My Name is Anne, and I am a Craftaholic

Like any addiction, I didn't realize what was happening at first. I didn't wake up one morning and simply decide that I was going to become a crazed sewer/quilter/crafter. It happened slowly, one day at a time. I didn't recognize the signs for years, and even then, I refused to acknowledge it to my family who would continually remind me I was in denial. My husband often came home from work and if he found me in the kitchen he'd ask, "Do I know you?" My children would wander into my craft room to dejectedly asked, "Are you going to cook ever again?"

My high school aptitude test told me I should be an administrator, veterinarian, seamstress or lawyer. The first dress I made in Home EC would have discouraged the boldest of couturiers, so I concentrated on a bookkeeping career. My sewing improved over the years to blossom remarkably when my children were born. Baby quilts, bedroom accessories, darling baby clothes and stuffed animals followed in rapid succession. My son's clothes were cute, but my daughter's were incredible. The laces, flowers and ribbons - the dream outfits I could make! Sewing took on new meaning. Even if my daughter never marries, we saw her in a complete and authentic, intensely detailed wedding gown one Halloween.

I ran into articles and questionnaires in my travels: "Ten Reasons to Buy Fabric", "The Ten Commandments of Fabric Shopping" and "Are You A Hard-Core Quilter?" I failed the tests miserably with hundred percent scores, identifying with each and every item. I shrugged them off as silly, thinking "I'm not that addicted" and continued merrily shopping for more fabric. Snarling over the last piece of fifty-percent-off lace to a woman three times my size didn't strike me as odd at the time. When I finally admitted to my family that they might be right, I looked back to analyze the problem from their point of view.

I started working in the evenings at the fabric store where I knew the clerks by name. They knew my work so well that my application was only a formality. I had plenty to do at home after my regular job, but I rationalized I was supporting my `habit'. How could I comprehend how adversely this was to affect my life? Eight months later, I quit at my husband's continuous insistence. It wasn't only because of the time away from the family (they actually LOVE McDonald's and pizza), but because I was not only spending my entire pay check at the store, I wrote additional checks out of our joint checking account as I purchased more than I earned! But the fabric I bought! It wasn't that much, and I simply had to have it. I just couldn't resist! And it was on sale!

Then my teenage son moved his room to the large basement room, leaving the bedroom next to my overflowing office empty. "What could we possibly do with a bedroom and its huge walk-in closet?" I asked. Thus, the craft room evolved, grew and grew. And grew.

Fabric came off the dining room table, ironing board, dryer, kitchen counters, bedroom dressers, to be neatly boxed in the bedroom closet. A door with wobbly iron pipe legs became the cutting table. The legs gave way to bookshelves, immediately filled with craft books A to M. A ceiling-to-floor bookcase housed the M to Z craft books and neat stuff. I delighted in discovering I had room to buy more books! Fabric came out of the closet to occupy the bookcases. Again, I had room for more fabric! Then the boxes started to refill.

The next step, being the most significant progression towards total and severe addiction, occurred. Helen, who worked at the fabric store, asked if I wanted to go to the local bead store. The rest is history.

We hit it off immediately, became fast friends and craft partners, creating 'The Craft Pantologists'. (Look it up - we did!) We fed off each other's cravings, traded ideas, methods, tried new phases of crafting together and shopped till we dropped. Projects developed faster than my children's growth. My family dreaded our Thursday craft nights with midnight baked potatoes smothered with butter, salt and sour cream. Our infamous trips to garage sales, fabric sales, and craft fairs took precedence over our lives.

One time we planned a day long craft fair adventure and we asked Helen's husband to stay with my children. I firmly believe the popcorn fight throughout my entire house was, in his gentle way, quiet revenge.

There were other symptoms, but I remained heedless. The house became messier than usual and my husband learned to do the wash. Two of our cats disappeared, finding neighboring homes with people that fed them regularly. I thought Waco was Wacko pronounced incorrectly. Pricing a storage unit for Halloween costumes and applying for a new credit card became rational.

By the time I was multi-bagging fabric purchases (the smaller to take inside upon my return, the larger to bring in from the trunk while no one was around), I knew deep in my heart my family's complaints were justified. I kept right on crafting, as inconspicuously as possible.

Experiments led to 'a better way,' with more and more detail while errors often resulted in wonderful new items or methods. If my husband complained about the mass quantities of fabric, I would simply compare it to his stamp collection, pointing out the fact that he didn't use his stamps, did he? I don't think he ever grasped that concept!

Time passed, blue ribbons from our county fairs appeared by the handful, fabric seemed to grow in piles around the room, and projects covered the walls. My fabric collection expanded from favourites to all the colours of the rainbow and then some. Quilts decorated the house, covered beds and children, created as perfectly as I could.

Any addiction is a substantial burden on it's own, but when added to perfectionist tendencies, it can be terminal, especially for a marriage. A similar warning should have come with my computer! A stationery card I couldn't resist said: "My husband says it's either him or the fabric -- (inside) Sigh, I'm going to miss him."

Last December my daughter asked me if we were going Christmas shopping like everybody else. It came as a shock to realize we had not gone proper Christmas shopping since her first birthday, nor could I remember the last store bought piece of clothing besides jeans or underwear! All our Christmas and birthday presents were now handmade.

Slowly, I put down my Ginghers, and got off my stool. I swept off the thread pieces and scraps, took off my sewing vest, the measuring tape from my neck, switched off the power strip and walked out of the craft room. There, in front of the television, was my entire family with bored, hypnotic faces. I firmly closed the craft room door as my family stared at me in disbelief.

Helen has since reluctantly relocated with her Air Force husband across the country, and is now the manager of a fabric store, contentedly puttering through countless bolts of fabric. We write or call often enough to warrant buying long-distance company stock. Packages containing fabric, scraps, new projects, ideas, patterns, instructions, photos and gifts fly back & forth.

I have given up looking for another craft partner with her enthusiasm or passion, but I influence as many people as I am can. I am the leader of my daughter's Girl Scout troop (and boy, do we craft!), joined the SPCA, Wildlife Reserve and PTA as well as the world again. I smile when someone nearing the end of a project says, "On the next one I'll . . " I gently mention their remark is an early stage warning sign for something that, to date, there is no cure. I hope they take heed if I offer counsel in the fine arts of establishing your own checking and credit cards, understanding the value of actual cash, practising fabric camouflage, and family/craft juggling before it's too late.

I still spend a great deal of time in the craft room, but more often when my family is gone or in the middle of the night. I do shop less, but I make sure every minute counts, especially when hiding it at home. Household chores are done first and faster, and the family and animals look well fed again. No longer do I scream "Stop!" when we pass a garage or craft sale, and I pretend not to notice the craft store sale fliers. The stereo system is back in the living room, the coffee pot is back in the kitchen, and the guest cot is back in storage. Only an occasional piece of fabric or notion is purchased with our check book - well within my husband's budget. He need never know about the side money I earn walking the neighbor's dog or house sitting in the area.

My family must feel I truly have it under control, because for last Mother's Day they bought me my own boom box and a new quilt book!

Written by Sharry Anne Stevens 1998, all right reserved

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