Sound familiar? Non-quilters are inclined to ask this question – a lot. In my life there are two piles: the ones I give away and the ones that I don’t, or haven’t yet. Those ones, and I’m sure I’m not alone, are all sitting in a pile on my spare bed. “You should sell them!” I’m told many times. Meh – for what? The money? Don’t make me laugh! I mean I might, just to clear the decks and buy more fabric, but to be honest, I’m not that keen. I mean what if they don’t sell? I imagine the feeling would be sort of cruelly reminiscent of not being chosen for the teams in PE. And why would I risk that…again?
But clearly we think about this, us quilters, and I need to look at the ‘why we do them’ before I look at the ‘what to do with them’. I have a feeling though, that only quilters will know what I’m talking about.
First – the ‘why’. Making a quilt, for me, is without question the one thing I do where I am totally focussed on ‘the journey’ – only. I have made quilts to order, and then the end is the goal, but that’s not what I talking about here. I’m talking about embarking on a journey of varying length to nowhere in particular – just setting off towards the horizon fizzing with quiet excitement as you hit the road. I go in a vague direction – towards the sun, up the hill, into the forest, or across the river, taking any number of detours, grassy lanes, byways and forgotten side roads, avoiding the speeding motorways and ‘suggested fast routes’. But there’s no destination because it’s all about what you see and feel and think about as the land unfolds before you. It’s what you are reminded of and examine more closely and smile at and are surprised by on these ‘roads less travelled’ that sends me on these journeys. It’s enchanting and beguiling and unpredictable and seductive. The destination is irrelevant; I’ll get there eventually, but that signals an end. No sooner have I arrived than I’m hankering impatiently to be setting off again, exploring, searching, finding and delighting in the hidden and unknown.
What I do with my quilts, or maybe what I WANT to do with them, came to me when I visited Jen Jones’s Cottage Shop in Llanbydder near Lampeter in Wales. I knew about the quilt museum is Lampeter; I had just spent an hour or two prowling wide-eyed around the museum and when I was leaving, the lady at the desk told me about the Cottage Shop just down the road. I drove down the little lane – exactly the kind that I’ve used as a metaphor above – and came to a little enclave of lime-washed cottages. Intrigue mounting, I poked my head in through the little front door, and lo! Piled up on every surface – stacked on shelves, hanging on rails, draped over the bannisters were hundreds of the most glorious quilts. A myriad colours and patterns, blocks and swirls from dreams and hopes and lives lived patiently sewn together into quilts by ‘my people’. Up the stairs to the first floor and there, more and ever more quilts lay quietly folded and resting on beds and chairs, filling the shelves with an infinity of unique and priceless journeys undertaken and memorialised.
This is why I go on these journeys and this is what I want to do with my quilts. I want them to be there when I’m gone so I can share my journeys, my dreams and the colours and patterns of my life with others who want to stand and stare and muse awhile.