I stood in line at the fabric store last week feeling completely out of place. I held my single bolt of interfacing, surrounded by carts piled high with bolts of material in coordinating colors. I watched and waited as small amounts of each bolt were measured and cut, wishing they had an express line for those of us with just one item. I chatted with the woman ahead of me in line, and asked her what she was planning to make with the material in her cart. She sheepishly admitted, "I'm not sure what I will do with it, but I simply fell in love with the colors and designs. Maybe I'll make a king size quilt." I told her what I make out of ties, showing her my purse and she said, "Oh, it's so nice to meet a fellow quilter." Hmmmm..... I never think of myself as a quilter - certainly not in the same league as someone who makes a king size quilt.
Moses hides in the jumble of ties
When I got home, I walked into my sewing room to put the interfacing away. In an effort to control the chaos of disorder that threatens to overwhelm me, I have come up with a system for organizing my tie collection. Every time I enter the room, I must remove at least 5 ties from the laundry basket and sort them by color onto hangers. This time, as I did so, I realized that my collection of ties is not that different from the piles of small cuts of material that quilters bring home from the fabric store. Each tie is a single cut of material. Each hanger holds coordinating cuts. Each item I make is a small quilt, with carefully chosen colors and patterns.
My favorite - and most challenging - part of the design process is matching ties. Visitors are always surprised when they see my tie collection and I enjoy watching their eyes grow wide as I open the closet door. Occasionally I worry that collecting ties has become an obsession. I am simply unable to drive by a thrift shop without stopping in to see if they have ties - and it is uncommon for me to walk out empty-handed. I never pass up a good tie (indeed, if you peeked in my closet you might think that I never pass up a bad tie either!). In order for me to coordinate colors and patterns, I must have a huge variety of ties to choose from. The process of building my stash might be different from that of the quilter I met at the fabric store - she chose colors and patterns with purpose, whereas I buy ties randomly, hoping they will match something I already have. But the result is similar - an ever-growing collection of material to organize, store, and hopefully use someday.
Randi D. Lebar
I closed my orthopaedic surgery practice in 2008 after becoming frustrated with the business of medicine. Over the next three years, I became a craft artist by accident. Or perhaps it was fate.