Sometimes I get unlucky (or am too hasty) and find myself spending my precious child-free
hours, minutes pulling many many stitches out of something I’m making for someone. Usually it’s a quilt I’m making and somehow I’ve gotten off-kilter in my haste, or have resolved that while it need not look perfect, it need look a little more perfect than this piece of crap I’m currently holding in my hands.
Usually during this tedious process of pulling stitches out I’m cursing internally or donning a foul attitude and wondering, “why am I even making this in the 1st place? They probably won’t even like it!” And, once the stitches are pulled out, I begrudgingly start again, reminding myself with every move I make not to rush things.
Sometimes I wonder why bother?
The other day I was perusing Alicia Paulson’s book Stitched in Time – looking for some inspiration to make something for Orlis’ upcoming birthday. I came upon a sweet article inside that she wrote about making things:
“The thing about making handmade gifts and giving them to people you love is that sometimes you love what you’ve made more than they will. Unless you’ve involved them in the process, it’s occasionally inevitable that you’ll like it more than they will. Even when you really tried to pick the things you think they’ll love. I think everyone who likes to make things has been there: You spend half the year — twenty six lunch hours, fifteen Saturday nights, and seven fourth-grade soccer games, to be exact — secretly knitting your husband a sweater. You think of him wearing it Sunday mornings while flipping pancakes, you picture how cool he’ll look in it while he walks through the park with the dog. You wrap it lovingly, then pass it to him excitedly – Surely it must be the best birthday present the man has ever seen! And he says, “Oh — thanks…no, I like it!” Sigh.”
Alicia‘s article got me thinking about my expectations, and what all this sewing, crafting, and quilting is really all about for me. And the truth is, I don’t know exactly. I do know the matrilineal lineage on both sides of my family comprises itself, almost entirely, of women who liked to have their hands in motion. I know, too, that those same women were (and still are) gift-givers in their own rights. I know that, actually, each and every one of us descends from this kind of matrilineal lineage because there was a time when the only kind of gift giving was the handmade kind — when fruit pies, a jar of pickles, a hand-carved toy, or a new set of hand-stitched doll clothes were the only kinds of items passing between family members and friends during celebration times. We all hail from less-than-idle hands — and from a tradition of the giving of things that take time, effort, and creativity. It is, if we consider far enough back, in each of our bones. That notion alone gets me feeling romantic all over again about making things and I find my fingers itching for a project.
And while handmade gifts I’ve given don’t always solicit the overwhelmingly elated response I’ve been conjuring in my imagination while I lovingly rip those stitches out to make it right again, I get it too that usually, we don’t really know how much someone appreciates our efforts or likes their handmade gift. Maybe, for a long time, these recipients don’t know it themselves until years have passed and the item is tattered and worn and ends up in a box of family heirlooms.
Because I think the truth is, on some level we do know. Our bodies know when they are wrapped up in something handmade. Our minds and hearts know when there is history present and stories looming in the fibers that bind. We may not know it to say it, but we know it still — we know it and that’s why we continue to make things. This I do believe.
By the way, I’ve updated our current reading inspirations in the right margin. Keep in mind, every single purchase you make from Powell’s Books (via this site) benefits both Powell’s AND Treelife. thank you!