Sunshine Quilts

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Quilting . . Then and Now

Sometimes when I'm alone and quilting, my mind wanders. Today was one of those days. I was thinking about all the quilting gadgets that we have now that our grandmothers didn't dream of having. I suppose it was these new Fons & Porter pins that triggered my thoughts today. I had heard a lot about these new directional pins although I didn't have a clue what they were. Last week I headed to Hobby Lobby with my 40% off coupon intending to buy these much talked about pins. I think you are supposed to use the pins labeled "D" when sewing seams that will be pressed/sewn down; the ones labeled "R", when sewing seams that will be sewn/pressed to the right. Maybe because you really can't teach an old dog new tricks but I stood there and looked at them, and the more I thought about it, the more it seemed the pins would confuse me and I didn't get them. I did get the new Fons & Porter glass head pins that also come in the nice tin. I was thinking about how my grandma quilted. Life and circumstances were hard in her times. They grew their own food and she worked hard in the fields alongside my grandpa, they had no air conditioning and that's almost unbearable in Louisiana. Yet, she found time to sew and quilt. Her patterns were either from the newspaper or patterns friends had given her that they had traced onto newspaper. There were no cutting instructions, no pressing instructions, no fabric requirements and yet there were some gorgeous and much coveted quilts made in those days. Now, the patterns tell us everything! Quilt shop owners tell me that unless the samples are made of fabrics currently available in the shop, they don't sell. People want exactly what they see. No imagination! Quilt patterns have yardage requirements, cutting directions, sewing directions, pressing directions, quilting directions, binding directions .. I am hearing complaining now that some patterns do not include the quilting directions. No imagination! Kits are very popular and I'm surely not knocking kits but I'm just thinking . . I don't want my quilts to look exactly like 500 other quilts made from the same pattern, same fabric, same quilting design. What do you think the next generation of quilters will have that we don't have? I can't even imagine! I guess if I could imagine it, I could create it and sell it and get rich! But I think of the things we have that our grandmothers didn't have:

  • Electric sewing machines with perfect 1/4" feet, some have built in even feed (yes, I want a Janome 6600). The machines have needle threads, and thread cutters.
  • Rotary cutters with all the perfect rulers
  • Templates - there are templates in all sizes. Templates for cutting pieces, templates for quilting designs
  • Fabric calculator - this is a new tool and I love it!
  • Longarm, shortarm and mid-range machines for doing the quilting on the machine
  • Electric Quilt software. I suppose just the computer itself was so foreign to my grandmother that software to design quilts would have blown her mind.
There's probably no real point to this post but if anyone wants my advice (yes, I know -- no one wants my advice!) I would say be creative. Don't limit yourself to what someone else has written. Magazines and quilting books are a great source of inspiration but if you only follow the instructions, you will never know what you might accomplish. When I get a quilting magazine (and I get plenty!), I'll often take a design in the magazine and draw it out in EQ and play around with it and change a few things. I rarely make anything exactly by the pattern. You may be 100% thrilled making things exactly by the pattern but my challenge is to try just a little deviation, you may surprise yourself at what you can do. Judy L.


  • I totally agree Judy - just go where your fancy or imagination takes you - as you say who wants to have the same quilt as five hundred others?

    By Blogger anne bebbington, at 6/21/2006 03:01:00 PM  

  • I too am in the camp of not wanting a duplicate of someone else's quilt -- and I'd rather someone didn't copy mine exactly... I do know some who are unwilling to chance creating a quilt that "doesn't work" and will use a kit to ensure that it looks good when done... Bet most of our grans enjoyed the beauty but were making for function so would "risk" an ungly or two....

    By Blogger quiltpixie, at 6/21/2006 03:07:00 PM  

  • I agree also - even though I make patterns for my website, I absolutely love it when other's change the patterns up a bit and send me a photo of those changes. If I do kit-ed BOM patterns, I do change the setting up to something more of my liking. I have been even known to change up a pattern of my own to something different than what I have written.

    By Blogger computerpeach, at 6/21/2006 03:54:00 PM  

  • Amen Sister, lets all start coloring outside the lines.

    By Blogger dot, at 6/21/2006 06:47:00 PM  

  • Hee hee... your pixie is wearing a bikini. :D

    Okay... my thoughts. I think those new pins would confuse me too. I haven't been to a quilt/fabric store in a long time, but I want one of those new calculators too. And... if you ever want to even dream of having a quilt in a major show, you have to be original. But in places like my little podunk town, it seems original isn't always valued. Okay, enough rambling from me.


    By Blogger Melinda, at 6/21/2006 06:52:00 PM  

  • Judy,
    Those pins would confuse me too cuz I'd have to remember WHERE to put the darn things! LOL...I'm one to follow a pattern though...and I wish I had the courage to step out...but I'm always afraid that it won't "fit". (sigh)

    By Blogger Laurie, at 6/21/2006 08:34:00 PM  

  • I'm with you. I don't want my quilts to look like dozens of others out there. I need a little bit of me in everything I do.

    By Blogger tami, at 6/21/2006 08:54:00 PM  

  • I agree Judy too, we are almost like designer lable quilters. everything has to be perfect and matched. I suspect that happens when you quilt for pleasure and looks rather than for NEED and beauty combined.
    I wonder what our quilts would look like if we had to make them from cast off or worn clothing from our closets. I love looking at my great grandmothers quilt and remembering my mother telling me that this fabric was from my sisters pajamas and this one was from the old kitchen curtains etc. It gives me a glimpse into their lives. Not like now when the fabric choices just tell us what store we shop at or what brand of fabric we like.
    Those pins look like more work to me : )

    By Blogger Patty, at 6/21/2006 09:57:00 PM  

  • GREAT advice! Keep posting!

    By Anonymous Audrey, at 6/22/2006 05:04:00 AM  

  • Bravo! Since I'm most definitely NOT a matchy-perfect-points kinda gal, I agree with you totally! Let's BE CREATIVE!!
    Jeanne :)

    By Blogger Jeanne, at 6/22/2006 07:05:00 AM  

  • Think about the quilt revival of the 20's and 30's. There must be a million Grandmother's Flower Garden quilts, Dresden Plates, and that phrase that every non-quilter seems to know, "Double Wedding Ring". Some believe that was a contributing factor to quiltmaking falling out of favor. In our time, those who want to copy a quilt exactly are usually just going to make one or two quilts and quit. They want a baby quilt, or something to put on the dining room table, or a little wall hanging, and are only interested in decor. Here today and gone tomorrow, they never catch the fever of creativity. I think the Mavericks got a double dose!

    By Blogger Linda C., at 6/22/2006 08:39:00 AM  

  • Judy, your post hit on some things that have long bugged me. When I used to work in a quilt shop, I was constantly asked by quilters to recreate fabric combinations directly from their books or patterns. One woman was nearly in tears when I explained that her book was 8 years old, and the odds of finding the exact same fabrics aspictured on the cover were next to none. I explained that there were literally hundreds of reds to choose from in other fabrics, and thatmade it worse. A lot of people are afraid of their own taste, and that makes me sad. Fabric companies and quilting magazines so aggressively market full lines of fabric these days that it can be easy to fall into the trap of the nicely matched quilt. I know some of it is about convenience- many people (myself often included) want a quick finished product, with big easy blocks and nicely coordinated fabrics. But, I will always prefer to make my own choices and end up with an original piece. I have made 2 quilts from kits during my life, one as a store sample, and another, because it had over 50 fabrics picked out and featured unicorns for Princess Girl... she loves it and I don't mind that others have the same quilt.

    This week I bought the Better Homes and Gardens Quilt Shop Sampler edition, and one of the quoted store owners made me VERY sad. She talked about the era of buying stash fabrics being over, and that quilters will buy quick fast kits to save time. That made me SO sad.

    Okay, my comment has hijacked this post. Sorry, Judy...

    By Anonymous Samantha, at 6/22/2006 09:16:00 AM  

  • As I have mentioned in my blog Recipes and Patters are the same to me, just sugestions of what to do. My DH says I couldn't follow a recipe if my life depended on it. It is a real challange for me to follow pattern exactly, not even Dear Jane. So I guess I am saying that is what makes us mavericks.


    By Blogger Rae, at 6/22/2006 10:19:00 AM  

  • I tend to change the color scheme first. And even if I do intend to make the pattern exactly as it is, I usually end up changing something along the way. It could be a simple as the size, number of blocks, the borders. Or it could be something more complex. I have taught several mystery quilts at my church and my favorite part is that even though the pattern is the same and the "thought" of color is the same (ex. blue), I truly love how different they all end up being. It is wonderful to see a person's individual personality shine through their quilts.

    By Blogger kcamou, at 6/22/2006 10:51:00 AM  

  • Some of my earlier quilts are fair copies of what I saw in a magazine. It was a good learning experience! It is a good way for someone to start quilting - copy something you already know you like. Then you start learning about colors and patterns and size of print and values (ok, haven't quiet mastered values yet!), etc. After I had completed a few "copy" quilts I branched out and got brave with my own choices - and buying a stash. Now, I am busy busting the stash!



    By Blogger Evelyn aka Starfishy, at 6/22/2006 11:17:00 AM  

  • I just made a "wheels of mystery" quilt which took several shopping trips and multiple fabric "auditions" to complete. I may need to make another one, because I have these strange little shapes that aren't good for anything else from the failed auditions. In the middle of this, I saw a John Flynn kit for Wheels of Mystery in batiks. It was the first kit that ever tempted me...those pieces were die-cut and therefore perfect! Also, the batiks mean that it couldn't be exactly like somebody else's.

    I didn't get it.

    By Anonymous Rebecca, at 6/22/2006 11:23:00 AM  

  • I agree with the pins issue! To much to think about. I have enjoyed reading your post.

    I am just now learning to explore the possiblities of my own creativity, but I have to confess kits are my easy way out. I think it's more popular today because for me, I am always having to make decisions in all the other areas of my life. I am a confessed non-decision maker. Meaning, I HATE making decision! I am overwelmed when I go into a quilting store and see tons of bolts of color. It's beautiful, but overwelming to pick from. For me, just narrowing down and picking out a pattern to make is rewarding enough. Kits are easy and simple. For me, simple is good- it's like those pins, just too much to think about.

    I am grateful for those folk like you, who think outside the box, because it's so fun to admire y'alls work! Maybe one day I'll evolve, but for now I'll enjoy other peoples creative achievements, while I play inside the box.
    :-) Kim

    By Blogger kim, at 6/22/2006 11:31:00 AM  

  • I did a kit once, only because it was in MY colors and I needed an easy project for a retreat weekend. I love the quilt because it's in my palette. Those pins would really mess me up! I do follow some patterns if I really like the quilt, although I do them in my own fabric choices. However, they're never the same as the pattern because, invariably, I screw something up with the pattern, have to "fudge" it and it becomes mine!

    By Blogger Carolyn, at 6/22/2006 01:53:00 PM  

  • I agree with those of you who don't follow patterns exactly. Where's the fun in that? I love picking out the different fabrics and almost always change at least the colors when doing a quilt from a book or

    By Blogger joyce, at 6/22/2006 05:23:00 PM  

  • In my case who can afford to buy anything all kitted up--BOM's or whatever. Besides the idea is to use my stash and supplement it where needed. I may never make a quilt that is a raving beauty but I'll keep plugging and be thankful for the tools I have to make things easier than it was for our quilting foremothers. I would not want to be without my EQ for anything!!

    It is just sad that people have to have everything all matchy-matchy and don't try to trust their own judgement or instincts.

    By Blogger Linda_J, at 6/22/2006 06:52:00 PM  

  • Nice points.
    A. I'd be confused by those directional pins too... (If I remembered to use them to begin with!)

    B. Kits have their place... I have a few where I am nor ready to do the quilt, but when I am I want all of the fabrics to be there.

    C. I understand what your whole gist was, but my thing is with people using 1 fabric for red when they could have used 20!

    D. I guess the best thing about quilting is that there is something for everyone.

    By Blogger The Calico Cat, at 6/23/2006 05:09:00 AM  

  • I saw those pins and thought that they would add to my confusion as well. I like to get ideas from some of the magazines and just like sewing from clothing patterns, I like to expand on the design.

    By Blogger Mags, at 6/23/2006 10:09:00 AM  

  • Great post Judy!!! I think all I want to add is a big AMEN!!!!

    By Blogger Finn, at 6/24/2006 07:58:00 AM  

  • Judy, Thanks for this post. I completely agree with you about the need for creativity. I can't imagine making a quilt that looks like any others either. I use quilting as my creative outlet and it has always been more about the process than the completed quilt. I don't get very many done each year, but I'd feel like I was cheating to use a kit.

    By Blogger JB, at 6/27/2006 10:43:00 AM  

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