Saturday, March 15, 2008

Everything I learned in quilt class

I learned everything I needed to know about life in quilt class.

Taking classes is one of the joys of quilting. I take them to learn new techniques, to socialize with my buddies, or for the sheer pleasure of sewing. Looking back on the classes I’ve attended, I can see I learned a few life lessons along the way, too.

Red is a neutral, Freddy Moran told us. The idea that a bright color could be neutral is counter-intuitive. I began to see a deeper meaning. It means simply, anything goes. Whatever your favorite color is, whatever your method of quilting is, whatever your ‘red’ is, go for it. Surround yourself with color. Surround yourself with your favorite things. Be yourself. That’s what Freddy does.

Fabric envy. The late, great Doreen Speckman told me to glance over at my neighbor’s fabric and admit that she had better fabric than I did. You know, a grass is greener kind of thing. She wanted us to get over the fabric envy so we could move on to create our own projects. To me it was about admitting my limits, and having fun anyway.

The back of your quilt block must be as neat as the front. Teacher Sharyn Craig insisted on this. She was readily available as we sewed, but would not answer a one-on-one question unless the block was neatly trimmed with no threads hanging. I fought this. Took me a while to learn this is not about appearances. This is about how you feel about yourself. It’s hard to feel good surrounded by loose threads and clutter. It’s like cleaning your desk or kitchen at night. A fresh slate makes me feel freer.

Margaret Miller taught me to have fun. Her enthusiasm for life, even while seeing its imperfections, taught me that it’s all in the interpretation. Psychologists asked elderly people if they were happy in their lives. They were surprised that the ones that answered yes had not lead lives free from strife. Just the opposite. But they were happy anyway. Be happy anyway. Margaret chooses to greet her students with a smile, to exclaim over their work, to be enthused. Her energy never flags and it is contagious.

This is not to say all my teachers were right. My first quilt teacher was wrong, dead wrong. She told me my fabrics had to match. I went along with her, but I learned from her that authorities could be wrong. I learned to trust my own vision.

To trust myself, to trust life. To surround myself with beauty and order and not be jealous. I learned it all in quilt class.


Camille Minichino said...

I love it, Terri ... quilt making as a metaphor for life.
A clever and inspirational blog. Thanks.
[Don't be surprised if I steal your idea!]

Becky Levine said...

Great lessons. I can go for most of them--as long as I translate "red" into "purple." :)

Maybe I need to work harder on the one about the back has to be as neatly quilted as the front. Maybe this is why I tie-quilted my one quilt? Or maybe this is the metaphor about making sure you proofread a brilliant novel BEFORE sending it out? The only place I can't go on this is making sure my house is clean before I write. Desk, yes--the rest of the house, not so much! :)

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Since I love red, this was a revelation to me. Nice post, Terri. Very, very cool.

Terri Thayer said...

Thanks for the comments, ladies. Feel free to steal whatever you can.

I struggle with making the back as neat as the front, too. The difference for me is now I can see the value in order. I do try to leave my desk in order at the end of the day. Just my desk, and maybe the kitchen around it. I feel better if I do.

Quilting and writing are all about making diverse elements come together and sing. It's great when it happens.