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Hello Quilting Community!

Old 04-30-2021, 02:35 PM
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Default Hello Quilting Community!

Hi all!!
My name is Isabel Henry and I am a college student in Colorado. I am studying Anthropology and for my final, we are asked to pick a culture, that we are not a part of ourselves, and dig into it. As someone who owns a few quilts that were gifted to me, but otherwise knowing nothing about the quilting culture and community, I thought that it would be an interesting topic to research. But "googling" can only give me so much! I am looking to hear straight from you all about what this community means to you.

What brought you to quilting? What are some norms in the community (how you treat fellow quilters, I've seen some mention of quilting police?) ?? What does a quilt symbolize to you? What does this quilting culture symbolize to you? Is there such thing as a "bad quilt" or a wrong way to quilt? These are just some of my questions I thought of, but any input would be amazing!!

If you have any time at all to respond or reach out to me privately, that would be incredible. I am so excited to hear more about quilting, and maybe even pick it up a little myself. Please also note if it is okay for me to use your response in my paper!!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, and hopefully help me gain some more insight into quilting!!
-Isabel
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Old 05-01-2021, 04:52 AM
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Hello Isabel -- I'm glad to talk with you off-line as well. In my college career I was able to write pretty much any paper given to me on some aspect of quilting or cotton production. I am not the only person who believes the desire for the miracle fiber of cotton is what drove the industrial age and has a lot to do with things such as western colonization and slavery. Quilting itself as a feminist expression/experience. Project scale, schedule and design considerations in terms or art or geometry or process. It goes on and on!

I describe myself as a post-hippy (I'm that 70s Show Generation pretty much perfectly), born in 1960. The Bicentennial (1976) years brought out a bunch of interest in quilts and traditional crafts. I grew up reading Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Little House books (she made quilts... and maybe that is what gave me, a little girl the idea that I could make quilts), I crafted in Camp Fire Girls and Girl Scouts. And although I don't have a family tradition of quilts, decided as a senior in high school that I wanted to make a quilt to take with me to college. While that alone is a rather bland statement, the reality was I was leaving home at 17 with all my possessions in two suitcases, a quilt was an important item for me to start my life. I say that the only constants in my life have been music and quilting and I had music first but not by much. Or that I've never been quite sure if I am and so therefore I quilt, or the other way around.

I like to sew or play with fabric a bit each day. I love textiles and did quite a bit of costuming and garment construction at one point, but about 10-15 years ago decided to "just quilt". The fabric time is a bit like meditation, I sort through my thoughts and issues as the fabric is going beneath my hands and the machine purrs along.

For me a quilt is a physical item of comfort. It is something I can wrap around myself when no one else is there. The quilts I make are physical expressions of my inner art/self and are made/given as acts of love but ultimately -- it's a blanket. I do not sell my quilts, others do and that is perfectly ok. We each do our thing.

My thing is machine sewn, machine quilted and machine washable. Specifically, what I did for a long time is best described as contemporary adaptations of traditional patterns using modern fabrics and construction techniques. Then I embraced the term scrap quilter. Now, I'm realizing that I'm doing less traditional designs and more modern techniques and am not dealing so much in terms of scrap as collections. Some of this is due to progressive vision issues. I simply don't see as well as I once did and I believe my best work is mostly behind me but I still have years ahead of me.

I used to finish every project. Never had a UFO. With my vision issues I am feeling the pressure of time and that I won't always be able to do what I like most, and that is the planning and the piecing. Just don't enjoy the quilting that much and frankly -- it's not my strong point. So I have been amassing a number of completed tops that aren't quite quilts yet.

There are many definitions and terms and subgenres, but for me, to be a quilt is to be a useful item, a craft and not an art. We can use art principles, we can do all sorts of stuff, but as my former tagline used to say "If you can't wrap a sick baby in it, it's not a guilt". I have no problems at all with the glorious work other people do, or textile arts or many other things. But ultimately, if you can't/aren't allowed to use it, it may indeed be made of three layers, but it still isn't a quilt in my terms.

I believe that quilters as a whole are some of the best people I've ever known. Unfortunately, the "quilt police" do live among us and some of them are amazing downers. I was self-taught, I questioned why things were done. Quilt police have high standards and no questions. Nothing wrong with high standards for yourself it's just the rest of us may share some different ideas of what is reasonable without going into right or wrong. I almost always press my seams open -- the quilt police think this is wrong. I have reasons why. They still think I'm wrong. I have quilts with open seams that have been in use and machine washed for 40 years. They still think I'm wrong.

So the reality is that if you wish to show a quilt in competition, like everything else there are rules and standards to follow. We have some things expected of us like continuous mitered binding -- but we don't have to and not every quilt has to be a competition quilt. I spent my first 20 years of quilting being very precise in my quilting -- cutting, piecing all that, precision in the process was the key. Then again -- I worked with engineers.

For the last 20 years I've been going with the idea that my desired result is the key, and now for the most part I cut large and trim down -- 20 years ago you would have gotten an audible sniff from me (almost quilt police myself!) on "fabric wasteful" techniques. Then again -- I'm dealing with vision issues.
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Old 05-01-2021, 05:24 AM
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Welcome from Ontario, Canada.
What brought me to quilting was I wanted one and I could sew. For the most part quilters are welcoming and warm. You will find a few quilting police but the older less kind voices are fading. As with anything in this computer age, you will find a few trolls. As far as I am concerned, sleeping under a quilt made with love is the best for sweet dreams. Good Luck with your final!
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Old 05-02-2021, 09:36 AM
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What an interesting angle...sending a PM
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Old 05-02-2021, 11:34 AM
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Welcome from Southern California. In the 90s I designed and made a lot of wearable art. Quilting became a major influence in many of those designs I was seeing, and I thought I needed to learn a bit about quilting. I thought it would be easy, and that quilters didn't make clothing because they didn't know enough about construction and fit. Well, I had a lot more to learn than I thought. I've learned to think about color in a new way and appreciate the need for precision. I went from wearable art to art quilts and it opened a new world of passion and excitement.

I hope you will show us your final!
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Old 05-02-2021, 12:32 PM
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I've been sewing for almost sixty years, but I always thought that making a quilt was a lifelong endeavor - something that took years to accomplish.

I made a couple of wholecloth quilts when my youngest child was born - I did free-motion quilting on them before I knew that there was such a thing, another example of how ignorant I was about all things quilting. My mother had given me her Golden Touch & Sew and I followed the instructions for darning.

Fifteen years later, I pieced my first quilts for two small grandchildren and I was hooked.

Then I found Eleanor Burns' Quilt in a Day log cabin video. I made my in-laws a blue and white set for their anniversary. Quilt in a day? Really?

Well, no, not for a king sized bed, but it still only took me about a week. I pieced it on a 100-year old Singer 66 treadle and quilted it with decorative stitches on the seam lines with my 1956 Singer 401.

Side note: I'm not sure that you can tell the full story of quilting in the USA without a nod to Eleanor. She took a lot of the old patterns from Kansas City Star and other sources and eliminated the templates - she made them rotary cuttable and chain-stitchable - she simplified and sped up the whole process. She made quilting accessible to beginners.

I came to this particular board because the people seemed encouraging, they were always ready to answer questions and they were fun. We had swaps, we had off-topic discussions to share our tragedies and triumphs, we showed our work and got acceptance and suggestions for finishing or displaying or fixing problem spots.

The "quilt police" are pretty much non-existent, (especially on this board) but it was a way to tell people that no one was going to take points off for cutting off their points or using some non-traditional technique.

As with any other art/craft, there used to be a tremendous amount of dogma surrounding the process. i.e.: Quilts must be hand pieced, hand quilted, hand bound, you must use 100% cotton fabric and batting, you must pre-wash, you must use a scant " seam allowance, etc.

There is very little dogma on this board in regard to quilting, which makes it friendlier and more encouraging to all members.

What you will find quite quite a few of are "Quilt Inspectors" - the furry people who live in our homes and jump into the pictures we are taking to share our newly finished quilts.

Best of luck with your project!

Attached Thumbnails 3-thirdquilt.jpg  
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Old 05-02-2021, 12:51 PM
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The "quilt police" are pretty much non-existent, (especially on this board) but it was a way to tell people that no one was going to take points off for cutting off their points or using some non-traditional technique.
polyparrot, I have found the term "acceptable" to be a good word. True I like to have my points nice and well pointy, but sometimes they are just "acceptable" because after all we are not perfect, sometimes, "acceptable". And skill level is always a point to consider, beginning quilters versus experienced is a factor. Oh and non traditional techniques...yes that is how we got to the place quilting is today!
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Old 05-02-2021, 12:59 PM
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Yes, "acceptable!" Good word! We're all trying for perfection, but 15 years later, I'm still lopping off points here and there!
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Old 05-02-2021, 01:21 PM
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I think I started making quilts because I became very frustrated trying to make/get clothing that fit me "acceptably" (and that was when I only weighed approximately 130 pounds!) And I wanted to make "something useful."

I still think potholders are a challenging "beginner project". Start with placemats, instead.

Our skill levels vary. From "what is a needle and what is thread and you do what with them?" to almost out of this world mastery with design and tools.

Our financial investment also varies. Some appear to have almost unlimited resources to get whatever whenever they want it.
Others have to really scrimp and save - or scrounge or beg - to get enough supplies/materials to make a lap size quilt.

Are the "quilt police" real? Maybe as real as "Karens"

If you count judges at a quilt show - maybe. Other than that, there are some people think that some ways of doing things are better than other ways of doing them. I, for one, do think some ways of doing some things are better than other ways of doing them. The thing is - I have learned to not make unsolicited "less than glowing admiration" comments out loud. And have also learned that other ways may be better than the ways I have been doing them.

Is it "only" for "old ladies"? I do think the majority of quilters may be over 50 - and that the majority are female. But there are awesome male quilters and awesome younger quilters.

I think this board has allowed me to become friendly with a few people that I otherwise would not have connected with. Our "worlds" would just not have intersected any other way. Age, occupation, location - the only commonality is the love of fabric and making something with it.

Feel free to contact me by PM (personal message) and you may use any comment that I have made on here.

Another thing I have learned - only post something if one is willing to have the whole world see it!


Last edited by bearisgray; 05-02-2021 at 01:24 PM.
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Old 05-02-2021, 01:39 PM
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Welcome from SE Michigan. I have been quilting now for more than 30 years and have loved every bit of it. There is always something new to learn and even more ways to express yourself in the fabrics. Nothing can stop me! The rotary cutter and cutting mats have been some of the greatest tools to come my way. My oldest sister (21 years older than me) tried her best to teach me using templates but to no avail. Put me with a rotary cutter and Bam... I could do just about anything and now with the Accuquilt system for cutting fabrics I am stretching my skills even further.
Of course there are times when I still make mistakes. A good reason for a sample block before starting into unexplored territory is to insure success with a quilt.
There are no quilt police. There is an old saying, "the only perfect quilter is God!" On many quilts you will find an intentional "mistake". I opened a couple doors for others to become quilters and several have exceeded my abilities and that tickles me to death.
I would be glad to talk with you off line and even share a few of my quilts. 90% of my quilts have been gifted to family and friends. Some of those early quilts leave much to be desired. Now my quilts are keepsakes for my family and friends.
Keep up your research for this paper. There are thousands of fantastic quilters here and others that can walk you through some of the mechanics.
On that note again welcome to the QB!
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