The Quilt Scout
by Mary Fons
HOW CAN I HELP YOU?
Note: Please consider this week’s column a kind of “Part II” to the last one. I think you’ll see they make a thoughtful pair.
A quilter asked me for advice a few months back.
“My son and my daughter-in-law,” she said, “They don’t appreciate the quilts I give them. They never put them on the beds, they don’t use them in the den. They’re in the closet! Don’t they see how badly they’re hurting my feelings?”
The quilt fits the room perfectly. I’ll be the quilter asked a few questions of the recipients before she “made the bed.”
Money, thought, and a lot of time are put into the quilts we make and when they go under-appreciated or are – gasp – ignored altogether, it’s a knife in the heart. Outside of a child’s handmade Mother’s Day card, there are few physical objects that represent of love better than a quilt. When the love goes into a Tupperware bin in the basement, that’s hard.
Luckily, a couple weeks before this lady asked this question, I stumbled upon a podcast on marriage and relationships. I’m not married, nor am I in a relationship, but the ad-free, positive chitter-chatter was nice white noise while I worked. But my ears perked up when one of the hosts said this:
“Rather than going to your spouse and fussing at them for whatever it is that’s bothering you, try asking them for help. Everyone likes to feel like they’re needed, and it’s hard for most people to refuse someone sincerely asking for help.”
The co-host chimed in. “So, the next time you have a conflict, try to understand rather than to be understood. Try to listen more than you talk. And ask how you can help the other person rather than trying to get them to do something for you.”
I obviously can’t take credit for it, but I was happy to pass along this advice to the lady with the question; it turns out this “ask for help” thing works in a lot of situations, not just in marriage relationships. Let’s see how it can be applied.
It’s normal to want to give quilts to loved ones. If you’ve done this but the quilts are not visibly beloved in their home, take a hard look at your part in their absence. It may be uncomfortable, but it’ll be worth it. Did you consider the style of the person or persons when you made the quilt? A Barn-raising Log Cabin in florals, however soaked in love it may be, will likely not do a star turn on the couple’s couch if the couch came from Crate & Barrel.
If you did consider the home decor and the quilt is still not displayed or used, a harder question still might need to be asked: is the quilt an isolated event of kindness or love? “I MADE YOU THIS MASTERPIECE OF LOVE” coming from someone who isn’t loving or kind on a regular basis is less likely to be cherished on a regular basis.
There’s another possibility why quilts may not be being used: people are afraid to use them, worried they’re fragile and will fall apart if used, too special to make use of. Make sure you tell every person you give a quilt to that their quilt is meant to be used. As my mom says to her giftees, “If you wear it out, I’ll make you another one.” And you will.
She’s wrapping a Downton Abbey quilt for her grandson. He loves television!Assess your particular situation. Then go to the person before you start flinging fabric around the studio and plotting your next quilt-giving attack. Ask the recipient to help you.
“Can you help me?” you can say. “Making quilts is a way I show people I care about them and you are so special to me. I really want to make a quilt for you, but I want you to help me understand how I can make something you’ll love and use. What do you think?”
If you’ve given quilts already that are not being loved as much as you want them to be, the advice stands.
“I love making quilts for you,” you could say, “but I notice that you don’t use them at the house. Can you help me understand why? Is it the colors I used? Are you afraid to use them? Help me know how I might make a quilt for you someday that you might really like to use.” Smile and listen.
The hardest truth is this: some people just don’t get it. There are those who love and appreciate quilts and other handmade objects, and there are those who don’t. You can’t force people to feel a type of way about anything.
Make quilts because you love to make quilts. Give quilts to the people you love. But like a clerk in a department store would ask when you’re out shopping for the perfect Christmas present for a loved one, ask: “How can I help you?”