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Thread: Quality of Tools

  1. #1
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    Quality of Tools

    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. Students are not encouraged to invest in the cost of professional tools until their skill levels are in the professional level. However, quilters frequently encourage beginning quilters to buy the best tools they can afford. With the possible exception of the rotary cutter and the new cutting mats, the price of the other tools does not make the skill level of a beginner better. Why do you think we, out of almost all the arts, advise on spending for the expensive tools? Many of us downgrade fabric from various sources, etc. never saying save the $15/yd for the entry into the international quilt contest. We don't say that a $300 or less sewing machine is fine for almost all quilts; we subtly brag about our top of the line machine without saying what top of the line quilt or book we've produced using that superior tool. I think it is because we aren't serious artists, we're addicted hobbyists. I've seen artists show paintings and say that now they think they are good enough to start buying professional grade linen canvas and professional grade oils. Some never use professional brushes, preferring to throw away brushes more frequently. We never see a quilter show a quilt and say, do you think this is good enough that now I can spend twice as much on my fabric and batting? Do you think we should?

  2. #2
    Super Member jemma's Avatar
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    my 1/4 inch foot and my 2 rulers help make my quilts the best i can make at this time as it improves the accuracy and reduce my un sewing time --- yes i am guilty of getting the odd unused item---but most fabrics in aussie are $21-$25 per meter--as with every 'thing of beauty/value there are the gob smacking greats and the ones like me who just love doing it

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    No I don't. How many people do you know that have never quilted on a longarm but go out and purchase one anyway? In most cases were talking thousands of $$ here. They spend hours and hours practising and honing their skills, and alot of them become awesome quilters, and some Masters. Quilters always incourage the beginners and newbies, to buy what you can afford. I do not consider my making quilts a hobby. Its not a pass time for me. I love it, its my passion. I don't make any money doing it, but I can not imagine what I would do if I did not make quilts. I have been making quilts since 1975. I don't know how to explain it,other than to say it's who I am.

  4. #4
    Super Member LyndaOH's Avatar
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    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.

  5. #5
    Power Poster dunster's Avatar
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    Don't men buy the best tools they can afford for their hobbies? Don't all cooks look for the freshest produce and the best cut of meat that is affordable? Why would we as quilters not do the same?

    We buy the best fabric we can afford (looking for the best price at the same time) because we believe that quality fabric looks better and holds up longer than cheaper fabrics. We want to make the best quilts we can, and that means using good ingredients, within the limits of our budget. We use the best tools we can find and afford, because they make it easier for us to produce a quality product. And good tools last longer and are often safer than tools of lesser quality.

    Last but not least, we buy the best we can afford because --- WE'RE WORTH IT!

  6. #6
    Super Member Dolphyngyrl's Avatar
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    I never say that. I started out on a 100 dollar cheapo mechanical brother and used it for my first decade of quilting. I am a firm believer in that you do not need a TOL for quilting or sewing, but if you can afford better why not. I have acquired everything slowly as time goes on because I started out in college with little money with an aunt that quilted that gladly gave me fabric to use. II don't think many downgrade fabrics from various sources, many on here proudly shop joanns, hobby lobby, walmart, LQS, online, anywhere they can grab a deal. I have purchased from all above sources, I usually don't even buy much fabric from my LQS unless I get money or gift card for my birthday or x-mas I splurge and shop there, and I usually still wait for a good sale or coupons, because in reality and this economy who can afford the prices of the LQS. I think most quilters just know how to be frugal and get the best bang for their buck
    Brother (XL-3500i, CV3550, SQ-9050, Dreamweaver XE6200D), Juki MO-2000QVP, Handiquilter Avante

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    Power Poster mighty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dolphyngyrl View Post
    I never say that. I started out on a 100 dollar cheapo mechanical brother and used it for my first decade of quilting. I am a firm believer in that you do not need a TOL for quilting or sewing, but if you can afford better why not. I have acquired everything slowly as time goes on because I started out in college with little money with an aunt that quilted that gladly gave me fabric to use. II don't think many downgrade fabrics from various sources, many on here proudly shop joanns, hobby lobby, walmart, LQS, online, anywhere they can grab a deal. I have purchased from all above sources, I usually don't even buy much fabric from my LQS unless I get money or gift card for my birthday or x-mas I splurge and shop there, and I usually still wait for a good sale or coupons, because in reality and this economy who can afford the prices of the LQS. I think most quilters just know how to be frugal and get the best bang for their buck
    Ditto that!!!!!!!

  8. #8
    Super Member Moonglow's Avatar
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    Quilting is my passion and I buy what I can afford. I don't have to have the best tools or the best sewing machine because most of the quilts I make are 'wash and wear' and given away. When I first learnt quilting all you needed was a good pair of scissors and a basic sewing machine. We made our own templates from cardboard etc. and didn't have any fancy tools. However, we still made beautiful quilts.
    Nowadays I think that a rotary cutter and a cutting mat are essential. Gadgets and tools are great if you are going to use them most of the time, however, I would rather spend my money on beautiful fabric.
    Lastly, let's just enjoy making quilts without having to be concerned about whether we have the best tools or machine or whatever. It's about making beautiful memories.
    Last edited by Moonglow; 01-16-2013 at 10:02 PM.

  9. #9
    Super Member quiltsRfun's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dunster View Post
    Don't men buy the best tools they can afford for their hobbies? Don't all cooks look for the freshest produce and the best cut of meat that is affordable? Why would we as quilters not do the same? . . . we buy the best we can afford because --- WE'RE WORTH IT!
    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.

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    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.

  11. #11
    Power Poster BellaBoo's Avatar
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    I would never suggest beginner quilters buy poor quality fabric and thread to make their first quilts but I would tell them to buy the quality fabric and thread at sale prices. A top of the line machine will not sew a better quality quilt. I think any new student of any art or hobby has the mindset of using less quality tools to start with. Of course a paid teacher will say the less quality tools are fine if that means keeping a paying student. A quality tool will last and perform the job it's suppose to, it doesn't have to be the most expensive. Unless a tool is disposable, buying the low quality is just guaranteed frustration. Even young children know how much better Crayon brand crayons color better then the waxy cheap ones.
    Got fabric?

  12. #12
    Super Member Weezy Rider's Avatar
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    You don't always need the best, but you do need accurate. I've had machines with lousy feed dogs and wondered why i couldn't sew straight. Some rotary tools could also be off. I'd say buy something from a shop or outlet that has a decent return policy. If it's a large expense - test it first. Don't buy from a friend's recommendation unless you have played with that friend's machine first and you like it. There is also nothing wrong with a second or refurb that comes with a warranty.
    I learned to do applique, cutwork and some heirloom on a zigzag machine. Takes more patience, but can be done.
    I've seen ladies buy a TOL sewing machine with fantastic capabilities, only to just embroider. A six needle was in the same price range. A TOL doesn't always suit everyone's needs although sales people think so.

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    I read your post last night and again this morning and I'm still not 100% sure what your specific point is, but now that I'm reading it for a 3rd time, and have read your second post, I'm totally confused. However, I do have a comment.
    I make a distinction between 'supplies' and 'tools'. Supplies are used up, good quality tools will last forever with proper maintenance. They are an investment. Good quality tools will enable those with less experience to achieve good results while developing their skills, even while using less than Artist Level materials. In the art classes that I took, instuctors guided us towards paper, canvas and paint that was maybe student quality. Brushes, however, were not to be skimped on.
    "I do not understand how anyone can live without one small place of enchantment to turn to."
    Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

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    Super Member LyndaOH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PaperPrincess View Post
    I read your post last night and again this morning and I'm still not 100% sure what your specific point is, but now that I'm reading it for a 3rd time, and have read your second post, I'm totally confused.
    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!

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    My point was that in my art school we were taught to learn on oils that were popular priced, popular brands, student quality - hand ground pigments, hand mixed being about 4 times that cost and at our skill level you could not tell the difference in the oil paint. When you can charge $30,000 and up for a portrait you can tell the difference in the quality of paint because of the skill in using it. A student doesn't need a $40 brush when a $10-15 brush will work fine. A $5 brush is disposable after a few weeks. A pre-stretched cotton canvas bought at Hobby Lobby will work for a student. A professional needs linen canvas stretched on hard wood, custom stretched. Both cotton and linen are stretched with the same tools. A studio easel can be purchased for $100 or $1000. Usually a student doesn't invest in the higher priced easel. An artist has special lights to control the color spectrum in his studio, etc.

    In quilting, some of us tell a beginner to buy the best sewing machine they can afford, some say just get a good one that sews dependably. Some of us tell a beginner that you can buy fabric at yard sales, use cotton clothes, etc. or purchase at the chain stores like Walmart or Joann's. Other's want to buy only the best that the LQS sell. My point was we didn't give consistent professional advice like other art professions did. I equated fabric arts with painting, sculpture, silversmithing, etc. That was my mistake. Obviously, most of the women equate quilting with a hobby - not with what they do, but with what they are, what they deserve in equipment, what they can afford in equipment. They compare their equipment to their husband's fishing equipment, not the tools of a painter or a silversmith. Therefore, they don't judge their output against other artists, but against their personal satisfaction. I was wrong in my assumptions and my questions turned out to be spurious.

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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.
    I don't think anyone was offended. I think a lot of us consider ourselves as hobbyists and artists and always passionate as you can tell by the responses. We each have our own little quirks regarding Machine/Fabric/Thread/Wash - don't wash/etc. Have someone ask what is the best machine you can get for $300 and you will have 50 answers immediately.

    I don't think that any of us started this passion/hobby/art expecting it to take us over the way it normally does. What ever you can afford and feel comfortable with tool and goods wise is what we do. Will a $5,000 machine make me sew a 1/4" seam any better - NO. I might end up with a $2,000 machine vs a $200 machine but not because it will make me sew better, but maybe because it will do other things that I think I want to do and maybe be easier for me to use. The great thing about quilting is that I seldom (won't say never because there are a few out there) see anyone being a machine/fabric/gadget Snob - we are mostly just looking at everyone's finished project and saying how beautiful - love the colors - I want to do that.

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    I have never understood this idea of "best you can afford" It has been my opinion that the only things that might be "good", "better", "best" are fabric (certainly difference in quality), scissors (some cut better than others) and straight pins (some are sharper than others). So exactly what should one look for in selecting the "best you can afford"?

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    Senior Member bunniequilter's Avatar
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    I find it hard to identify myself an an art quilter. Others who see and have bought my work hang that label on me. I see the work I produce as who I am, its what makes me....me. I dont class my fabrics etc as being top quality, poor quality etc I define my fabrics by what I can do with them or what the fabric "tells" me it was meant for. If a certain fabric is a buck a yard and poor quality but would be perfect for a certain element of an art quilt I grab it, if the fabric is 20.00 a yard and is perfect I grab it. I dont care how much something costs, to me its what I can turn it into that counts.
    Quilt outside of the box!

  19. #19
    Junior Member judys's Avatar
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    You didn't offend me. I read this each day and value the opinions of all the posters. We each have our own opinions on what is art, what is a hobby, what is an obsession. The great thing about this forum is that we can each voice our own opinion. My sewing/quilting has changed much in the last 50 years. It has all depended on my life situation at the time. We are all individuals and are here to support and encourage each other. Thanks for your comments. They make us think!
    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.

  20. #20
    Power Poster BellaBoo's Avatar
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    I have taken several art classes, beginner watercolor and several oil. Not one instructor said not to use the best quality paints or canvas because it didn't matter for a beginner. Some ordered from an artist catalog some went to Hobby Lobby. The work done with the best paints and canvas looked better then the work done with the less quality even if the art itself was rather bad. LOL. Nothing compares to the best quality of anything from food to life.
    Got fabric?

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by BellaBoo View Post
    I have taken several art classes, beginner watercolor and several oil. Not one instructor said not to use the best quality paints or canvas because it didn't matter for a beginner. Some ordered from an artist catalog some went to Hobby Lobby. The work done with the best paints and canvas looked better then the work done with the less quality even if the art itself was rather bad. LOL. Nothing compares to the best quality of anything from food to life.
    With art, it doesn't matter about the quality of the tool if the art itself is bad. The art is everything! I only went to one art school, not painting classes. The advice there was consistent in the scuplture classes, painting and metal working classes. Until your skill justifies it, don't spend the money for top notch tools. A canvas for a beginner could be had at HL. A top notch canvas would cost then between $50-$100 for a smaller size 20x24 and take a good 24 hours to gesso, sand, gesso, sand, gesso, sand until it was ready for a skilled painter. Most beginners couldn't even tell the difference by looking at the two canvases. Perhaps the instructer didn't say best quality paints didn't matter for a beginner, but I'll bet that when you were having trouble getting the precise shading in a glaze he explained , or should have, the difference in the quality of paints and mediums. Also, many classes don't even begin to explain the multiple oil mediums, drying times, varnishes, etc. Many of these differences are left to advanced students.Just as all art schools start with color theory and art history and painting classes don't. However, color theory is a very necessary tool as is art history. I think it compares to thinking a writer could produce a best selling book without studying literature. There is much more to the tools of painting than canvas, brushes and paint, but even these come in grades- usually listed as student, artist and professional.

  22. #22
    Power Poster BellaBoo's Avatar
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    'll bet that when you were having trouble getting the precise shading in a glaze he explained , or should have, the difference in the quality of paints and mediums.

    So the student would notice the difference by not getting the right results from low quality vs the higher quality in the paints?
    Got fabric?

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by BellaBoo View Post
    So the student would notice the difference by not getting the right results from low quality vs the higher quality in the paints?
    In shading, there is a big difference in many colors in the translucence. There is always a big difference in the amount of pigment to the amount of binder and that means you use a different amount of medium. The amount of medium determines the properties of the glaze. A very high pigment content equals a small amount of paint in your medium - say a mixture of Holbein oil painting medium and Lesolvant with a touch of oil of clove. Very translucent, very good glaze. Cheaper paints sometimes make a somewhat cloudy glaze. Always take more paint because they have less pigment.

  24. #24
    Super Member Scissor Queen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TanyaL View Post
    My point was that in my art school we were taught to learn on oils that were popular priced, popular brands, student quality - hand ground pigments, hand mixed being about 4 times that cost and at our skill level you could not tell the difference in the oil paint. When you can charge $30,000 and up for a portrait you can tell the difference in the quality of paint because of the skill in using it. A student doesn't need a $40 brush when a $10-15 brush will work fine. A $5 brush is disposable after a few weeks. A pre-stretched cotton canvas bought at Hobby Lobby will work for a student. A professional needs linen canvas stretched on hard wood, custom stretched. Both cotton and linen are stretched with the same tools. A studio easel can be purchased for $100 or $1000. Usually a student doesn't invest in the higher priced easel. An artist has special lights to control the color spectrum in his studio, etc.

    In quilting, some of us tell a beginner to buy the best sewing machine they can afford, some say just get a good one that sews dependably. Some of us tell a beginner that you can buy fabric at yard sales, use cotton clothes, etc. or purchase at the chain stores like Walmart or Joann's. Other's want to buy only the best that the LQS sell. My point was we didn't give consistent professional advice like other art professions did. I equated fabric arts with painting, sculpture, silversmithing, etc. That was my mistake. Obviously, most of the women equate quilting with a hobby - not with what they do, but with what they are, what they deserve in equipment, what they can afford in equipment. They compare their equipment to their husband's fishing equipment, not the tools of a painter or a silversmith. Therefore, they don't judge their output against other artists, but against their personal satisfaction. I was wrong in my assumptions and my questions turned out to be spurious.
    Most women do think of quilting as just a hobby. There are not many that approach quilting from an art angle.

    I don't think you offended with your question so much as confused with your question.

    That said, in the needle arts in general there aren't very many things designated "beginner" or "professional." About the only things that have beginner and professional level differences are sewing machines. I personally wouldn't recommend that a beginner run out and buy an 8K Bernina. Nor would I recommend they buy the $99 special at Wal-Mart.

    I consider myself a fabric artist.

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    I'm not and will never be a quilt artist in your meaning. I'm not that creative. However, I strive to execute the process of making quilts artfully; that is, as precisely as possible. I believe the art of making quilts is the precision involved in a quality product in the end.
    Your meaning and mine aren't the same and that's ok.
    The best tools do not improve skills. I've seen quilts done on a high-end machine that have been crap and others done on lower-end machines that are beautiful.

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