The 5 stages of quilting.

Dear friends,

quiltcu2

I finished my latest quilt on Saturday. It’s my sixth since I started in April. I continue to learn a little more each time I try a new pattern and/or a new technique.

The primary lesson I’ve learned is that quilting is a lot like grieving in that it has five distinct, emotional stages common to all projects. By describing them here, I’m hoping my experiences will resonate with others and that the legions of lonely and despondent quilters around the world will find solace and acceptance here.

The first stage is Glee. This stage is marked by restless anticipation and unbridled excitement as the quilter selects her fabric and plans what she is convinced will be the BEST QUILT EVER. The quilter in stage one will appear giddy and may babble uncontrollably. This stage varies in duration, especially if the quilter is a frequent fabric shopper and, therefore, is subject to regular fabric highs. (Fabric highs are followed by inevitable fabric crashes when the thrill of a recent fabric shipment wears off. This high-low cycle is the reason many quilters horde fabric as they seek to satiate their cravings.)

The second stage is Frustration. This stage is marked by annoyance and short tempers as the quilter actually begins her project. This stage typically commences during the cutting process, particularly if the quilter is weak in math, and often extends well into the piecing process. A sign that the second stage has commenced is frequent outbursts of negative exclamations, such as “This is so stupid!”, “I suck!”, “Why did I pick this <expletive> pattern?!” and “&%$#&**#!”

The third stage is Fear. This stage is marked by extreme anxiety prompted by the quilter’s sense of impending peril. She begins to imagine she will irrevocably ruin the project, waste her money, embarrass herself in front of her family and friends, and fail to complete a recognizable quilt. It is typical for a quilter experiencing this stage to retreat to a dark room, turn inward, and question her purpose in life. Some quilters consume alcohol during this stage as a method of self-medication.

The fourth stage is Despair. This stage is marked by depression and lethargy as the quilter is certain she is an utter failure. She may lose interest in other activities, such as eating and grooming. It is extremely important that the quilter’s loved ones encourage her to keep sewing through this stage. Frequent verbal affirmations may help propel her toward completion of the project, and expressing interest in any aspect of the quilt — such as the color palette, fabric selections, or pattern details — provides an important distraction to her despair. It is rare for a quilter to successfully endure this stage of quilting without outside assistance.

The fifth stage is Acceptance. This is the final stage of quilting and is marked by the quilter’s calm concession that she has not made the BEST QUILT EVER but has completed a worthy project and is better prepared to tackle the next. Signs that this stage is fully realized are verbalizations or behavior that may indicate the quilter is planning her next project. If these behaviors are noticed by loved ones, they should continue to encourage the quilter with affirmations and expressions of admiration for the quilter’s talent and fortitude.

If you know anyone who is experiencing the five stages of quilting (which, by the way, are almost identical to the stages experienced during a DIY project), please refer them to this post. And, most importantly, be gentle with their fragile, creative souls. Hugs are always in order.

With gratitude {for self-administered self-help, including all varieties of wine and healthy doses of humor},

Joan, whose most recent quilt pictured above and below was the most challenging and despair-inducing project so far

***

In case you’re curious, here’s a photo of the front. I used 21 shades of blue fabric and created the pattern myself based on this inspiration photo.

quiltfront

And here’s a photo of the back. The backing fabric is one of the most cheerful prints I’ve ever seen. I love it!

quiltback

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Comments

  1. Well, WOW! I am a sucker for blue already and looking at this quilt really soothed my soul. I can only imagine the frustration of the piecing process on the front of this one but then, flip that puppy over and salvation! cheer! goodwill and peace to all quilters! The most adorably peppy backing fabric in place to save the day. (OK – I get that you don’t work on both sides at the same time while piecing but work with me here…).

    I’m guessing this post is going to get passed around a lot Ms Joan. Prepare for the fame awaiting thee!

  2. I will definitely share this with my sister, the quilter, although I believe she has a Buddha-like ability to experience all mental states as equal and perfect.

  3. Love your fabric choices. What stage does “completely quit working on the quilt” fall under? Ethan is going to be in college before I finish his quilt!!!

  4. I am continually impressed.

  5. It would appear that I now live life bouncing between stages one and two due to my a.d.d. kicking in before stage 3 hits. It may explain why I have so many u.f.o’s ……o.0

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