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Material Girl

by Roberta McReynolds


The fabric stash in my craft room waits patiently for me to transform it, with scissors and thread, into something useful. Perhaps I’ll fashion a one-of-a-kind blouse, or a pillow to brighten the sofa. Each piece has followed me home like a lost kitten, including my promise to "take good care of it."

My intentions are always the best. Ideas and projects flow through my mind. I’d like to create a new wardrobe for myself and do some simple upholstery. Pages with quilt designs get torn out of catalogs and pasted into binders to inspire me. I remind myself that if only I would spend half the effort sewing as I do collecting ideas, patterns and cloth, I would at least have something to show for it.

The miscellaneous rectangles are folded and carefully stored in drawers and on the shelves of my craft room. Some of it is stuffed in boxes as far away as the garage. An overflow rests in stacks next to the sewing machine. The voice of reason (which is mostly just a whisper now) proclaims that I won’t forget a project if it sits in full view.

Nevertheless, I return from yet another excursion to the fabric store. Less than two bags of purchases in the trunk of the car would hardly make the trip worth my time and gasoline. Buying items while they are on sale is just plain, common sense. Seasonal and holiday prints will keep for another 11 months! Everyone else will be paying full price next year, but I will already have my bargains ready to use. I’m certain I won’t forget where I stored them.

I unload my bags and tuck material and notions around me like a sparrow lining her nest. Settling comfortably in the center of my craft room, I realize the day is half over and it’s too late to begin cutting out patterns.

"I’ll save it for tomorrow," I sigh contentedly.

The following day I discover I don’t have any lavender colored thread. I searched through all the places I keep thread, including a quick inspection of the antique wooden spools which once belonged to my grandmother. I found purple, violet, and even orchid. But they absolutely won’t do the job satisfactorily. The top-stitching on that tote bag must be lavender.

The lure of the fabric store beckons me with this valid excuse to return. Besides, I have unused discount coupons in my purse which will expire soon.

Back at the store I select the correct shade of thread, and five other colors: six spools for only a dollar today! Now I could have headed straight to the checkout register, but I decided to just take a quick peek at the aisles of colorful textiles.

Whenever I feel restless, or at a creative low, the designs and color combinations inspire me: not just for sewing projects, but painting and other crafts as well. Some material is so beautiful that I have fused it on heavy paper and made greeting cards to send to friends and family.

I walk slowly along the rows, trailing my fingertips across the edges of the neatly wound bolts. It brings to mind a child dragging a stick along a picket fence. My inner child is loose and enjoying every minute.

The textures transmit data to my brain: terrycloth, brocade, cotton, tweed, silk, flannel. Some, like corduroy, trigger memories of the clothes I used to wear as a child. I think that oddly ridged fabric must have been both popular and affordable in the late 1950's and early 60's. Most of the school clothes my mother and grandmother made for me during that time were corduroy, frequently edged in yards of wavy rick-rack.

Almost without realizing it, I find myself clutching a bolt of creamy yellow cotton covered with orangish-pink flowers. Honey bees and dragonflies flit amid the floral design. The dragonflies remind me of fishing trips with my father. We would spend quiet hours in his boat waiting for a tug on the line. Dragonflies would perch on the tip of our poles, iridescent in the sun. They worked better than a bobber floating on the surface of the lake when it came to signaling a nibble. When a fish took the bait, the dragonfly felt the vibration and would lift off into the air.

The fabric actually transmits physical pleasure as I gaze at it. I hear it pleading to come home with me. The dragonflies are the same shade of lavender as the thread in my shopping basket, I notice. My near empty (up to this point) basket.

By the time I have reached the cutting table, I have collected four other bright designs to compliment the original selection. I found a golden yellow to match the bees, that striking shade of pink with some tiny purple random dots, royal purple with white and yellow daisies, and lavender, of course. I can close my eyes and visualize a warm lap quilt which will hold the promise of spring on a cold, dreary winter evening.

The employee at the cutting table asks each customer, "What are you going to make?"

Seasoned quilters always answer, without guilt, "I’m building my stash." I’ve learned this is an acceptable response and mimic these seamstresses. I know that some of them actually use that fabric, because I’ve seen the amazing results at quilt shows. The problem is, when I see these masterpieces on display, it doesn’t inspire me to sew. It just awakens the desire to . . . well, to build my stash.

The quick trip to the store to buy thread has lasted nearly two hours. While my husband doesn’t completely understand my addiction, he patiently subsidizes my purchases.

"Let’s see if I’ve got this straight," he says. "First you take a big piece of material and cut it up into small pieces. Then," he pauses for emphasis, "you sew the little pieces back together to make a big piece."

"It’s called quilting; it has a name," I remind him defensively. It must be genetic. My grandmother and great-grandmother were quilters. They’d understand these obsessive impulses.

I look down at the fabrics I had just laid out in a fan across the kitchen counter. "I’m making a lap quilt for myself as soon as I finish the tote bag project."

He smiles knowingly.

"And locate the quilt pattern," I mutter under my breath, as I carry the newest treasures to my well-feathered nest.

Roberta McReynolds retired after an 18 year career in the commercial printing industry. She particularly enjoys activities involving children, the elderly, and cancer patients & survivors, who impart new perspectives on life. Gardening, art and volunteer service fill the hours and serve to fuel her life-long passion for writing. Rediscovering the world through the eyes of her inner child keeps her imagination fresh.

Roberta welcomes your comments:

©2006 Roberta McReynolds for SeniorWomenWeb
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