just me, but everyone in my biological family. I have some wonderful relatives, but none of us is really warm and fuzzy.

At least, not in my biological family. I have another sort of family that's different. I've been spending major holidays with a friend and her family since I was in college, and her parents pretty much unofficially adopted me.

The warm and fuzzy feature that I was most amused by was the friend's mother's penchant for sending me cards for all the holidays. And I do mean ALL the holidays. Not, perhaps, "sneak zucchini onto your neighbor's porch day," but any holiday that major stores are likely to offer cards and merchandise for. Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, Independence Day, Halloween, etc. Frequently, the cards also included newspaper clippings and coupons for anything she thought might interest me. Sometimes there'd be a holiday-themed gift too, like a St. Patrick's Day hand towel. Getting those little packets always makes me smile, which is, of course, the whole point of being warm and fuzzy.

It just dawned on me today that I've started doing something similar. Not cards -- I've never really been into cards -- but as I'm procrastinating my way across the internet, reading various bits of news and commentary, I keep thinking of other people I know who might be interested in the news/commentary. Instead of sending them cards with newspaper clippings, I'm sending the virtual-world equivalent: links to the very best tidbits that might amuse them.

It's perhaps normal for women to turn into some version of their own mothers, but I'm turning into a friend's mother!

I feel like I'm morphing into a different species, but the transformation certainly isn't a bad thing. I can only hope to someday be as warm a person as my friend's mother is.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Resistance is futile

I'm not sure why, but I've been resisting finishing this quilt.

It was pieced years ago (one of several variations on the theme, as gifts for my nieces), and then two of them were finished last summer, leaving just this one. And it's been basted and ready for machine quilting since before last Halloween (if you can't tell from the picture, there are bats and ghosts and pumpkins and Halloween dinosaurs in the prints; I'm not sure what dinosaurs have to do with Halloween, but, hey, who doesn't enjoy bright turquoise and pink dinosaurs, any time of the year?), but then I got distracted by Christmas projects.

It's been on my list of things to do since January first, and I'm tired of copying it over into the new month's list.

I WILL get this done in March.