I started quilting about 12 years ago--sometime in 1999, although I can't really recall what time of the year I began. Two of the secretaries I worked with were beginning quilters, and I was interested in what they were doing. They told me what equipment I'd need and where to go to sign up for classes. I bought the class book ahead of time and started messing around a little bit with piecing before I even started the class, and once the lessons began, I loved it.
In particular, I loved applique because it opened up so many more design possibilities, and by my second quilt (the one right after the sampler I did for class), I was designing and hand appliqueing most of it.
Soon--on that applique quilt, in fact--I learned to do the quilting too. Free motion quilting frightened me to death, but I got over it. I even quilted a face into the sun on that quilt.
I entered many of my first several quilts into the local quilt show and then the state fair--and won ribbons.
Looking back at those first couple years, I guess I practically jumped past the beginning and maybe even the intermediate stages we quilters go through. Now that I think about it, I was pretty fearless!
When I'd been quilting for several years, even though I belonged to one of the local Thimbleberries Clubs, I never made the projects just as they were designed--I always added my own twist. For the life of me, I couldn't understand why anyone would want to make a quilt that looked the same as every other quilt made by all the other Thimbleberries Club members.
Then the Turning Twenty pattern came along--and similar patterns followed soon after. And I thought that any quilter who would spend time and money making Turning Twenty quilts must be an idiot. After all, all they were was simple rectangles stuck together with no points to worry about, no half-square triangles--nothing, in fact, that required much skill at all. Why waste the time? Why waste their abilities?
I can't really say exactly when it happened or why, but sometime in the last few years, I became more tolerant. I got over my "Turning Twenty snobbery." In a sense, I even "regressed" in my own quilt making, turning to the small, fairly simple quilts we made in Jo's Little Women Club, continuing to be interested in Thimbleberries patterns, and whole-heartedly jumping on the Schnibbles and charm pack bandwagon.
Why do I now find value in that kind of seemingly simpler quilt making? Several reasons. Working with charm packs is an inexpensive way to try out different fabrics and expand my comfort level--I don't think I'd buy yards of fabric I wasn't completely drawn to if I was making "regular" quilts. Working with smaller quilts like Jo's patterns and Schnibbles has improved my precision in cutting and piecing. Working with different fabrics and, for example, seeing the Schnibbles parades on Sinta's and Sherri's blogs and looking at how different each quilt looks despite being made from the same pattern has taught me something about color value and visual texture. Seeing the small ways some of the quilters tweek the patterns to make the quilts different is interesting too.
Sure, I still make some fairly elaborate quilts, and they tend to be my long-term projects, like the applique basket quilt I'm working on now. And on occasion, I even try my hand at something kind of artsy. Or I make non-quilt sewing or crafty projects. I already HAVE three or four king-size quilts, so I don't really need too many LARGE quilts anyway--sometimes it's just fun to make a small project. Then there's the instant gratification factor too. Or just knowing I have the ability to make something fairly quickly that will change the look of a room. There's quite a lot of joy in that.
In my life, quilting has been an amusing little hobby at times, and at other times, it's served as an outlet for my creativity and artistic urges.
You may wonder why I'm talking about this now, or perhaps you already know. There's been some discussion this week in the Land of Blog about quilting. There have been some personal opinions expressed about what's valuable and what's not, as well as concern about the direction of quilting and our growth as quilters. I've missed some of it, but I know "the dumbing down of quilting" has been bandied about and what that means to different people. And, of course, I can't go without putting my two cents in too. Personally, I don't think anyone's right or wrong from what I've read. I think we're just all at different parts of several different paths all leading in the same general direction. And I can't help wondering what our quilting past would have been if only Baltimore Album quilts were valued--would there have been any quilt makers in Gee's Bend? In my own journey, I find just as much value in the simpler quilt making I've done more recently, because I'm obviously still learning quilting's lessons--and maybe they're ones I skipped ahead on earlier. But I don't think that really matters. What matters is that I'm having fun and enjoying what I'm doing. I hope you are too.