It’s the summer, it’s hot, and therefore, throwing yourself at and into large bodies of water seems the thing to do. We’re fortunate that we have quite a few cooling bodies of water (hey, it’s the Adirondacks and icy cold lakes are a thing).
As a parent, though, the trick seems to be getting your progeny (and their friends if you’re watching the progeny of others) to want to go into it, and to explore the attractions of swimming and playing on their own. Some parents may be all about the constant play with kids, but this mama isn’t one of them. At least, not all the time. Or even most of it. If I’m the one orchestrating the play, then it isn’t really play but a mom-sanctioned activity, right?
Ahem. This is a post about quilting, though. But, see, my somewhat sensory-challenged kid is learning to dive, and the parallels I see with him and his attempts to put his head into the water before his body are an awful lot like learning how to quilt.
Now hear me out. Imagine that you see before you a world of beauty and color and light and sparkles, and you just know in your heart that you can glide through it and cavort and be part of this playful fun thing you see before you. All you have to do is learn how to
swim ride a bike sew. So you decide to go for it! move forward! Get the gear! and then your excitement turns to caution, which turns to dread because then you realize you actually have to do it.
Taking the first scary yet exhilarating movements towards competence suddenly becomes a wall you have to climb. Or a cliff of uncertainty you have to dive off. You see all the kids around you laughing and having a good time and playing and doing things you know you could but are afraid to try. But then you realize there was just a hint of something fun about it, and maybe it would be ok if you took this little-next-step on your way to trying.
And it made me think of all the quilters I’ve taught to freemotion quilt: Women and men afraid of making a mistake but desperately wanting to be able to do it, to have a share in the fun, to be able to make their hands and bodies do what they need to to make pretty designs on fabric.
See, like my son, these quilters take lessons and learn the basics, taking a few tentative paddles and maybe kicking off from the side frantically into the arms of the instructor. They gain enough knowledge for their brains to know “OK, I probably won’t screw up and/or die,” but really, what they need to do is find the time to just paddle around and explore what they’ve learned on their own in the company of others. My kids’ biggest motivation to learn how to do swimmy things that scared him was to be around peers who already could. One of his friends was able to do what all of his instructors could not: dive over and over and over to try and get it right, so he could join in, too.
I think this is what we, as quilters, often forget. That playing around is often how we learn best. Yes, do take the classes to get the basics or new techniques down, but then find a group of friends who are all enjoying the playtime and mess around doing stuff together. Our peers often have some words, some tiny tricks, some insight, some joyfulness in making that is the “click” our hearts and minds need. It’s not just about knowing how to do stuff, it’s also about enjoying the practice enough to keep going. And that’s really the trick, isn’t it? Swimming isn’t always much fun by yourself, of no one can see your sweet jumps, or say “hey, that was less belly flop and more dive! Good job!”
Quilting is fun. Quilting is joyful. It takes practice and determination. That doesn’t mean it always has to be a painful chore-like thing, though, right? Maybe find yourself a pool this summer, and dive in.