Quilting is not a hobby associated with youth. Rather, when one imagines a quilter they often picture a someone closer to retirement than their college graduation. So just why do I now spend my weekends at a quilt class or volunteering at the quilt museum rather than brunching with my friends as so many millennials are known to do? Well, dear friends, there are reasons aplenty.
My mother has always been a sewer (sewist?). Growing up she made her own clothes rather than buying them. She made suits for her brothers in exchange for her first car. All of my Halloween costumes growing up were homemade–no store bought allowed. She even crafted the bridesmaids dresses for my sisters wedding! But that love of sewing was never passed on to me or my sister. She tried and tried, but we were stubborn. Whenever I sat down to try sewing a shirt or dress, it always led to frustration. The needle would break. I’d run out of thread. I cut the pattern wrong. Oh how I detested sewing. But a few years ago, my mom started quilting. While there are obviously many similarities between the two crafts, they really are completely different games in so many ways. After my childhood hatred for sewing, I had no plans on following in my mother’s footsteps at the time, but I adored helping her pick out patterns and fabric. She made me a beautiful quilt that I use every night.
My Hometown’s Resources
While my hometown is small, coming in at around 5,000 people in the last census, we are mighty when it comes to quilting. The famed Marianne Fons of Fons and Porter lives here. We have multiple stores that sell quilter’s cotton and other tools of the trade. We’ve got a quilt guild that has made and donated thousands of quilts to a local children’s hospital’s NICU, makes Quilts of Valor for veterans, and puts on a quilt show every year to show off what they’ve made. Recently an entire museum focused on quilts opened up on our town square. We were even featured in the Iowa issue of Quiltfolk–a serial focused on different states and communities of quilters.
On top of all of that, the quilters here love to teach others. A few teach in their homes, which is how my mom decided to learn. Our quilt store also holds a class almost every month, which is how I’m learning. It’s really handy to learn quilting from a professional quilter who also designs and sells his own patterns (yes his–a male quilter manages the quilt store I go to). Between him and the ladies who take his classes, I’ve learned tons of tips and tricks that I wouldn’t have gotten just from reading a book or quilting on my own. If I do say so myself, it’s helped me get pretty darn good at quilting in just a short amount of time.
My Mental Health
It’s no secret that I’m not happy with where I’m at in my life right now. My plans were thrown into chaos a few months ago when I decided to put off grad-school and focus on paying off my current student debt before accruing any more. It was the right decision for me, but it was and is still hard. So now I’m job hunting. While job hunting is always difficult, the highs and lows are exacerbated by my depression and anxiety. After a few months of submitting applications and rarely leaving my house, I knew I needed something else to focus on. Since my mom already had all the tools needed and I was so well positioned to learn, I figured I might as well give quilting a go.
Honestly, having these projects has kept me from falling into pits of despair or having frequent anxiety attacks. You see, I tend to be a bit obsessive about things, both my hobbies and my anxieties. It was getting too in my head about this whole job thing. Books and video games, while great distractions, weren’t doing enough for me. I needed something constructive in my life. Quilting fit that description for me.Being able to set goals and achieve them in one area of my life makes it easier to live with so much uncertainty of my job hunt. Plus, being able to wrap up in a blanket is very soothing when you’re anxious.
The craft has done wonders for my mental health, and I’m not alone. There are lots of articles (like this one) about how crafting (which quilting would be included in) helps your brain. Long story short, it increases your dopamine levels, and dopamine helps you feel relaxed. Crafting also helps fight the effects of aging on the brain. Though I don’t have to worry about that quite yet, it’s fascinating how the activity influences your brain.
Now, if only I could find more millennials interested in quilting so that my community didn’t consist almost solely of women more than twice my age. Don’t get me wrong, I love those ladies, but I crave being able to share this craft with people closer to my own age too.