Today I finished making curtains for the living room. I used to have this completely unfounded idea that making your own curtains somehow saved you money. Here’s what I calculate:

Fabric: $100

Labor: $7,653

So that’s $7,753 for four homemade panels. True, they are pleated. Not quite French pleats – let’s call them Canadian.  And they look lovely. I’m proud of them. I stabbed myself untold times, but I freaking MADE them. During the process, I went out and bought four pre-made curtain panels for the bedroom for $120. Worth every penny.

The first thing I ever sewed was a little quilt for my stuffed bear. My mom helped me (patient woman, I salute thee) and I had it for years. As an adult, I meet once a week with a group of friends who all share a passion for quilting/crafting/making stuff with our hands. We switch homes every week, the host makes a main dish, and everyone else contributes with sides, drinks, dessert. We’ve been meeting for over a year now, and as one of the members said tonight, vehemently, “This would never happen in New York.” No one has an apartment big enough…or the time it takes to honor a weekly commitment. We’ve skipped weeks now and then – travel, or family stuff, or whatever, but most of the time, we’re pretty die-hard. Die-hard quilters. That’s how we started.

I loved the idea of creating something that might last for generations. I grew up sleeping under a quilt my grandmother had made, and even though it wasn’t lofty like a down comforter, that quilt was WARM. All those layers of batting, tamped down by stitches, create little pockets of insulation. It’s stunning to think that every square inch of that quilt was deliberate, conscious. It wasn’t fabricated or sent down an assembly line. It wasn’t imported (looks Shaker, made in Shanghai!). It wasn’t mass-produced. There was only one. I would lie smack in the middle of my bed and make myself as flat as possible under the quilt. Liquify. Try to make it look like no one was in bed. Hold my breath.

The founding members of our group decided to commence by experiencing quilting at its most primitive. That meant threading a needle and jabbing it through layers of fabric. Fabric that I, for one, purchased in kit form. What I didn’t realize is that I had to cut out every. single. piece. It took weeks. The finished quilt would be about 20 inches square, but in emotional yardage it was the size of an Olympic pool cover. Hunched over my quilt, gripping the needle and dragging the thread through, I imagined the legions of Lilliputians who would cuddle under its warmth. Thanks, Gulliver. Boy, can you SEW.

I say, with some defiance, that I never finished the quilt. It’s 98% done, but by the time I got there, I felt like the only way to preserve some autonomy, some dignity, would be to cast it aside, nearly finished. This Gulliver was on to bigger and better things.

Like stamping.

Really, what I love about our group is that we keep at it. It’s become sort of vitally important, for all of us, to gather. We fly around, picking at our various days, and then, once a week, we all land on the same tree and squawk for a good four hours. We’re all very supportive of each other, we all take great care. It’s something wonderful to know that no matter what you make, someone will think it’s fantastic. We’ve watched each other cobble together everything from pin cushions to christmas ornaments to costumes to curtains. We have at the various holidays like piranhas. For Christmas we made gloriously weird wreaths, for Valentine’s Day we used embroidery floss to emboss paper hearts, soon we will have Terrarium Day. Terrarium Day. The National Holiday that Never Was. But Should Be.

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