Saturday, March 26, 2011

My Quilting Journey

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.

22 comments:

Jane said...

Well said, Kim, and thank you.

Wilma NC said...

I am not a fan of art quilts for sure. I think quilts should be used, or displayed, and they should also be doable by anyone who wishes to learn how to quilt. Not all of us are artists, especially me, so I guess that's why I don't care for the artsy ones. JMHO.

Sunnybec said...

Thank you Kim, I have been reading things in Blog land too. I am a new quilter and know my limitations, we all have to start somewhere and the schnibbles patterns are ideal for me. My first quilt was a D9P wow how good am I LOL, but the pleasure I had when I finished that quilt was awesome. Surely in this big world of ours there is a place for every kind of quilter, I really hope so because I know what I am capable of and I know I will never make some of the complicated quilts I have seen. But I am happy with what I produce and isn't that what anything we do is all about, the pleasure and happiness it gives to us and others. The older I get the more I realise life is too short to worry about little things, who cares if I lose a point or two on my flying geese (mine never fly in "formation" anyway) and does it really matter if my seams don't quite meet.... Having seen the things that have happened around the world this year I am not going to worry about how I quilt. Linda

Donna said...

I appreciate your way of looking at things. Thanks for putting your two cents in. Happy quilting!

ranette said...

Always interesting, always articulate...and I couldn't have put it better myself.

Kelly Ann said...

I always say....different strokes for different folks...there's enough different quilting styles to go around...

debbie said...

I was wondering when I opened your blog today what all those words without pics was going to be about, lol.
I almost started with Jinny Beyers moonglow quilt...but the local quilt shop was being snobs...we don't do her classes, we don't sell her fabric...and so it took me a while to really start my journey. I did start with one of those no seams to match quilts and then progressed to a simple 9-patch in flannel for a baby. How much effort I put into a given quilt depends on who I am giving it to. If they are going to use it on their bed i'm willing to give it a good effort. If they are going to let their dog sleep on it charm squares sewn together is about all of my time I'm willing to give...and I'm a dog person. I am a member of two small guilds around 50 people each. One of those guilds donated more than 150 quilts to various charities last year! Amazing, and some of those quilts were very simple patterns, but every stitch from piecing to binding was done with love. One lady in the guild just got a blue ribbon on a baltimore album quilt at the quilt show in Hampton VA. I can't even remember how long she had been working on it. I feel there is a purpose to every kind of quilt. My thoughts :o)

sue said...

I myself get stuck in quilter/piecer's block (writer's block) and find that I need to do something simple so that I have accomplished the task - most likely to be donated. Then I'll take on a another level of intricacy to elevate my competancy. Does that make sense? It is a journey as you said and we all find our comfort zones. There is always another technique or style to keep us interested and of course the wonderful fabrics that entice us!!!
su

Synthia said...

I've been reading about the "dumbing down" of quilting too. I really like what you shared, Kim. Even though the quilting community is huge, quilting is also very personal. Every quilter is at a different stage in life, time, ability, finances, and on and on. I say let the quilters quilt how they find enjoyment and satisfaction.

Happy Cottage Quilter said...

And that's the point exactly Kim. Have fun and enjoy what you are doing!

Mamacessories said...

Here Here Kim! Didn't people originally quilt out of frugality and neccissity? WHy does there have to be a right and wrong way? I love that quilters are usually helpful and love to share their expertise and projects....Whatever each of us create is ours to enjoy in both the doing and the finish! Thanks for the post!

sunny said...

Well said Kim. I missed the original blog post that started this, but I read some others last night. I know that if every quilt had to be intricately pieced together by hand, with no shortcuts allowed, I would not be quilting. My quilts would certainly not win any competitions, but I love them, and I love the process. It's my outlet after being cooped up in a boring accounting office 50 hours a week. I love looking at the big beautiful complicated quilts, but I won't be making any.

Dori said...

I've missed the controversy this week. Lately I've been working on a simple 9 patch with zig zag setting. Sometimes I just need to sew without much thinking about it. Other times I'm more inspired. I also agree with Debbie if the dog/cat (in my case) is going to sleep on it a simple pattern is best.

Brandie said...

Exactly!
Are you sure we aren't related? I even started quilting around that time, and we are both blondes.
I agree and have felt everything you just brought up.

~Jess said...

i haven't seen too much of this going on in the blogworld....but I only follow a few quilting blogs. But I do know, in general, is that people always seem to think their way is the right way.

Great post.

leigh7911 said...

This post cracks me up. In fact, the other day I was wondering how I found you (SMS giveaway day, probably) 'cause your style is very much not my own. You make beautiful quilts and I can tell they're very well done, but not a single one of them is one I'd make for my house. Shoot, I LIKE the Turning Twenty quilts. :) Anyway, all that to say I still read and enjoy your work, even though it's not to my 'taste' at all. Also, I now find myself rather curious about the blog posts that sparked this one. :)

Laura K said...

Let me tell you that some of the most loved and cherished quilts in our family have been some of the simplest to produce. Blocks sewn together and straight line quilted. They were made with love and received and used with just as much, if not more, love. I think too many people put too much emphasis on quilting as "art". I have always thought of quilting as a way to show others how much I care. I appreciate the beautiful art quilts as much as anyone but I also respect those who are just making quilts that will cover friends and family in warmth and love. I don't think quilting should lose it's value just because it can be a very utilitarian project. All quilts are beautiful regardless of the reason for them being made.

Wendy said...

I totally agree! Quilting should be FUN no matter which pattern you are working on at the moment!!!

Abby said...

Call me crazy, but I think the Schnibbles patterns are considered hard. In no way dumbing down. Just because they use charm packs doesn't mean it's been dumbed down. I think in today's world where women are so busy anything that makes our lives easier should be welcomed! Since having kids I've noticed a huge change in how I quilt. I like to feel like I've accomplished something, so I have been doing quick table runners and strip quilts. Sure not complicated at all, but right now with a full time job and 2 small children I want to feel like I'm accomplishing something. Not discouraged because I never get any of my big projects completed!

These posts have started great conversation, but quilting should be a fun hobby that no one judges the other. We should all be supportive and happy when anyone finds the time in our busy lives to complete anything! Whether it is squares sewn together or a wedding ring quilt. Both were sewn with love.

quiltmom said...

Quilting is a hobby that most quilters feel passionate about- to me, its about making quilts for people that I care about to enjoy and use. I have yet to make an heirloom quilt- perhaps one day but in the meantime I keep making quilts for loved ones.
It has been an interesting dialog - I am still thinking about my process and creating.
Regards,
Anna

Corri said...

I love this post. I get people thinking I'm snotty because I hand quilt, which I do because I love it. The other weekend, in an attempt to get a present done on time, I decided to machine quilt it and realized that's hard and I don't wanna do it.

My MIL and I share the love of quilting, but she sews 1000 times better than I do, and I'm 1000 times more comfortable picking colors than she is.

Quilting is a wonderful way to express personality. I don't know about "dumbing down" but I know I've seen some really ugly "difficult" quilts and stunning "easy" quilts, as well as the other way around. I just love to see what people do, given the chance to mix colors and design things. And I love that people curl up under my quilts when they are sick and want comfort.

DangAndBlast! said...

Yeah, I'm a month behind in blog reading :)

But -- nicely put, especially about how your tastes change over time. I don't think I'll ever be able to feel a sense of accomplishment over giving a pieced top to someone else to have a computer quilt a design on it (heck, even the quilt books will say "by Person A, quilted by Person B," so they acknowledge that it's not all Person A's work!), but other than that... from machine quilting around the designs on a one-piece quilt top or the half-hour self-binding flannel receiving blanket quilts, to the half-hand-quilted exciting medallion and blocks kit quilt for my grandparents, to the completely hand-quilted (but machine pieced) and self-designed quilt I keep sketching out for myself, all of mine are perfect for their intended purpose (who wants delicate fiddly bits and 89 hours of work on a quilt designed to be puked and slobbered on by a baby?) and are/will be well received and well loved.