It is a truth universally acknowledged that, no matter how much fabric one has in one’s stash, it is never quite right for the new project one is planning. Thus it was that a few weeks ago I found myself meandering through one of our affiliates’ stores where I fell into conversation with another woman who was similarly meandering. (It’s another universal truth* that, in quilt shops, there are no strangers—just quilters you haven’t met yet.) She was smitten with a Betty Boop print she had found, and wanted me to share in her delight. Now, I’m not a huge fan of Betty Boop myself, but I do think life would be dreadfully dull if we all loved the same fabric, and so I was happy to agree with her that it was a terrific find. She was even more thrilled with a bag on display which had been made from the Betty Boop fabric—but when I suggested that the shop probably carried the pattern as well as the fabric, so she could make the same bag herself, she said, “Oh, no, I’m not a quilter; I’d never have the patience for that!”
*Make that a near-universal truth. It turns out that some people in quilt shops are just there to pick out fabric for a friend.
This is not the first time I’ve heard the “no patience” explanation, and I imagine most of you have heard it too. Apparently the world would contain many more quilters were it not for the fact that quilting requires patience. Personally, I find this logic flawed, because I am probably one of the least patient people you will ever meet. If I have to wait in line more than a few minutes at the grocery store, I become annoyed—and don’t even get me started on some of the lines I’ve been in at the Starbucks drive-thru! But spending weeks, if not months, to finish a quilt? Not a problem.
Like any good academic, I approached this seeming dilemma by returning to the fundamentals: “define your terms!” According to Merriam-Webster, “patience” is defined as “the capacity, habit, or fact of being patient,” which in turn is defined as “bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint; manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain; not hasty or impetuous; steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity.” And there we begin to see the solution: whether you think quilting requires vast reserves of “patience” or not depends on how you define “pains, trials, opposition, difficulty, adversity.” Okay, quilting may involve some pain and difficulty on occasion—anyone ever discover after sewing a border to a quilt that you should have double-checked that they were “right sides together”? Frog-stitching (rippit, rippit…) an entire border seam might indeed be a trial which prompts complaint, not to mention wailing and gnashing of teeth. But mostly, quilters regard cutting fabric into little pieces and then sewing them back together as soothing, or exciting, or [insert positive adjective of your choice here]—not painful, or difficult, or trying.
So, when people say, “I don’t have the patience to quilt,” what they’re really saying is that they don’t think it’d be fun and they really aren’t interested. I get it, because I’ve used the same excuse myself in other contexts. (Cake decorating comes immediately to mind.) But that’s okay! The world would be dull if we all loved the same fabric, and the world would be dull if we all followed the same passions. Besides, thanks to all those people who don’t have the patience to quilt, there’s more fabric for the rest of us.
See you at the meeting!