Mark My Word March/April 2008

Mark My Word March/April 2008

Hey, Kids!

Some think appearances are everything. At least it seems that way at the high school where my baby dumplin’ attends the 9th grade. To him, it’s all about how things look as opposed to how they really are. He’s right on some level. I guess, from a freshman perspective, we do judge people and things by how we see them. Yet my life experience tells me there is so much more than meets the eye.

When I was at Quilt Festival in Houston, I met hundreds of quilters. And in those hit-and-run handshake moments, it’s tempting to judge a quilter by her cover, so to speak, or her craft preferences or prejudices. It’s so obvious how stereotypes are born, and the fast pace of life has something to do with it.

Most of us are past college age (some of us are waaay past college age), and gravity and calories have taken their toll. That’s a bad combination, btw. Age + gravity + weight = the kiss of death. Add to that a passion for quilting and the needle arts and well, sister, most people think they had us quilters all figured out, then discounted long ago.

Here’s the problem: These morons don’t take a sec to apply a little historical perspective. They don’t realize, for example, that the graying, slightly padded 68-year-old quilter in front of them could easily have been dancing naked at Woodstock. (She was in her 20s at the time.)

Many of these very quilters— the very oldest of us—have marched against wars, worked for the passing of the Equal Rights Amendment, burned bras, experienced both the good and bad of the sexual revolution, had access to safe abortions, taken The Pill, and even if they’ve never actually smoked it, they have at least smelled pot somewhere (even if it was from their kids’ bedrooms). Some are recovering alcoholics and addicts, and some aren’t doing so well in the recovery department.

Many have been married and divorced, remarried and divorced again. Some have been cheated on. Some have cheated. They tell dirty jokes. One middle-aged quilter who was attending my Houston lecture blurted out that she was pregnant when she went to her high school prom. She got applause.

Almost all have raised families and some have been single parents. Some have been widowed. Some have lost children. Some have been homeless while others have never felt the sting of want.

Most of the quilting women I know have been part of the work force and were the first generation to see homemaking as an option, not a duty. Many are college-educated professionals. They make their own money, and they spend it on what they want.

The bottom line is when you see a quilter, she’s not the stereotype that non-quilters have hung around her neck. Yet, have you ever thought about how much of the quilter’s stereotype you have bought into?

Deep inside, quilters are strong, modern women who embrace quilting while taking their place in the world. They are not conservative wallflowers (well some are, but that’s the exception, not the rule, so stay clear of them).

If you want to liberate your quilting as well as yourself, find out what you did with your inner 20-something. Throw away “appropriate” quilt guild behavior and start “truthful” behavior. Loosen up on living and quilting, and you’ll see a renewed vigor in your design, your piecing and your life. Once we stop being good girls and boys, and start telling the truth about who we are, this marvelous creative makeover happens. If only half of us would begin to live our quilting lives the way we would like to, rather than the way we think we’re supposed to, we will see big changes in our piecework, the quilting industry and the stereotype of the uninteresting, old-fashioned quilter will be changed forever. (Care to dance naked again, anyone?)

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