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Sad Things We Hear - Part One


"How many people are trapped in their everyday habits: part numb, part frightened, part indifferent? To have a better life we must keep choosing how we're living." - Albert Einstein


I'll begin by saying it is a delight & honour to be invited into the realm of so many quilt groups. We love it! We always leave inspired by the talent & quiltmaking; the generosity of charity work; & the connection & community spirit we witness. We have yet to have a negative experience at any of the events we have attended (& I expect we never will).


Likewise, it is a delight for us to meet our customers - both new & returning. We love to talk, about many things, but more often than not it is about quilting. We love to listen, & we feel privileged to hear so many stories, about many things, but more often than not, it is about quilting.



It's a thrill for us to hear all of the "ooh's" & "aah's", & sometimes even giddy gasps, at our bright & bold display. Many quilters who visit our pop-up shop have never seen such an array of colourful fabric & quilts. What we offer is different to most. How we offer it is different also. For many, it is the first time they have heard about These Clever Hands, & seeing it all in person is a lot to take in. It's like a full sensory immersion into a new, colour saturated, quilting universe. We are not everyone's cup of tea, & we're okay with that - each to their own.


However, the most rewarding part of what we do is seeing quilters of experience inspired to dip their toe in & try something new. Something that reinvigorates their desire to create. Something that has them busting to get home & start a new project - itching to stitch.


I'll preface the following with this: we will never do the hard sell - it is simply not my style. I have worked in retail on/off for 25 years now, & I have never done the hard sell. I don't believe in it. I wholeheartedly believe that it is far better for my business not to do the hard sell. I want my customers to spend their hard-earned dollars on fabric that they want to, & will, use. I will never push - a regretful customer will never become a returning customer.



We hear it too often


The sad thing that we hear the most often, at our pop-up shop (& in a forlorn tone) is: "I LOVE all the colour, but it would never work with my dreary stash." This is usually said by a customer clutching a piece of fabric that they have been immediately drawn to, & are coveting. The statement is always said with a degree of angst, sadness, or regret - everything that our quiltmaking experience should NOT include. But, before we delve into this much more, I want to tell you something of my quilting story...


I had been quilting for around ten years when I sold off all of my fabric stash - every last scrap of it. I sold my quilting rulers, cutting mat, rotary cutter etc. I sold everything but my sewing machine. I know now what I didn't know then - it was (my first experience of) clinical depression. Now, I won't go into the nitty gritty about the depression just now, but I wanted to share this because that experience also gave me an unexpected gift - the opportunity to reset my quilting journey. After a few years break from quilting, I began again. It took me a little while to find my feet - there were some false starts, with not-quite-right fabric. But very soon after I found Kaffe Fassett, & fell in love with his world of colour & pattern.


Because I have heard many versions of "I LOVE all the colour, but it would never work with my dreary stash", I have pondered how I might respond. Depending on the situation, I might share a version of my own experiences & suggestions. Always delivered with compassion & kindness, I might tell them some of the following:

  • I too, once had a dreary stash - it was full of country roses, country checks, country stripes etc. & it no longer inspired me. Yes, I had spent a lot of money accumulating that stash, & yes, I had once loved those dreary fabrics. But, does that mean that I should be obligated to use it all before making quilts in the colours that I truly love & that make me feel happy? No.

  • You can move that dreary stash on. There are so many ways to do this: I sold all of my fabrics through a Facebook de-stash group - it's super easy to do, & if that is beyond your capabilities, maybe recruit a young friend or family member to help & offer them a % of the sales. Or, ask your quilt group if you can set up a trading table at a meeting - offering a % of the sales to a charity. Or, donate your fabric to a charitable quilting program, like the Very Snuggly Quilts group. Or, bundle it up & send it to the Op Shop. Or, give it to your quilting friends...

  • My "Everything Goes" quilt pattern was designed to use up those ugly, dreary fabrics that you want gone. In my quilt, amongst scraps of my new favourites (Kaffe, Tula Pink, Anna Maria Horner etc.) you will find leftovers from those false starts mentioned earlier. My quilt includes pieces of vintage fabrics, feed sacks, retro prints, pastels & more. Because I have surrounded them with colour & pattern, in a busy quilt design, they are somewhat hidden. Customers are always surprised when I point them out - they simply hadn't seen them before I showed them. You can always chew up some of your fabric "uglies" in a busy, colourful quilt pattern.


Create what really makes your heart sing


If you are caught in the loop of feeling uninspired, but obligated to use a fabric stash that no longer makes your heart sing, then it might be time to consider letting go of the old. There are so many better options than to stay stuck. Be brave, consider your options, & make the first step towards what is calling to your creative heart.


During the last couple of years, I have learnt that life is fragile & it sure can be challenging. Quiltmaking has helped me through the most difficult of times. It helps me to find joy & beauty in each day. Our making should fill our hearts & feed our creative souls; it should inspire & delight us. Making quilts should not be a burden, a drudge or an obligation. We should not be enslaved by tired fabric stashes, or unfinished, uninspiring projects. Move them on, & create what really makes your creative heart sing.


Stay tuned for Sad Things That We Hear - Part Two.


From These Clever Hands, to yours...

Jo xo



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