How Quilting Changed my Life.
7 years ago, I was afraid of my own shadow. Hard to believe when you look at me today, but it’s true. My life consisted of panic attacks and anxiety. I was eating my feelings and pretending everything was ‘ok.’ When, in fact, everything was far from ‘ok’. The only solace I had was in my quilting. Of course, at that time it was very much a solo venture. I had no idea just how vast the quilting world was, let alone how much of an impact it would have on my life.
Today I watched a video of Tula Pink explaining how one of her favorite quilts came to pass. In short, she was at a Quilt show in Australia when someone walked off with her bag. In it was all of her supplies for her English Paper Piecing project and now she would have nothing to do on the long flight home. After posting a bit about it on her social media, the next day she was surprised at nearly every booth she came across.
Our quilting community came together and each gave her something from their stash to help replenish what she had lost. In the end she had received everything she needed to make the quilt in question. Every stitch of fabric, piece of thread and even the needles used in that quilt were all gifts. To her, that quilt represents what the quilting industry is as a whole. We are a tribe. We are a loving community who look out for one another and ‘take care of our own.’
Watching Tula tell her story made me reflect on just what this quilting community has done for me on a personal level. Where I started and how I ended up a quilt pattern designer with a fabulous Quilting Travel blog (if I do say so myself).
Where it all started
May 2015, I applied for a job at JoAnn Fabric. If I’m being honest, the only reason I even applied was because I could use the extra money for more quilting supplies. Isn’t that why most of us go to work in quilt shops and sewing stores?
By that point I had been quilting for about 5 years and had started making t-shirt quilts and other crafted things for my husband’s motorcycle club. Even though I was definitely a newbie and completely self-taught, I managed to have enough skills to land me the job.
What an eye opener it was working at JoAnn. In the beginning I kept mostly to myself. As part of the gig we were required to engage our customers about their projects. I found it hard to even just look them in the eye. Looking back it really shows how truly self conscious I had become.
Most of my time at work was spent behind the cutting counter but as time went on, I found it easier and easier to talk to customers as they came in. Simply by forcing myself to ask them about their projects I was able to learn from them, discuss my own projects and even, dare I say, connect with them. After all, just by them walking up to my counter I knew we already had something in common, fabric.
When I say ‘jump’… JUMP
Not even 6 months later there was an opening for the Education Coordinator and Quilting Teacher. I was asked to fill the roll. Without much thought I said ‘YES!’ Then, once the excitement wore off, I remembered, ‘I don’t teach.’ Holy smokes.
Not only was I going to have to learn to TEACH quilting, but I’d have to actually TALK to perfect strangers and face their judgement. Oh. Em. Gee. All I wanted to do was crawl into my own skin and hide from the world. What had I done?
Alas, the powers that be had other plans for me. That first class I had a total of 2 students. My nerves were a wreck walking in to that classroom and I was barely holding back a panic attack. Me. Rona Herman. Was about to stand up and be judged. But, I held myself together (somehow) and dove in.
Y’all, it was the best 3 hours I had ever had. I was upfront and explained this was my first class and we were going to give it our best shot. As it turns out, I really love teaching! I discovered that I knew more than I realized about quilting and actually had something to offer. As much as they learned from me, I also learned from them.
Class after class, the next year flew by. Each month I gathered more confidence in my own quilting abilities and teaching strengths. I slowly found myself actually talking to people other than my husband. Before I knew it, I was teaching my own quilt patterns, venturing out on my own, starting my own business and even joining the board of our local Quilters Guild. All because I applied for a job to finance my ‘hobby’.
More than just a ‘hobby’
I like to think of the quilting community like the internet. It’s not something you can physically see, but you know it’s there. It’s this giant web of characters that connect us all to each other. But, unlike the internet, ours is filled with support, acceptance, guidance and compassion. No matter who you are, what your background, or where you’re headed, there is a place for you.
Quilting has literally brought me to life. Quilting has given me a path, a purpose. Quilting has given me strength and courage. We are more than just random people with a similar ‘hobby’. We are a community. A tribe. Thick and thin, we are Quilters.
What’s your quilting story? How has quilting affected your life? Let me know in the comments!
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