Friday, October 10, 2008

Zen and the Art of Ironing

My least favorite task in any quilt project is ironing. I hate it. I mean, I hate it.

I dream of a day when I have gobs and gobs of money. The first thing I'll do is hire myself a minion--someone to do my ironing for me. And maybe, chop my vegetables when I'm cooking. But that's a different matter. For now, my complaint is with the seemingly inordinate amount of time I am required to sit or stand at the ironing board, passing the iron back and forth before me.

As I write this, I'm reminded of Tillie Olsen's story, all of which takes place in front of an ironing board. A mother contemplates her relationship with her daughter.

There's something about ironing that brings on meditation of some nature or other. Maybe it's the repetitive motion of the iron moving back and forth or the slow, slow, slow progress that's made. Perhaps it has something to do with the painstaking attention to detail the task requires. But rogue thoughts of things that need to be done or what's on television fall way. All that is left is the iron and the fabric.

Back and forth, back and forth the iron goes, smoothing it's way along the fabric that the laundry machine mangled. There is a certain amount of satisfaction that you get from seeing the wrinkles disappear. That's the work of the iron warrior, even though the work does not feel like waging war. It is peaceful, if not boring. But again, the repetitive and simple nature of the task smoothes the way for quiet contemplation, even meditation.

Staring at the fabric in front of me as I vanquish wrinkles from it, I am allowed time to consider its colors, its patterns, its texture. I get closer to it and understand it more than when I played with it in the fabric store. The colors speak to me and I contemplate how their pattern and scale will fit in with the overall design. How will these fabrics fit together? What role will they play?

Maybe, in this way, the act of ironing is more than just a means to an end. Perhaps it's a crucial step in the creative process--this, the least creative act in the process.

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