A Nudge from the Universe
Christmas in...March?

Fabric for The Plague Year

When I was a kid living my Jack Mormon life deep in the heart of Utah County, my mom had an on-going joke. Whenever anyone mentioned something about food storage (and living in Utah County in the 70s and 80s, even as a Jack Mormon, “anyone” might mention this often), she would say “I don’t need to have food storage. If the apocalypse happens, I will trade my fabric for food.”

Even then, she had an enormous stash of fabric. (She also had, in the very same room as her fabric stash and sewing machine, two floor-to-ceiling cupboards that were filled with food she’d canned during the summer, anything from apple pie filling to refried beans, green beans to a weird pickled succotash with carrots and jalapeños that I don’t think anyone ever actually ate, even shredded beef and of course salsa and tomatoes. Was this not food storage?)

By the time she passed away last year, she had a dragon’s hoard of fabric. If trading fabric for food ever really became a thing, she and her family and her neighbors and probably some of her neighbors’ families would’ve never gone hungry.

What’s the likelihood of ever actually trading fabric—or any craft supply, really—for food? It was just a family joke.

Of course, until now none of us had ever actually gone through anything apocalypse-esque, so we really had no idea.

But now there’s COVID-19. There is shelter-in-place, and no sit-down restaurants, and the library is closed. The movie theater is closed and school is online and the stock market crashes every single day. There are riots in the aisle of Costco. (Literally: TWO Costcos in Utah have had to call in police because of fist fights.)

It’s not really the apocalypse. At least, I don’t think it is, but it is surreal. I came out of Costco yesterday feeling like was floating because I was so relieved that they had milk. When in my life have I ever worried about being able to go to the store and buy milk? Never.

Yesterday morning, I woke up with a quilt. Meaning: I dreamed about making a quilt, and when I woke up I knew exactly how I would do it. What it will look like, where I will put it. (It’s a table quilt if you were wondering.) I don’t simply want to make this. I need to make it. I lay there in bed, figuring out fabric measurements in my head, fueled with creative energy.

Except, you know? I don’t have a fabric stash like my mother did.

Sure: I have fabric. Scraps from previous projects, of course. I have four different boxes where I am accumulating small scraps for different types of projects. I have a huge box of 6x6 squares and another of 8x8. I have fabric in the closet under the stairs and in a box in the storage room and in stacks next to scrapbooks in my crafty space.

But the quilt I brought out of my dream is yellow, blue, and green. Colors, especially yellow and spring green, I don’t have a lot of.

And plus, shopping for fabric is one of the fun parts.

I’m serious: it almost felt like a compulsion to go to the fabric store. Like a deep itch that could only be scratched by looking at bolts of Moda and Riley Blake.

I tried. I tried to talk myself out of it. I tried to be logical and calm and socially responsible. Fabric isn’t a need, it’s a want. Nevertheless, I found myself in the Fabric Mill parking lot later that day. It was completely empty, but the store was open, so, I confess: I use some hand sanitizer and then went inside.

I bought the fabric for my quilt.

Fabric for a plague year

Maybe this wasn’t my mom’s intent or understanding. Maybe it really was a joke. But at that moment in the fabric store, where I kept my eye on the door just in case someone else came in, where the feeling of guilt for not being socially responsible battled with that fabric-store joy of being surrounded by color and print and possibility: right then, I understood our inside joke in a way I never had.

In times like these, we don’t only need the essentials. Yes: toilet paper and canned chicken are required. We have to eat. We have to take care of our bodies.

But if all we do is exist, that isn’t really living. And for me, a large part of living is making. Creating things helps me feel alive. It is, in fact, one of my reasons to be here on this earth in the first place. Making things gives my life meaning. And if we can’t have lives with meaning, why try so hard to stay safe from the virus? Life without meaning is life without joy. And during stressful times like these—not just individual trials, but social ones—we need joy. Maybe we need it more than we do in regular, non-pandemic times.

So even though it goes against the goals I made for myself when March started (and doesn’t March 1 seem so far away? So long-gone, those times when we didn’t get anxious about getting milk or shaking someone’s hand?), I’m going to make my dream quilt. I’m going to make it because I am alive right now, and because making things makes me happy.

I’m also going to bake cookies (as soon as I can find a source for dark-brown sugar, that is; I’ll trade a fat quarter or ten sheets of patterned paper for two fresh bags) and make scrapbook layouts.

I’m going to work on the other thing I brought out of a different dream, which is a poem about protective kittens.

Because in addition to loving my people, I make my mark on the world by making things. Maybe you make your mark by collecting stamps or by perfecting your golf swing. Doesn’t matter what it is. What matters, especially now, is that we honor who we are by doing what we love, because in the end—and that is the terror, yes, that this coronavirus experience could be our end, or the end of someone we love—that is what we have to offer.



Amy, you can always make your own dark brown sugar (if you have molasses).

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