Saturday, November 04, 2006

Debra -- In Stitches

I'm from the South. We love to turn out polished young women adept in all the important skills. Certainly my mother, a working mom, assumed my sister and I would both go to college and have fabulous careers. But just in case...just in case we had to fall back on our looks and lure a husband to survive, she made sure we had some skills to seal the deal.

By the age of ten, I could cook, knit, crochet, crewel embroider, cross-stitch, hook-latch and set a table for a multi-course dinner party and whip up the party frock to go with that meal. My poor suffering relatives could attest to this. While I was learning these skills, they'd received any number of knitted toboggans, crocheted slippers, embroidered kitchen towels, wall hangings, tiny bathroom rugs and fruitcakes.

I can't believe my mother had the patience and the time to give us those skills. I can't believe she kept a straight face when she looked at those early slipper attempts and said, "Good job, honey. Uncle Mike will love this." The thing is...she meant it and her reverence for handwork stuck with me. Over the years I've knitted sweaters, scarves, shawls and socks (apparently I can only knit things beginning with the letter s), made my maternity clothes, outfitted my son's nursery, made Halloween costumes, Miss Piggy and Kermit stockings, crocheted baby afghans, big afghans, and who knows what else.

What I've realized is that I love making things. I love giving gifts I've made with my own two hands. Over the years the gifts have gotten better. I know this because I have a waiting list now. People put their "orders" in and politely but anxiously inquire as to where they are on the list. Unless it's a quilt. When I began quilting about six years ago, the veneer of politeness disappeared. If I jump anyone ahead on the list there will be open warfare.

I enjoy the fuss and the appreciation, but I do this for me. I'm always happy when I'm settled in my quilt studio or have a needle in my hand. It's a different pleasure from reading but just as necessary to me. I love sorting the fabric collection, planning new quilts, sewing the top, the quilting. All of those things will actually lower my blood pressure.

What's necessary to you? What activity levels you out and perks you up all at the same time? Do you get a charge out of making things? (Boy, do I wish I could make furniture!)


Betina Krahn said...

Wow, Deb. You make me realize what a slacker I've been in recent years! I too used to do crewel embroidery and some needlepoint, and I, too, made all my maternity clothes. I think when I started writing, I stopped sewing-- except for the stray sofa pillows or Halloween costume for my boys. But you're right; there is something soothing about the pull of the needle and the thread, the feel of the fabrics and yarns. . . something about creating something of beauty and use. . .

And your quilts are sublime. The roosters blew me away. I can see why the relatives wrestle each other for a place in line.

I used to bake bread. . . can't eat much bread these days, so that's out. I still love to bake, but it does tend to end up on my hips, so I'm a lot more selective in when and for whom I do it.

You know. . . you've inspired me. I'm going to drag the needles back out and try something, create something. Thanks, Deb!

:) Betina

Helen Brenna said...

Deb, your quilts are gorgeous. How many hours do you put into making one? It looks like you've entered some in contests. Apparently, there's a whole quilter universe out there I know nothing about.

I know how to sew, but don't like to. Used to do cross stitching and crewel, but don't have the patience. But I'm suprised by how many writers do this kind of creative work.

When I have more time, ie when the kids are gone, I'm planning on buying a potter's wheel and getting back into painting. Something to look forward to.

Laura Vivanco said...

Those quilts are exquisite!

As for me, well, my darning's not bad.

Candace said...

Beautiful quilts!!! I am in awe -- and a little green with envy, too.

The only needlework I am proficient at is cross-stitch and crewel work. I only do them during the winter, though, when night falls early and I can't be outside gardening.

That's what does it for me, household arts-wise. Gardening. And cooking. And, most especially, cooking with the bounty from my garden.

Debra Dixon said...

Betina-- "something about creating something of beauty and use. . ." That's it exactly!! I like making things that are used by people. And it does have less calories than bread, which I soo can't make but love. When I began seriously writing and had the killer deadlines, I did stop most of my needlework. But I slowly became restless without handwork so I slotted it back into the schedule. I take my knitting on all my speaking trips.

Debra Dixon said...

Helen-- I was surprised about the strong creative strain in writers too. Tons of them out there. I do spend time every day working on some kind of handwork. Obviously I got nothing done during the remodel! But if I'm watching TV, I'm also sitting at my quilting frame or have something in my hands like applique. Having the studio helps because there is no scrabbling to get out my projects. Everything is always ready, even if I only have five minutes.

I'd love to learn pottery, but there's only so much time in the day. And room in the house. I'm not doing another remodel. LOL!

And yep, there is an entire quilt world out there. It's a multi-billion dollar industry. I've entered some local shows, done very well. :) I have a Best-In-Show. I have plans to enter one of the big national "juried" shows. We'll see... You've got to get by that jury first.

Debra Dixon said...

Laura-- Thanks! And my darning sucks. I'm a great hemmer though.

Debra Dixon said...

Candace-- I would love to have the gardening bug. I'm so jealous of beautiful landscapes and gardens. But I don't have that mental component. I don't "see" what to do in the yard. I just sort of stare at it and go blank.

ZaZa said...

You sound frighteningly like me, and I'm not from the South. I was the family cook by the age of twelve, and was making my mother's clothes by high school.

Just lately some friends opened a yarn and needlework shop, and that's gotten me back into knitting, which got me back into designing clothes, and now I want to make jewelry. But first I want to get published. That's the hard one, so I have to concentrate my efforts there.

Love your quilts. Great colors. How long does it take you to make one?

Debra Dixon said...


Having creative interests in more that one field just kills me! I know how difficult it is to focus your time. (I knit too!)

I normally have a quilt on the quilting frame, one project on the design wall being sewn and one hand-applique project for watching tv. My "serious" show quilts take anywhere from 500 hours up. I keep meaning to officially record the time spent but it's just too mind-boggling.

If I'm just piecing a top, the design could take 2-10 hours (sometimes you have to start over!) and then I can usually sew the top in a month. That whole "having a career" thing keeps getting in the way of my quilt production!

That's why I do both original and commercial patterns. Sometimes I just want to get in the studio and sew without thinking.