Saturation Point

Why do we do this? Why do we keep making quilts, long past the point when family members and friends want them? Or past when we have “friends” we’re willing to give to?

I have a bed downstairs COVERED with quilts, lots of quilts, at least a dozen quilts right now. Jim asks, “what will you do with this quilt?” And I say, “I think I’ll put it on the bed downstairs.” This has happened enough times now that he rarely asks anymore.

My son has said he wants no more quilts. Yes, he’s in the military, subject to moving regularly, and yes, he lives in a small apartment without much storage space. Daughters and grandchildren have quilts, at least two each. They, also, don’t have storage space for more.

Charity/love/donation quilts? I could make those. I do make those. I’ve made dozens of those. And yet, there are two things I love most about quilting. One is the mental challenge, and one is the beautiful product. Frankly, charity quilts rarely satisfy either of those motivations for me.

I give quilts away. Last year I made about 20 quilts and gave about half that number. I am not un-generous, I don’t think. But I make more than I can reasonably give.

Now I am working on a quilt that no one will want. Another one. I’ve reached the saturation point and then some.

I think I’m having an existential crisis. Why do this? What is the purpose? If I’m the only one who cares, is that enough?

Your thoughts?

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59 thoughts on “Saturation Point

  1. arlenef

    “If I’m the only one who cares, is that enough?” Of course it’s enough! You’re SPECIAL! A quilt is a work of art…….. If a painter had more ‘works’ than they knew what to do with…..would you expect THEM to stop painting??? Of course not! More than likely the painter would be considered ‘wako, crazy….. to even consider it! so why not us/you?

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I would not expect a painter to stop painting. I do think a painter might wonder about his/her purpose in their art, too. 🙂 Thank you for the kind comments.

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  2. Shasta

    I haven’t reached that point, since I have cousins, friends, and their children, etc if I need to reach farther. For me the joy of quilting is in the making. If I enjoyed playing golf, I would spend lots of money but wouldn’t have an end product as a result. Quilting gives you a result, but it is the making that is so enjoyable. Keep making them as long as you keep enjoying making them. You can sell or giveaway the rest to help finance your addiction.

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  3. Tamara

    Of course it is enough. You are enough and quilting fulfills you in many ways. So why not do something that makes you happy? Unless you feel that you are short c hanging a loved one or the family budget-why not use your skills and talents to make beautiful quilts?

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  4. Swooze

    This thought so totally disrupted me. My mother was my main recipient and when she died I asked myself these very questions. I got myself back sewing and just sew what makes me happy and try not to think about a recipient.

    Maybe your family members would like to trade out and donate theirs. Maybe you can donate to causes that could use a raffle or auction item.

    Good luck!

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Raffles are complex in Iowa — they are considered gambling and require a special license, so a lot of organizations don’t use them. I’d love to donate for auctions but that has problems. Auctions have a reputation for really poor returns. People end up buying for so little, well less than the cost of materials. It’s hard to feel good about that, too. But yes, I do need to consider other ways to get my work “out there.” Thanks a lot.

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  5. katechiconi

    As I have said elsewhere: “We create because we can and because we must”. Unfortunately, our artworks tend to be on the large side… I try to keep the number of quilts I make down by working on other things too, like embroidery and dressmaking projects. I have stopped making quilts ‘just because’, and now make them only for a special person, purpose or long-held ambition, putting much more thought and effort into personalising them for the recipient, or into developing and improving the skill I am hoping to enhance. Fortunately my family is large, my output is fairly slow and I enjoy my ‘quilting-displacement’ work too!

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I kind of went the other way — stopped making them specifically for people and started making them just because. Because the specific people all already had a quilt! Or even more than 1. Even my son’s best friend has 2. Even Son’s ex-fiancee has 2! Even someone I now know to be a horrible person has a really great one! 🙂

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      1. katechiconi

        I know what you mean – wouldn’t it be great to rake back all the great quilts that are undeserved and unappreciated! I haven’t run out of people yet… I come from a very large family myself, and have married into another. I have a waiting list!

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        1. Melanie McNeil Post author

          Yep. Having a big family is a benefit there. I have 4 older brothers and sisters and have made for them. Jim has 8 siblings and I’ve made for all of them. There are actually too many nieces and nephews with very few close enough to me to entice me to take on that list in full. I have made a few for great-nieces and -nephews but for specific reasons. So yes, I have rather run out of relatives. Though last night one of my favorite nieces said she would be glad to have one. I’ll have her come here and choose from inventory, though.

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  6. Cindi Lambert

    I seem to be very good at producing stunning quilts that everyone wants but, having lost a few along the way to people who do not know how to care for a quilt, or just don’t care, I’ve gotten pretty possessive with them. I constantly get asked if I sell them and I say no, nobody wants to pay what they are worth. I make the costly paper pieced Quiltworx or BeColorful type quilts that everyone would love if I gave it to them. I keep making them and stacking them up in my own house.

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  7. Jim Ruebush

    Why does anyone create? It is part of our nature. Your creations are large objects requiring hours of hand and mind work. Other people have nothing physical to show. They both are compelled to create.

    I have no answer for you. But, I am certain you will continue to be creative. Maybe in a different way.

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  8. Cindy Moore

    I feel your pain, I’ve been there and I’ve done that and it does make you question your reasoning for quilting. I too do not have family that wants my quilts and I have all I need. I decided that I couldn’t stop making quilts but I could make them for people who might have a happier day with a quilt made by a stranger. So, I make quilts for Project Linus, our local chemo center, and a group that helps unmarried pregnant women. I try to make them as special as I can but I also challenge myself to make them as economically as possible. I have a lot of fabric that I have bought and that has been donated and I will not let myself buy anymore unless it is absolutely necessary. I know all of this sounds kind of silly but it works for me. I get a lot of fulfillment out of finding new patterns that will work with the fabric I already have. Stop fretting. You love quilting and quilting lets you be you. Just look for someone “special” to make them for and quit piling them on the bed. It will be different but it can work for you.

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  9. Trish

    In regards to making quilts for auctions – I agree with the comment that it is not worth the time and materials. A quilt that I donated for an auction was left folded up in a corner. It wasn’t even displayed.
    I agree with Jim R. It is our nature to create. Instead of thinking big, have you thought of doing miniature quilts? There is also a great PBS series called “Why Quilts Matter.” It is inspiring!
    Keep stitchin’!

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I do like miniatures, but I don’t have very good fine motor control. Efforts that require a lot of fiddly hand management would be pretty hard for me. Still, the point is to think of other ways to use the same thinking, right? Thanks for the push. 🙂

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  10. norma

    The pleasure of the quilt is enough – I figure you just can’t help it. That said, I haven’t been doing much recently – I’m having a bit of a break or other sewing, I think.

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  11. Dot

    I quilt because I like to…the process is more important to me than the product (an attitude that leads to too many UFOs). I don’t accumulate quilts for myself but give them away. I hope they’ll be looked after, but if not, I hope they’re loved.
    I say if you’re enjoying the process, then keep stitching…and writing about the process. Your posts and quilts are always so interesting

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Thank you, Dot. I understand your thinking on process vs product. I would be glad to give most of my quilts away, but they need to wait for the right person. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  12. fromsomewherewithlovex

    Where would the world be without the creatives? All artists have work ‘stacked up’ that they can’t or won’t sell, and can’t or won’t dispose of in some other unthinkable way. Do what pleases you; be kind to others; life is short.

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  13. jimfetig

    You have some wise words here. I think your followers have nailed the philosophical aspects. What about the practical? Do you really need to monitize this passion of yours? If so the Internet offers a wide variety of means. If not I bet there are creative ways to find loving and appreciative homes for them.

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  14. KerryCan

    I wondered if you ever felt this way. We were having the same discussion at my sewing group last week–and some of the members are asking themselves the same questions. Some of them have moved to different forms of fiber art–wool embroidery is popular among them and the products are small and easy to store. Weaving appeals to me partly because I can make so many different sorts of things as a weaver, and family and friend who might have enough scarves could still use, say, placemats or kitchen towels. I’m not sure how many more quilts I’ll make. But I agree with others that, for you, quilting is who you are and it’s your art and you should make it simply because you love it and it’s your form of expression.

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  15. melfunk

    I might be right there with you. I have not found homes for many of the quilts I’ve made recently. But, I’m sure there will come a time when I find the right place for each of them and until then, they are with me.

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  16. jmn111

    Why does a painter paint? A sculptor carve?… My quilts are art pieces – each one unique, each one solving new technical challenges, each one pushing my skill and artistry. So why would I stop? Like you, since 2011 I’ve made close to 50 quilts and still have 21 in my closet. In the past two weeks I’ve gifted two (I had 23!) thanking the two friends who each took one home. Like you, I’ve thought of giving these to charity – I tried persuading a local group to take 10 quilts and hold a huge raffle so they could raise some serious money with them but they weren’t interested. These are not quilts for the homeless. They are art works. So right now, I’m working on #6 since the last time I showed my quilts – aiming for 10 before the end of summer and am negotiating to have another showing in the fall. (More quilted jackets and unusual shirts, will be included, too.)

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      🙂 Where do you show them? How do you arrange that?

      Thanks for the forthright statement “these are not quilts for the homeless.” I do give quilts to charity, but the types they want/need are generally not the quilts I want to make. I love how generous quilters are and how we’ll make quilts for victims of personal and large-scale disasters, as well as for family, friends, and bare acquaintances. But those are each different quilts and require different thinking for each type.

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      1. jmn111

        I have friends who own a small gallery in a rural town a couple of hours from where I live. There’s an arts community there and so there is interest in my kind of art. We’re talking about a second show this year.

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  17. Jessi

    I honestly think this is why we see so many quilts being sold far below their worth. The quilter loves to make them and knows it is unlikely to get paid what is truly the value of the quilt. But selling it moves it out of the house and gets enough money to buy more materials.

    This is one of the reasons I’ve tried to pick projects that will take a LONG amount of time (usually tight quilting)- it keeps the volume down. But I also have very limited quilt time. However, I am starting to run out of wall space for the quilts I’ve made, maybe I need to figure out a way to rotate them, and then get into bed quilts as I have 2 quilts without a bed still.

    And luckily, I have a dog who loves every quilt I give her. 🙂

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I think you’re right about selling, Jessi. I’d be glad to sell some of my quilts if I thought I’d get anything close to my value. Part of the problem is I make mostly bigger quilts, things larger than wall-hangings. More time, more value. But as to quilts for beds, neither Jim nor I want to sleep with a quilt on our bed. Ironic, huh? 🙂

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      1. Jessi

        I don’t have a quilt on my bed either, just on one of my guest beds.
        I actually prefer a fluffy comforter to a quilt too; but the quilt could sit on top of the bed during the day (the dog would love it!).

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  18. snarkyquilter

    Right now I’m on a forced sabbatical from sewing/quilting due to a health issue and, as a friend put it, I’m going berserk. I mention this only to reinforce the idea that some of us have a compulsion to make quilts. And that is a good end by itself. I know you don’t just follow patterns, but actively create your quilts through a combination of craft and art. Please feel unfettered to follow your own quilting muse. If others want the end products, that’s great, but not necessarily the reason you quilt. BTW, I handed off some quilts to the AQS for their annual auction, which doesn’t run afoul of Iowa gambling laws.

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  19. Barb Gorges

    I’ve found two ways to deal with making too many quilts. I took up another activity–gardening. It actually inspires my quiltmaking as well as getting me moving more. The other way to slow down is to make more intricate quilts that take more time–I don’t have to have something for my guild’s Show and Tell every month. Though I intend to get back to my hand quilting roots as soon as I finish the next graduation quilt, I don’t think I’m quite ready to take up hand applique. In a way, I think the quilting industry is to blame. Over the 35-plus years I’ve been quilting, they promote faster and faster methods, which is fine, but they just want us to buy more and more fabric and supplies. Has anybody started a “Slow Quilting” movement?

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Yes, there is actually a slow quilting movement! A ringleader has been Mark Lipinski — just now looking at his blog and see he has been quite ill, and presumably recovering in private right now.
      https://theslowstitchingmovement.wordpress.com/

      And also yes, I think the industry pushes fast and easy to sell more. Mostly those aren’t the quilts I want to make, even though having some of those skills is a good addition to the tool box.

      I’m never going to be a gardener (just ask my husband!) but indeed having a second area of attention might do me well. Thanks very much.

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  20. Paula Hedges

    I am so sorry you are questioning yourself, but we all get in those funks at various times. I’ve reached a point in my life where if something brings me pleasure, I don’t have to justify it further. What harm is there if quilts are piled high on a bed? You say it is not a financial burden for you to continue and you are not withdrawing from family and friends to quilt. When you get pumped up again to continue quilting, I hope you do it without questioning why. And, it may be a time in your life to redirect and pursue another interest. No harm in that whatsoever! And it doesn’t mean you can’t quilt if the urge strikes. I’ve never regretted taking a new fork in the road, learning new things, challenging myself. Each year I choose one “out of my comfort zone” project to continue growing as an individual. You’ll know what to do! Trust yourself!

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Thanks for the encouragement! When I am fully rational 🙂 I know it is a “cheap” hobby as compared to many, and it is less expensive than therapy! So why not, right?

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  21. just carla

    I love your blog! As a relative newbie to quilting, I find your insights and guidance so very practical! Rather a heads-up on what may be coming down the line. So, first, a giant thank you!!

    I more at the “is this quilt anywhere good enough to give?” stage, but don’t want to keep stacks of them. What I’ve done to keep costs under control and practice new patterns and skills:

    1. I donate a lot to Project: Linus, a nationwide group that gives homemade blankets/quilts from to infants through age 23 (foster, ill, etc.). People donate acres of fabric, Whoo Hoo!, that blanketeers can then utilize for quilts. A win-win for me.

    2. I practice patterns on lap-size (40″ x 40″) quilts that I back in a cozy flannel and donate to elderly in rest homes or disabled vets (and are the perfect size for the bed or wheel chair bound). I’ve heard back from the sponsoring groups that those quilts are treasured by recipients who have given so much and have so little.

    A couple of thoughts — I’m looking forward to reading other solutions by your readers! Thank you again, Melanie ~

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  22. Dark Creek Farm

    You don’t have a quilt on your bed? That’s a fascinating tidbit to ponder! As for the need to create – embrace that and keep going – there are few things more beautiful than a handmade quilt!

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  23. scstephquilts

    You have over a dozen quilts on a bed downstairs. I have over 70 on the bed in my guest room. This does not include the 20 I use for trunk shows; 20+ charity tops that need quilting nor the UFOs and works in progress. I am an only child of immigrant parents. I do not know any other family members. I have one child with a spouse who has asked for “No more quilts.” I recently accepted a buyout to retire early from a job I loved with office politics I hated. Many a day I felt as if my head would explode if I did not sew something. Quilting was and is my outlet. Free to be me; color outside the lines; put colors together that many an art teacher would award me a “D” for combining. Your thoughts and ideas are your creative brain, don’t stop because no one appreciates your efforts. I have some friends who are disaster volunteers. They rarely ask, but when they do, I fill any pocket of space in their car with quilts. Over the years I have received two “Thank You” cards from the dozens of quilts donated to flood and fire victims. The quilts were given anonymously so I know the recipients, even in their time of grief, had to really do some research to find my information. I didn’t expect anything; but, that I did, it makes me feel good about me. Please don’t stop creating! Even if you continue to stack up your projects on a bed downstairs. When the time is right, your quilts will tell you they are ready to leave the nest.

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  24. quiltingmehappy

    Start selling them, that way you have the pleasure of creating and the satisfaction of earning money to buy more fabric to quilt, without clogging the downstairs bedroom. Or start hanging them on walls round the house (this is what I have started to do lol) 😆

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  25. Quilt Musings

    I love the process of creating quilts and the color and texture they bring, even if they are just stacked up in my home. Because of a fairly long quilting hiatus when work, family and other interests took priority, my stack of quilts is not that large, but it is certainly already far more than I need. I have given quilts to friends and acquaintances, and while I know some of them are really appreciated, with others, I wonder if the person thinks, “What I am going to do with this?!” And then sticks the quilt in a closet to be forgotten. I started my blog in large part to connect with other quilters, with whom I can talk color and design and texture, and who will appreciate and understand my quilts the way that I do. I have really enjoyed the interaction with other quilters that it brings…even if it inspires me to create an even larger stack of quilts!

    Right now, I still have a few people I think would be happy if they received quilts. I do like the idea of giving quilts to disaster relief efforts, if I find an appropriate channel. I am also trying to make more wall-hanging sized quilts so I can fill up more space in my home. That’s not always what moves me, though, so I suspect I will continue to make larger quilts, and my stack will grow. I have thought about hobbies like knitting and weaving, and maybe I will take those up one day. However, I suspect that would leave me with a stack of knitted and woven items next to my stack of quilts.

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Oh my yes, all making hobbies have that potential! So I guess we will just continue and some things we’ll give, some we’ll keep, some … will wait. 🙂 Thanks very much for the thoughtful comment.

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  26. Pingback: Only as Good as Your Last Quilt? | Zippy Quilts

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