Since it’s back-to-school time, I thought it might be fun to have a little pop quiz.
This is a multiple choice question.
How far will Sandy go to procure a new quilt photo prop? Here are your answer options (check all that apply):
- Trumansburg, NY
- Way outside of her comfort zone
- The nearest estate sale/thrift store/junk pile
- Across the room
If you picked answer #3, you would be right, but if you picked both “Trumansburg” and “Way outside of her comfort zone”, you would be right about my recent adventure. I attended a women’s carpentry workshop at the Hammerstone School . Hammerstone, near Ithaca, NY, is owned by women and is dedicated to helping women learn real-world carpentry skills.
I’ve known about Hammerstone for a while (I think someone I know attended a class and posted about it on Facebook). I’ve been fascinated ever since. Even though Cindy and I grew up on a farm, our dad was not a big build it or fix it guy. I used to tease him about being a sledge hammer mechanic — if he couldn’t fix something with a sledgehammer, well, it might not be worth fixing at all. So, although I can milk a cow, deliver a calf, or stack a hay mow (for my non-farmgirl peeps, mow is pronounced like wow, except with an ‘m’). I have no experience building anything other than a barbed wire fence and even at that I was relegated to holding fence posts straight (while dad applied said sledgehammer) and passing him wire staples.
I was on the waiting list for Hammerstone’s first class where an Adirondack Chair was the project. The class was so popular that I was placed on a waiting list and got lucky because of a cancellation. I was so excited!!
Bright and early on a Saturday morning I arrived at the school. The school building is an old barn, surrounded by apple trees and chickens and a cute dog named Sonny. I loved it immediately.
(Covid comment — there was plenty of room for social distancing in the class and everyone wore a mask. The barn doors were open, so there was lots of fresh air.)
After introductions from Maria (founder and owner of Hamerstone), she asked us each to speak about our fears concerning the class. For instance, she said, some people are afraid of using power saws.
OMG. I have been dying to attend this class. I.never.thought.about.power.saws.
My heart started racing…can I do this? what if I cut my hand off? A finger? What if I get a splinter in my eye? What if I hurt someone else??? My anxiety went on high alert. I started reviewing my health care proxy in my head.
I noticed piles of boards — unshaped, very un-chair-like looking pieces of wood. OMG!!! Clearly, I had not thought through how this might work!!!! Sharp knives make my knees go weak. How can I use a chop saw??? Whose idea was it to attend this class????
I tried to remain calm and I got through the first day of the class. Maria and team helped us practice on all the dangerous equipment and gave lots of safety tips. As we began to work with the wood, I started making progress on my project, but I noticed that I was way behind everyone else. However, the instructors were amazing and explained everything in a way that made sense. They demonstrated confidence in us.
I tried to make myself small so no one would notice what a poor job I was doing or how far behind I was.
At the end of day one, I went back to the hotel and crashed. I was mentally drained — math and anxiety do that for me. Yet after only a few hours of sleep, I woke up, wracked with anxiety, thinking about going home and not going back to class, dreaming about spurting arteries and feeling like a failure. Whew. No wonder I didn’t sleep much. (Which brought on even more anxiety– how can I work around power saws if I’m not fully alert? <insert more images of freshly-missing fingers.>)
On Sunday morning, day 2, I bravely returned to class. In short order, I realized that I and my work partner Sharon (also a quilter) and new friend were, in fact, pretty far ahead of the rest of the class. We helped others, we fell behind, we finished last. But it was an amazing experience.
It has been years since I was overworked, sweaty and full of a feeling of accomplishment after a hard day’s work inside a barn. I loved it. And now I have a new quilt prop.
Thank you to Hammerstone and Sharon for helping me step way out of my comfort zone.