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Thread: Quality of Tools

  1. #26
    Super Member ghostrider's Avatar
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    I think some of the confusion in this thread is due to semantics. PaperPrincess tried to point out that canvas and oils are not technically 'tools', they are supplies, and that's a significant difference.

    To learn a new technique, be it printmaking, sculpting, or quilting, premium quality supplies are not essential for success, but the quality of the tools used can have a major effect not only on the result of your effort, but also on whether you remain motivated to continue learning the craft.

    Where quilting is concerned, for example, it's one thing to use lesser quality fabric and thread while you're learning and something else altogether to use a 'make-do' machine that doesn't behave as it should and a ruler that is crooked. When I advise others, I always suggest they start with inexpensive, easily found supplies until they've had a chance to try the techniques (surface design mostly) and decide if they want to take it to the next level.

    There are many here who consider themselves artists, myself included though I personally prefer either fiber artist or textile artist to fabric artist, and many who do not. It makes absolutely no difference what we call ourselves, or what others call us for that matter. What matters is how we feel about what we do, who we are, what we produce, and what we leave behind.
    The Earth without art is just "Eh".

  2. #27
    Super Member JulieR's Avatar
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    Buying "the best" "you can afford" (two separate considerations) is sound advice for beginning quilters. Using tools of superior quality does not boost inherent skill, but using inferior tools and materials can certainly frustrate the process and result in a product that is of lower quality than what might have been made.

    A beginning quilter doesn't know what a rotary mat is supposed to be like so she might be discouraged if she has one that "flakes". Likewise if she has thread that breaks in her machine, or fabric that frays terribly, or scissors that don't cut as well as they should. Give her enough "environmental" problems and she'll think QUILTING is the root of the issue because she doesn't know it can be better. How far would you have gotten with painting if your canvases consistently shed enough lint to muck up your paint?

    As quilters build their skills and experience they can better tell what a quality tool or material will be because they'll know WHY they're looking for certain things, and then price becomes less of a guideline and more of a project management consideration.

    In addition quilts, in general, are not meant to go on a wall or otherwise be handled gently. Quilts go to the park and the beach, they go in the washing machine, they go on beds where kids like to jump. They keep us warm, with both their form and their function. A quilt made with inferior materials (which cannot always be told by price) simply won't last as long or wear as well.

    I think you won't hear a lot of objection to your original post because many quilters don't think about "art" -- they think about doing what they love and call it quilting.

    Interesting thread.

  3. #28
    Senior Member Rose S.'s Avatar
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    I have enjoyed reading all of this. I am with JulieR...not having good tools could be so frustrating it could totally change how someone views quilting, or anything for that matter.

    When we first got married, for my birthday, my hubby went and got what he thought was a good sewing machine. A Kenmore. If I had never sewn before, I sure wouldn't after I got it. It would sew fine, then not sew. Jamming, thread bunching in back...you name, it would do it. I would take everything apart...look for stray threads, rethread.....change needle....and sometimes do it repeatedly and finally it would sew again for a while. It is still a mystery to me what was wrong with it. I never thought about taking it to a repair man...and still wouldn't. I gave it to Good Will...and suffered guilt for that.

    If I had not sewn at home, I would have thought that sewing was not worth the trouble. So, getting the best you can for what you are going to do is good advice, but that doesn't mean it has to have all the bells and whistles. To me 'best' means something that does what you want it to do consistently. I have an older Viking with lots of decorative stitches, lots of needle positions, but the majority of my sewing is done on my straight-stitch only Juki 98 Q.

  4. #29
    Power Poster Moonglow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TanyaL View Post
    I take back what I said because I see that none of you consider yourselves fabric artists. I had mistakenly thought from many other threads that most quilters thought of themselves as making fabric art. I was confusing oranges for apples.I appologize for obviously offending you.

    Tanya, no need to apologize as you have not offended anyone. This has been a great thread and it has been interesting to read what everyone thinks and feels. It's wonderful that we can express our opinions on this site.

  5. #30
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    Hi, I do consider myself a quilt artist who is passionate about my quilting and piecing. However, due to a limited budget I have to make wise choices and I think that is probably taught me to not get carried away with gadgets. I have bought fabric at thrift stores and got really top notch stuff. In addition I use coupons at Joanne's and also buy at the LQS and wish I had a LQS where I am currently living. However, I have stayed in my budget and gained so many hours of enjoyment and I also made lovely quilts. I do think some quilters spend so much more than I but if they are truly enjoying themselves that's good. I also see other's that buy, buy, buy and never make a darn thing. I can only hope I pass by their yard sale the day they decide to downsize.
    Create something beautiful from scraps.

  6. #31
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    well, never let it be said that i passed up a chance to pontificate. LOL

    #1 ... taking offense or not is quite often a personal choice based on habits in perception. that whole glass half-full or half-empty thing. given that none of the respondents seem to have taken offense; and given your assurances that you intended no offense; i think we can run that cat out of the room now. it's all good. chillaaaaax.

    #2 ... get 10 people in a room and you will get 30 definitions of just what is "art" and what is not. news flash - all quilters are artists. it's just that most of the rest of the world doesn't recognize quilting as an art form so a lot of quilters don't, either. it's labelled a craft - as though it's somehow inferior to that which is considered art. even among quilters, works are not normally labelled "art" unless they diverge somehow from traditional patterns of geometric piecing or applique (such as baltmore albums.) puleeeeze. decide for yourself whether or not you are an artist. and ... oh, by the way ... art can also be a hobby. LOL ;-)

    yep. it's as easy as that. LOL

    #3 ... if an art teacher knows a student will not be able to achieve a certain effect without a specific type of supply or tool, and that teacher still tells the student to not "waste the money" until they reach some arbitrary point on the skill scale ... well ... i'm sorry, but that teacher is no teacher. a real teacher should inform, inspire and encourage.

    #4 ... as so many have already pointed out, things like "best", "worth it" and "worthy of it" are all in the eye of the beholder. we should be careful how we advise beginners when it comes to tools and equipment. unless she has money to burn, a person who is still trying to decide whether or not she wants to move forward in quilting should think twice about plunking down piles of cash. once she's hooked, though, all bets are off. the best advice then would be to try the tool(s) or machine(s) first and then decide whether or not the bite in the budget is the best way to go.

    as JulieR so wisely expressed it ... "As quilters build their skills and experience they can better tell what a quality tool or material will be because they'll know WHY they're looking for certain things, and then price becomes less of a guideline and more of a project management consideration."

    and if your friend's "why" is "because it's there" ... that's ok, too - so long as she doesn't expect you to pay for it. LOL LOL LOL

  7. #32
    Super Member carolaug's Avatar
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    Ditto...no idea what your point is...and for my this is a hobby. The more I quilt the more I look for bargins...and I also upgrade my tools along the way...what is nice is you can make the same quality quilt with any tool...its just easier. My sewing machine is faster than my old one....easier to FMQ due to the arm lenght. Die cutters are easier than my rotary cutters. etc...
    Quote Originally Posted by LyndaOH View Post
    I have to agree! And I wasn't offended by your post at all and didn't think any of the responses reflected anyone else feeling offended. Discussion is good! Hobbyists are good! Quilt artists are good! Quilting is good!

  8. #33
    Super Member carolaug's Avatar
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    Nicely said...totally agree!
    Quote Originally Posted by PatriceJ View Post
    well, never let it be said that i passed up a chance to pontificate. LOL

    #1 ... taking offense or not is quite often a personal choice based on habits in perception. that whole glass half-full or half-empty thing. given that none of the respondents seem to have taken offense; and given your assurances that you intended no offense; i think we can run that cat out of the room now. it's all good. chillaaaaax.

    #2 ... get 10 people in a room and you will get 30 definitions of just what is "art" and what is not. news flash - all quilters are artists. it's just that most of the rest of the world doesn't recognize quilting as an art form so a lot of quilters don't, either. it's labelled a craft - as though it's somehow inferior to that which is considered art. even among quilters, works are not normally labelled "art" unless they diverge somehow from traditional patterns of geometric piecing or applique (such as baltmore albums.) puleeeeze. decide for yourself whether or not you are an artist. and ... oh, by the way ... art can also be a hobby. LOL ;-)

    yep. it's as easy as that. LOL

    #3 ... if an art teacher knows a student will not be able to achieve a certain effect without a specific type of supply or tool, and that teacher still tells the student to not "waste the money" until they reach some arbitrary point on the skill scale ... well ... i'm sorry, but that teacher is no teacher. a real teacher should inform, inspire and encourage.

    #4 ... as so many have already pointed out, things like "best", "worth it" and "worthy of it" are all in the eye of the beholder. we should be careful how we advise beginners when it comes to tools and equipment. unless she has money to burn, a person who is still trying to decide whether or not she wants to move forward in quilting should think twice about plunking down piles of cash. once she's hooked, though, all bets are off. the best advice then would be to try the tool(s) or machine(s) first and then decide whether or not the bite in the budget is the best way to go.

    as JulieR so wisely expressed it ... "As quilters build their skills and experience they can better tell what a quality tool or material will be because they'll know WHY they're looking for certain things, and then price becomes less of a guideline and more of a project management consideration."

    and if your friend's "why" is "because it's there" ... that's ok, too - so long as she doesn't expect you to pay for it. LOL LOL LOL

  9. #34
    Super Member jitkaau's Avatar
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    In my opinion, one should use the equipment one can afford to buy. I have many friends and acquaintances who have bought top of the range machines and equipment and it sits in the cupboard for months on end. They then don't know how to use the stuff and it stays idle for a bit longer

  10. #35
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    I never look at myself and think that I am an artist. I just love quilting and one of the reasons that I would tell somebody to buy the best they can afford is because I know that after the first thing they made they will also be addicted! I must admit that I think having the better quality machine, needels, pins ect just make the work so much easier. I one bought pins that have a flower head and it was for quilting, but much cheaper than the other ones I bought previously, but the didn"t have sharp points. That makes working with them unpleasant.

  11. #36
    Super Member callen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by quiltsRfun View Post
    My sentiments exactly. I got along with less while I was raising my family. It's nice to be able to have a little extra to spend on things I love now that it's just DH and me. But I try to keep it within reason.
    I couldn't agree more. When my family was young, it was all about them. It is now time for me. I have sewn on machines from cheapies to my new Bernina 820 & have also just purchased Singers 160th anniversary machine because I loved the look of it. Because we have a TOL machine does not make us machine snobs just people who have reached a point in their lives that we can now afford something that makes our life a little easier & why not, WE'RE WORTH IT !!!
    Dance like no one is watching

  12. #37
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    Actually, I do consider myself an artist and quilting to be my medium. I have many years of "art" training and have used all that knowledge in quilting. That said, I used my mother's 1952 Singer for about five years before I changed/upgraded my machine. That older machine, which I loved and passed on to a friend, just couldn't handle the newer threads I wanted to use in my quilting. My "new" machine was my mother's newer Bernina because she upgraded. I used that machine for years and years happily but finally chose to buy myself the machine *I* chose--my gift to me for earning my Ph.D.

    It was not the machine that changed how I view my art--it is art to me, whether it is a string quilt or a more difficult pattern or whatever I make. My hands and mind work together to make it. That is what I consider art. It also calls to me. The fabric tells me what to create or I get an idea while driving or walking in the woods. I used to grade dates by how many quilts I designed in my head while on the date--the more quilts, the less attractive the date looked!

    And, in my many art classes, I was never told to buy cheaper items. I was given a range of items with explanations of why one was preferred (by some). I also was taught to stretch canvas and not rely upon others to do the work for me. That gave total control of one's work. From my first studio art class in college, I was sent to a store from which "Professionals" shop--I could see the range of both tools and supplies.

    Art is in the eye of the beholder. If you see yourself as an artist, you are. No one has to agree or disagree. At least, that is my humble opinion. I live in a building that was originally built for students at the Art Students League of NY in the 1890's. When I moved in 30+ years ago, I had quite the discussion with a new neighbor who said what I did wasn't art because it wasn't painting. I simply stared at her then had to laugh. What about sculpture? what about pottery? what about collage? Art is art.

    Laurie (who is also pontifical--*G* )
    Laurie in NYC

  13. #38
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    To the initiator of this thread: How long have you been quilting? Do you enjoy it? How long ago did you attend art school and how long ago was that?

    I personally believe you are over thinking this thing that we so love to do......and what each of us is happy doing/learning...I have been doing "this" for a long time and am still learning new techniques, and yes, buying new toys along the way, and enjoying the advancement in the world of quilting........Now I am going to go to my sewing cave and stop doing this theory stuff...........want to use my hands and create........I don't want to analize(sp) why I am doing it, I just want to enjoy the doing.

  14. #39
    Super Member nhweaver's Avatar
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    I guess after reading all the posts, I can conclude:

    we are a great variety of wonderful women and men, who have a myriad of views, different societal and financial levels, different needs and wants, diverse reasons and justifications, but the thread that binds us together is "The Art of Quilting". Hee Hee"
    If life gives you lemons, make a margarita.

  15. #40
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    What was the question?????? This is MY answer, I LOVE WHAT I DO. LOVE LOVE LOVE. Mimi

  16. #41
    Super Member Caswews's Avatar
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    WOW ... A quilter is a quilter; a passionate person who enjoys makes quilts. They spend what they can, they make what they can, they rip apart what they can. I have a Pfaff, but my back up machine is a Brother and a very old Riccar. I have a very old serger(bought it at Cloth World before they went out of business in Denver and its Pink) for when I do serging. YES I also sew, craft, garden,and enjoy what I do.
    Ladies:whether hobby, passion or for business: Do what you do with a passion out of this world and enjoy it.
    Last edited by Caswews; 01-18-2013 at 06:48 AM.
    When Life brings big winds of change that almost blows you over.Hang on tight and Believe.
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  17. #42
    Super Member Caswews's Avatar
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    OOps I forgot ..
    Ladies /Gentlemen: Tools are an extension of our imagination, whether you consider quilting your passion, hobby or art, do what you do with great gusto.
    When Life brings big winds of change that almost blows you over.Hang on tight and Believe.
    Words and hearts should be handled with care-for words when spoken and hearts when broken are the hardest things to repair. Author unknown to me
    Do what you feel in your heart to be right; for you'll be criticized anyway-Eleanor Roosevelt

  18. #43
    Super Member ccthomas's Avatar
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    I am a -- WANNA BE and trying very hard.
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  19. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by LyndaOH View Post
    I agree with Jackie wholeheartedly. I'm not a hobbyist quilter; instead quilting is so ingrained in me that I see most other things in my life through that lens. I've been quilting for about five years and it's become a part of my very being.

    As for student tools and fabrics, I think they do exist. You can buy a starter quilter's collection with a rotary cutter, ruler, marking pencil, pins, etc., for less than $15. It also comes with a few patterns and a beginner's book. You can also buy less expensive fabrics. It's how I started and I'm sure others started that way too.

    That being said, after a year or so I did upgrade my tools, including purchasing a nice sewing machine. I traded my way up to it by buying several used machines and determining exactly what I wanted. I don't think anyone, whether beginner, hobbyist or master quilter, needs to apologize for the tools they use. We each buy what we like and can afford.

    On the subject of fabric, I do generally use LQS fabrics but I'm really careful what I pay for them. I rarely buy something at full price and generally buy at around $5/yard. I prefer to shop at area LQSs because I want them to be there in the future. I've taken wonderful classes, gotten great advice and made my best friends at classes, retreats and shows sponsored by my LQSs.

    I've worked with many beginners and hobbyist quilters and I would never question their use of less expensive materials or tools. Similarly, I've never had anyone look at one of my more challenging quilts and ask what ruler I used or what brand of fabric or what sewing machine. This weekend I'll be going to an area quilt retreat and I will see sewing machines ranging from $99 Brothers to top of the line Berninas to the popular Janome Gems to Singer Featherweights. I'll see fabric from WalMart, Joann, Goodwill and the LQS that sponsors the retreat. Everybody will be having fun and creating beautiful quilts. Nobody turns their nose up at anyone else (and there are about 100 of us) because we're all quilters loving what we're doing.

    I don't feel addicted; I feel passionate and there's a big difference.
    I totally agree. When I got started I did not know so many tools existed. I had what I had and used them to make many quilts for my family and grandchildren. 25 years later I have more than I need in "tools" and am happy to have them and share them. It's all about the desire to create and the fellowship and friendship from other quilters...

  20. #45
    Super Member quiltmom04's Avatar
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    Here's my question, Tanya. You imply that we should use lesser quality supplies and equipment until we reach a certain level. By whose standards? The teacher? The art community? Magazines? I'm guessing this would be why so many of us don't consider ourselves "art quilters" because your implication is there's a hierarchy in the art world, where you would be very pretentious to use "professional" equipment as a beginner. Not so in the quilt world. We can use whatever we want, and if we can afford better equipment and supplies we get them, not when we feel we've graduated from' student" to 'professional', and we all try to be supportive of the work we produce. Just read all the positive comments quilters have received when they show us a photo and say "This is my first quilt"...I can't imagine us saying. "Well, she's just starting, she shouldn't be using a Bernina". I've been to lots of art galleries and lots of quilt shows. Give me a quilt show any day of the week!

  21. #46
    Super Member Weezy Rider's Avatar
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    I've seen that - the Bernette line from Bernina are Janomes. Nothing wrong with them. Berninas come in all types. Pfaff has lower end machines with the IDT that sew straight just as well as the TOL. A lot of TOL are also embroidery - some don't want it. More advanced machines have more stitches. Some don't need those, either. A lot would give all for a Featherweight - a lot here seem to like older mechanical machines.

    I buy fabric by color. If I have a certain color scheme in mind, I mix and match from wherever.

    Better is not always the most expensive, either. You want accurate, and if a lesser priced accurate tool is just that, then why bother with the most expensive? Just for the name?

  22. #47
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    I am not offended, TanyaL, and I do consider myself a fabric artist. That said, quilting is only one of many fabric arts. Clothing, furnishings, haberdasherie are a few others. All the fabric arts require the same skills as painting - color coordination. Some of the fabric arts use the same tools, such as rotary cutters or scissors and measuring tools. I happen to also do woodwork. I would not buy a cheap table saw that the blade wobbles as it spins. I also would not buy a cheap rotary cutter that the blade wobbles. Either would be a waste of my hard earned, and limited, money. Either would drive me crazy and make me quit before I got far. My DDiL just started quilting. I helped her pick the best tools she could afford - certainly not top of the line, but not low quality; good enough not to turn her away from quilting, but cheap enough that she could let go of them (trash) if she decided she didn't like quilting. I would never recommend a beginner buy more tools than needed, just good enough tools to enjoy using them. I still use the rotary cutter (the mat wore out and the ruler broke) that I started with. I have added many more tools to my collection over the years. I don't know any painters who are still using the brushes they bought 20+ years ago.

    These are just my humble thoughts and are not meant to offend you, just to explain my thinking on the subject. I am certainly not the quilt police, and will not question anyone's methods of quilting. - except to learn from them.
    Shirley in Arizona

  23. #48
    Junior Member sandyquilts's Avatar
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    A most interesting discussion. I started out making due, but as my skills increased I found the value of buying better tools. Now, as a professional, I invest in better hand tools and am lusting for a new sit down Sweet Sixteen to have the large throat. Years ago, what first convinced me to "buy better" was inferior rulers that were inaccurate. And the purchase doesn't have to cost hundreds. I just told my students to invest in Clover Fine pins. They may be $10 per box, but rather than stabbing through fabric, they glide between the fibers--no distortion caused by pinning. They are worth their weight in gold.
    SandyQuilter (NOT sandyquilts)
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    http://sandyquilts.blogspot.com

  24. #49
    Member I Herd Ewe's Avatar
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    I actually don't think it matters if you are a hobbiest or a professional or something in between. I do many different crafts and have learned that nothing discourages a beginner more than struggling with poor quality equipment. No matter how skillful I am, it would be very difficult to make a quality piece of furniture on a tablesaw with a warped table or a wobbly fence, to make an accurate cut with a poor quality ruler or paint a fine line with a poor quality brush. I often loan my tools to new craftsmen so they can learn if they really like the craft before making a huge investment in equipment. I recommend they take a class where equipment is provided. Sometimes equipment can be rented for those first attempts at a new craft. Often you can find good quality used equipment. However, don't hand a beginner poor quality equipment and then wonder why they don't enjoy the new craft! It is hard enough to learn new skills without the extra handicap of poor quality equipment.
    I Herd Ewe!

  25. #50
    Super Member JulieR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TanyaL View Post
    Most quilters classify quilting as a fabric art not a hobby. But other arts have a very decided difference between student tools and professional tools.
    You know, I was thinking some more about this last night after I logged off. "Art" of itself has no tools at all.

    Writing is also an art, but anyone with words can write. You don't even have to "write" the words down to create the story, which is the real artistry. A fancy computer or a pencil and notepad only facilitate the process; they don't define it.

    Vocabulary, like fabric and paint, is part of the message but is not the WHOLE message. I've read some amazing works comprised entirely of words we learned in primary school.

    So I guess I would challenge you to think outside what you were taught in school and instead, focus on what artistry actually IS.

    Incidentally I sew on a 1990s low-end Singer because I like it. I also drive a Jaguar and I like that, too. I don't NEED either one of these things -- I could sew everything by hand and carpool to work. It would change how I sew, but wouldn't make me any more or less of an artist (or a software analyst).

    On the other hand, find me a sewing machine with a heated leather seat and I'll think about upgrading...

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