Monday, January 23, 2012

Slow Quilt Monday--What If?

It's time to play "What If?"

One of my favorite activities to do when I'm working with small groups is playing "What if?" In my line of work, the "what if" factors tend to be things like, "what if you had more money than you needed," or "what if the building burned down and you had to plan an event somewhere else," or "what if you had 15 more volunteers show up tomorrow?" What if...what if...what if.... Trying to loosen our minds from their usual knee-jerk restrictions: not enough money, not enough people, not enough space, not enough time... or just doing the same ol' same ol' because we're trapped in habits of behavior and attitude.

Quiltmaking isn't all that different from your average not-for-profit small group. Too often we can get stuck in rather comfortable, albeit pretty, ruts. We like certain color schemes that we find ourselves repeating. We are comfortable with certain styles so we keep going back to that well. We get really good at a particular technique so we find ourselves slipping it into as many projects as possible. None of that is bad, of course. We get very nice and enjoyable results from it. But a rut by any other name is still a rut.

And often ruts come from a need for speed. When I'm driving in snow, I find myself choosing those lanes or roads that are already well-traveled because I can go faster driving in other people's ruts. I know it's safe. I won't get stuck. But I'm also not breaking any new ground. And I'm likely to eventually get bored from seeing the same route over and over and over again, as fast and easy as it may be.

What If is actually a big part of slow quilting. It's taking the time to imagine "what if I put these two colors together," or "what if I took this block and flipped this one unit the other way," or "what if I did a quilt in a different shape?" It's taking time with a sketchbook or computer program to just mess around for fun. It's looking at a pattern in a book and imagining it with different colors or different borders or a different setting. It's leaving your blocks on your design wall for just another few days to allow your brain to play with a few more What If scenarios.

It's also, occasionally, "What if I actually did have X skill, or knew Y technique? What could I do?"

In small groups, when we play What If?, we end up with newsprint hung all over walls with multi-colored lists of possible scenarios, arrows pointing this-a-way and that-a-way, lines criss-crossing connecting one idea with another, stars or dots next to some, lines through others. You see, not every What If response will actually work. But some of them do. Some of them lead to new ideas. Some of them inspire entirely new directions. Some of them become catalysts for significant change. If you never play What If, you never find those gems hidden in multicolored lists on newsprint.

This week, I want to play What If? Will you join me?

We can play this in any number of ways--play it however you think you most need to. In future SQM posts, I may come back to playing What If and give a little more direction about particular things to What If about. But for now, I'd rather leave it open-ended for you to think about how it applies to you specifically. The best way to know what kind of What If you need to play is to think about what habits of thought or behavior you've gotten into, or what areas of your quilting life you may tend to focus more on the "don't haves" rather than the "do haves."

For now, just make the What If lists (newsprint and smelly markers optional). Don't worry so much about choosing which ones may actually be worth following. There's plenty of time for that. We're doing this slow, after all, remember?

Don't forget to download Squim the Slow Quilt Movement Snail and put him on your blog!