Ode to the Time-Consuming Project

The average sewist is looking for a project that can be completed in 3 hours or less–a weekend afternoon, an evening.  It’s not a function of laziness or lack of commitment.  It’s lack of time.  It’s lack of time coupled with a need for instant gratification.  There’s no doubt, we’re a society that wants to accomplish and create wonderful, beautiful things.  We just want to do it in the sliver of time that’s free on our calendar.

So I started thinking about the types of things that CANNOT be accomplished in 3 hours:

–We cannot grow a healthy baby (or child, for that matter) in 3 hours.

–We cannot grow a garden in 3 hours.

–We cannot learn and become proficient at a musical instrument in 3 hours.

–We cannot become experts at embroidery software in 3 hours.

–We cannot get over a 24 hour stomach virus in 3 hours.

–We cannot grow up in 3 hours.

–And finally, we cannot complete a decent quilt in 3 hours.

And that’s OK.  It’s OK because there are plenty of things we CAN do in 3 hours (cook a meal, paint a picture, meet with friends, spend time with our children, get a jump on the laundry.  Nah, let’s not get into laundry.  Let ‘s not get into cleaning our houses and the guilt that piles on us.  That’s a whole other blog post.)

Back to quilting.

After Hurricane Sandy, I heard about a number of east coast quilt shops who began collecting clean, new quilts to distribute to those who had lost everything.

I resolved to make a quilt.  No problem, I thought.  I’ll dip into my stash of lovely fabrics, I’ll whip up something simple and send it out.


I spent at least an hour or two sifting through various fabrics, finding fabrics that complemented one another.  Do these go together?  Do I have enough of that? What will I do for backing?  Will this pattern work?  Am I short some of that color?  Many of you are quilters.  You know the process:  the cutting, organizing, piecing, pressing.

The funny thing is, I never once stopped to think, “Gee, this is taking a long time.”  I’d begin in the evening after work, continue on days off, after grocery shopping. I’d pick up again on a Sunday afternoon, an hour or two before bed.

For a few days, the pieced front was spread out on our bedroom floor.  My husband obligingly stepped around it on the way to the bathroom, while I decided how to piece the back (I ran low on one fabric).  The quilt then moved to our front hallway, the only space large enough to lay it out and create the quilt sandwich and pin baste it.   Again, my family dutifully stepped around it while I was working.

Like reading a book, the process of quilting is something we squeeze into those moments when we’re not overloaded with something else.









If every time I started a project, I thought long and hard about the hours I would be required to devote to it, I would never start a thing.  But the beauty of a quilt is that the process itself is relaxing, often repetitive.  And, as rewarding as instant gratification may be, there’s a calm peacefulness to slow and steady progress.  A finished quilt represents a season.  Yet, as each step of progress was made, I thought about where this quilt was going.  I thought about the people affected by the hurricane and I thought about how maybe this quilt could bring some comfort.  Maybe. It’s a bit like prayer.

And 3 hours just isn’t enough time to pray for the world.


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