Why Can't the World Be like the Fabric Store?

comments: 43

QuiltfabricYesterday was kind of a pain in the rumpus, and I don't even know why. Lots of problems, and deadlines, apparently "corrupted" email software, computers that wouldn't print, and other small irritations all on very little sleep, for me. I had been sleeping really poorly -- I expect others had, as well, around town, because of the heat. The traffic guy on the news said that was true, anyway, which I thought was interesting, that he would know. He can tell by the traffic, of course; when it's hot, and people don't sleep well, they get a late start, and traffic is a mess. It's cooler now, and that is a relief. Last night I was a log.

Thank you for all your kind comments for Aimee yesterday -- I know that she will love reading them. She only knows what a blog is because I have one, I think, and she's not all show-offy like I am -- so I know your kindnesses will be an extra-special treat for a modest, non-blogger like the sweet, shy, extraordinarily sparkling little Aimee.

I liked reading what people had to say about inspiration-after-doldrums, too. I actually don't think about inspiration very much at all; I think it has simply become a . . . habit . . . I follow regularly, because staying inspired is part of my job -- and sometimes, some days, it can be one of the harder parts. Making things, for me and for most of you, I bet, is a part of daily life that is about creativity, and inspiration, and expression -- but I think it's also about what happens to us physically when we are working along. Everything relaxes, blood pressure comes down, breathing slows, we focus in a pleasant, interested way on one thing at a time -- instead of the fourteen things the regular world requires us to focus on as a matter of course, and I'm sorry but some of us are not hardwired to eat lunch/talk on the phone/and drive the car all at the same time, even though it is apparently very, very easy for some people (you know who they are), etc. . . . Not me. One thing for me, possibly (some days) with a side of Ina's parmesan smashed potatoes and a sturdy chair, please.

I'm convinced that our collective interest in re-inventing and re-discovering "old-fashioned" crafts and handmade stuff is about more than just nostalgia; I know it's physically healing, as well. And that's always good, in this hectic, overpacked world. That always works. But there is a big difference between being inspired to make something, and making something when you feel flat, and pinched, and unmoved by the magic you know you've felt before. You need both the magic -- my friend Martha says this is what behaviorists call "flow" (must write that love-letter to Wikipedia) -- and the simple, soothing physical action of the work itself, no?

Sometimes when I've been working too much, or have read too many blogs, or looked at too many magazines, or watched too much fancy TV, I don't feel inspired -- I feel sort of exhausted. I think it's important to protect your own creative energy by blocking everything out, and returning regularly to the source -- the materials of your craft, and your own two hands. I must block out some of the pressure of overstimulation. (You know how sometimes when you pet a cat too much, and she seems to be sort of enjoying it well enough, sort of, but then all of a sudden she'll turn and chomp ya in a wild-eyed, terrifying little frenzy? And you're just like, "Whoa! Nice kitty! Owww! You little . . . [shaking hand]." Like that. Overstimulation. Makes ya grumpy.) Must. Turn. It. All off. And go back to the source.

For me, fabric itself inspires me endlessly -- more than yarn, more than patterns, more than paper, more than other kinds of art supplies, although I like all that stuff well enough. For years after my dad died, I would regularly spend my birthday at the fabric store, alone for most of the time -- just puttering, pondering, picking things out. That day is always one that I just do not know what to do with, and nothing feels right about it, so . . . fabric store. For me, a really big, really good fabric store is the cure for most of what ails me when I feel generally out of sorts with the world.

Yesterday was one of those days -- vague shakiness and a suspected potential for bursting into tears when listening to the '70s radio station -- so to Fabric Depot I headed. After wandering for an hour, I ran into Melissa and Mariko, and it was excellent to see them and visit on that territory, beloved to us all -- you can be sure, for the most part, that anyone else at the fabric store is also probably loving the fabric store, and feeling pretty lucky to be there (unless they are a whimpering child, have a whimpering child, or are an employee -- but even then they're probably feeling pretty lucky to be there).

Oh, it took me forever. I wanted to never leave. As Mariko and Melissa were leaving, I was still circling the bolts -- round two -- "I need more gray/must . . . stay . . . longer." Eight more bolts into the cart later, I took everything back up to the cutting counter where I got an older, experienced quilter for a cutter this time. I loved our conversation. I told her I was making just a simple square patchwork. She suggested that someday, when I felt ready, I might do something more complicated. I said I doubted it. (I said it nicely, but I really do doubt it -- I very much like the squares, honestly.) She nodded agreeably, and said her friend had a rule about making quilts -- the best ones, says she, are Fast, Fun, and Finished. Amen to that! said I, quite happy to be understood. I took out all my fabrics and showed them to her. I was practically doing a jig. I think she actually liked them. I told her my plan. She said, "Now, your style of quilting is what they call 'Folk Art.' " How nice of her was that! To suggest that I had some sort of style! I just had such a good time, in so many ways, at the fabric store yesterday. And I think I got way too much fabric (one of the side effects!).

Anyway, after the fabric store it was the P.O. Which, as you know, is a sure buzz-kill. But you know, there's a certain comfort in knowing that certain things can be counted on to make you feel certain ways. Hence, the wistful title of this post.


That's so insightful of you to talk about FLOW. I was just explaining to one of my violin students's parents why it is that kids don't practise the challenging parts in small sections like they should. My theory is that what people love about music is the FLOW of it, being transported emotionally. And since kids are all about the present and couldn't care less about practising for future satisfaction, they simply play their pieces from beginning to end, full of mistakes. Ugh...

Love your fabrics! My fave quilt store is so lovely that sometimes I go there when I have no intention of buying anything. I just want to be around all those yummy colours and potential creations. Here it is...

I love all the fabric...

I could not agree with you more... when there is too much (too much whatever it is..chaos, people, etc) I think people do shut down, some faster than others. I know I am definitely one of those people that when there is too much going on I tend to shut down. I love interacting with people and think I am more of an extrovert, but I do not need huge quantities of people, conversation, etc..when there is too much going on in one room I get the "shrinking violet" syndrome.
Glad to hear you are feeling revived and cannot wait to see the quilt. I need to post pics of the "log cabin" blocks I have crocheted (your love is fabric, mine is definitely yarn : )

It is funny that what you say about crafting being physically healing is what is said about meditation {lower blood pressure, one pointed focus}, I trully believe it is healing and a form of meditation.
And I agree that overstimulation can uninspire you {another belief of meditators}. You are 'the' spiritual guru of today!
I love the fabrics you chose, btw.

Very well explained about over-doing the exposure. Its great to step back for a while and the inspiration eventually can come from the simplest of everyday things!!

I completely understand the part about the overwhelm, anxiety, exhaustion. I've been there for a few days now. I think I need to make things because I like it, otherwise they just don't come together easily. I love going to fabric stores just because it's so full of possibilities, even if you don't buy anything or make anything from what you buy, it's just the ideas that come while you're there. I worked at a quilt shop for a while and I loved watching people come in and get so excited - their moods could completely change from when they walked in to when they left - very happy with a new project or just some fabric that made them happy. I'm glad your fabric made you happy!

The fabrics look delicious. I also love trolling around the fabric store. All the possibilities...I always leave inspired and energized to get to work (or is it play?)
Love the concept of flow as well as inspiration as a habit. I'll need to think on that one.

There is no better inspiration than fabric inspiration!

lovely musings today, alicia. I love hearing your thoughts on inspiration--finding it, having it, and losing it. I love finding my creative groove, things around fall away, and I'm just doing what I'm doing.
And I love your insight on the potential for overwhelmed lack of creativity from too much blog surfing. I get so over-inspired sometimes that I'm suddenly uninspired. I think that's why I find so much solace in my stoneware work--no one else that I know of(er, read of) is really doing it, there's nothing to compare to, or no one to try to be like, it's just what I do, how I want to do it, in my own little groovy world.
I love getting lost in handwork and craft.
thanks for this wonderful post. i CAN always come her for just the right dose of inspiration and perspective.

I've been craftless for a year now and picking up fabric, stringing a bead on a silk cord or taking paint to paper feels so therapeutic and good for the soul. It has helped me slow down the fast pace and stressful life I was heading towards. I always like to slow it down in the summer and working on crafts and sitting in the warm sunlight does wonders for me.

I think crafting is more of a high for me. As I was reading through your post, I kept thinking -- nope, that's not it at all. In fact, when I'm sitting in front of my machine or wrist-deep in the fabric bins, I get a tingle that goes straight to my head followed by a manic desire to finish! finish! finish! I guess I'm the same way with a good book. I will not and cannot put it down unless I'm forced to; compelled by words and thread am I. :)

There is something so therapeutic about circling round and round in a fabric store, running your fingers over the bolts and imagining all the possibilities. There are a few ladies at FDepot that I always chat with, and although our styles are very different, I'm always inspired by their suggestions. I can completely relate to the overwhelming feeling one gets after too much blog/magazine/book reading. I've cut down on both lately and feel much more liberated to create. Have a beautiful [much cooler] day!

i think you are spot on about over-stimulation. love the petting metaphor.

my mom and i went to fabric depot the other day and i couldn't help but notice how dramatically different our tastes were (me: "ooh, brown gingham, orange and aqua vintage reproductions!", her: "ooh, lime green batik!"), but, really, the experience of being inspired by the fabric was the same. i'm glad that i can share that with her.

swooning over your fabrics...lovely choices! i always have fridays off from work, and most fridays i take myself on a date to the fabric store. i get a bagel and some coffee, and i inspect every bolt for as long as i want!!! (this shop date is especially pleasing to my husband, who is not always so patient when in the fabric store)

I'm a new lurker to your blog, but I just wanted to give a hearty Well Said! Your post today, concerning inspiration, clicks and cozies right up to me. I live so far from my fabric stores, that I often look online at fabric vendors for an inspiring kick in the pants.

wow , you actually just put into words why I craft.. You happen to do that, you know, read my mind and wording the subconsiouse thoughts. Kind of scary especially because most of my thoughts are in dutch!

what a gem of a fabric cutter that woman is! i can see why you would be on top of the world with a wonderful 'folkarty' comment like that. yay you! I adore fabric stores. all the color and softness of the material. mmmm.

Chris Howard says: June 29, 2006 at 11:51 AM

Those fabrics look lovely. You are lucky that your local fabric store carries Denise Schmydt. I asked at my store, and they looked at me as if I had grown a second head.

Enjoy your quiltmaking process! I can't wait to see the result :)

We have been cooler here, so PLEASE keep the hot weather, really, we don't want it...

What a lovely post in so many ways. I too LOVE a fabric store - particularly a good one. But in a pinch I will go to a bad one.

also about the creative inspirtation thoughts - relaxation etc. I'm there with ya. Totally. When I decide to have a full day of "studio time", I just make coffee, do a quick read through of the paper, shower and get dressed - and enter my studio intending to spend the day there. Perhaps first I straighten up, put on some music, and then decide to sew or quilt - begin or finish. Doesn't matter. Or paint. Or write. I feel so happy and relaxed (especially if it's raining outside! a rareity here)and I think to myself "there's no where I'd rather be."

I find most of my inspiration from looking at fabric in my stash closet, yarn in my stash closet, thumbing through my mags (especially Mary Englebreit Home Companion or Country Living).

I also understand what you mean about the simple vs. complicated quilts. I've been there, done that, done them all. And my happiest ones to make are the simple ones - alternating blocks, strip piecing, or wide-strip log cabin.

And by the way - YOUR BLOG is a wonderful source of happy/beautiful inspiration!

Thank you so much for what you did about overstimulation. This is a big problem for me, and it was so lovely to see it articulated in that way... very meaningful for me. Sometimes you just need to go and do your thing, you know?

i share your sentiments about fabric and garnering inspiration from it. i went for fabric therapy today on my way home from a press event and you know, i felt so much better (even though i had to limit myself to 5 fabrics and not get 50 million "just to stash"). it really is therapy, mentally and physically. fabric and creating w/ fabric just calms you down. for me, doing anything with fabric just gives me a Moment of Zen and i feel like i can deal w/ the world again.


btw, i love your fabric choices! beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!!

hmmmm. I was at Fabric Depot yesterday, too. The parking lot sale area has yielded some treasures for me. The clerk told me people come from far and wide. We're so lucky to have FD in our own backyard.

Speaking of fabric, I love the passamentarie--many thanks!

What you said, about getting blocked and anxious from too much creative stimulation.

you were feeling what i was feeling yesterday. i've been in a sewing and crafting frenzy since the beginning of june and then all of a sudden yesterday i didn't know what to do. everybody wanted to know what was going on and all i kept saying was "i don't know". i couldn't focus and i couldn't concentrate. nothing was flowing so i just sat and watched tv. i needed a break but didn't know what to do. i thought i was going to go crazy. you are so right about going to the fabric store. i wished fabric depot was closer to me. i do try to drive down there from seattle every 2 months just to walk around and see new fabrics. i love the drive and the store. it makes the 2 1/2 hrs drive so worth it. personal issues that have come up has kept me awake in the early mornings the last month so i sew until about 2am just until i am ready to fall off my chair. sewing, crafting and hula dancing keeps me sane..lol
do u know if they have the 40% off sale every month or is it every other month?
i love your sewing room and i love all your fabrics! you know how to pick just the right combination.

Well, exactly. Why can't it?

What a nice fabrics. fabulous colors. inspiring fabrics...i need some like those you have.
thanks for your comment in my blog ; ).

i have been watching de pictures of the posie studio and it´s something...it's cosy and romantic...love have one tike yours.

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com