Friday, December 6, 2013

It's not where you start, but the journey that matters. Are you enjoying your quilting path?

Recently I read an article asking, "Has your quilting path changed from where you began?" Consider this: when I began with my Gramma, I saw quilting only as some squares made out of ‘leftover’ ugly fabric sewn together (That’s why it was leftover; if it was pretty, we would have used it.). They were definitely higgledy-piggledy and I saw no redeeming quality to them. I was living in an age of “everything had to match; toilet seat covers, tissue boxes. Absolutely all living room furniture had to match and you were truly blessed if you had a bedroom “suite” that was purchased at one time with every piece matching the other.

Not only did furniture have to match, we all walked around with index cards in our purse with snips of fabric on them for each quilt we had in progress. Maybe that is where we all got the habit of not finishing one project and going on to another because we could not find the ‘matching’ fabric. Yes, I was one of those ladies walking into the quilt shop or fabric shop holding up my little pieces of fabric saying, “No, doesn’t match!”

Well, have I changed! Scrap quilts now grace my home everywhere. Each quilt tells a story in term of friends, places I made the quilts, and even down to where I got the fabric. I still haven’t cut into my “Liberty” fabric I bought at Liberty of London . . . I haven’t found the perfect pattern yet. One day I will find the best pattern for it and until then, I pet it every time I gaze upon its beauty in the closet.  Truly, every quilt tells a story, mine all do.

My house now looks like it was a collection site for the local thrift shop. I can honestly say there is not one piece of furniture that matches another! Where there is any doubt, I have artfully used those silly round wooden tables that are fortunately covered top to bottom with either an old quilt, or something I tried to make to spruce up the place. If I would only start decorating with more of my UFO’s this place would be outstanding! My quilts now are not just an art show; they are a peek into how my quilt path has changed from a beginner repeating everyone else’s quilt seen in magazines to ‘how did you think of that?’

But, I digress. Back to my original statement: Has your quilting path changed from where you began? I certainly hope so.  Somewhere along this path I discovered quilting boredom. It wasn’t just me, it was people who would come into the quilt shop and say they wanted to do something different, then turned around and walked out with exactly the same thing.  You see we are all scared to creep out of our comfort zone. What if our project looks like child’s art hanging on the refrigerator? How will we explain that was all we got out of class? Well, we wouldn’t look very proficient to our friends after taking all those classes would we?

Sometimes quilters worry about what the ‘Quilt Police’ will say rather than practicing something new. Or, worse yet, we take the class to learn something new and then never use it!!! As a quilt teacher, I see that all the time. Looking at newly finished quilts that looked the same as the last ones, I often ask why they didn’t consider using this or that technique we learned in class. The answer is always the same, “Never thought of that.”

In asking one question, it poses another question; how do we remember all the stuff from all the classes we take? I didn’t say I had the answer, I am asking for answers. The quilt path won’t change for any of us if we don’t exercise new skills. My problem now that I’m older is remembering new skills. It is so easy to just slip back into doing the same thing. If you are afraid of looking weird to your friends, quilting isn’t the hobby for you. All quilters look weird to their friends from time to time. That’s why we have friends (You know those are the people who like us in spite of ourselves!).

Push the envelope on occasion. Keep a file not just for future projects, but with skills you want to practice. Refer to this file when you are trying to think of a different way to put on a binding or a different foot to use. If you get into the habit of checking your New Skills file, you will undoubtedly begin to think of expanding your quilt path.

I had a friend who was about an advanced beginner level. Her best friend asked her to make her a quilt and she said she would. They went shopping for a pattern and what do you think the friend picked out? A very complicated quilt pattern done with circles! Not only was it all circles (which beginners haven’t done yet), she also did not like the cover photo and wanted the selected six different fabrics reduced to three. My friend wanted to make a quilt for her friend that her friend would value, and then came over to my house. First thing I did was laugh and ask if she was taken any strong prescriptions at the time. She told me she loved this dear friend, and if this is what she wanted, then this was what she wanted to make.

First, it took a month just to arrive at fabrics we thought would work. Next, I had to teach her how to sew circles. We cut up, like, a hundred “pie and crust” pieces of muslin. I told her to go home and stack them by the sewing machine. Every time she got 15 minutes she was to sit down and at least try sewing one circle. It took her a year to make this quilt. Her circles are perfect all through the quilt. He colors came out exactly the way her friend wanted (Not my colors, but that is what happens when you make a quilt for a friend.).

Cheryl had NO IDEA what she was in for.
Cheryl's one-year quilt! Viola!

The point is, sometimes you have to practice a particular skill until you are ready to introduce it into one of your quilts, or not. But you do have to practice one way or another. I tell my students that all quilts are art. That is what our foremothers gave us. Not just thriftiness, not just utilitarian, but how to take our imagination and make art to enliven our lives. I then remind them of what I learned a long time ago: BAD ART IS BETTER THAN NO ART.

Art isn't a neat project.
So, take out those magazines and tear out the things you want to learn. They are never going to happen collecting dust in the closet. Start a “New Skills” file folder and put things to be learned. Once a new skill was practiced in a class, place a photo of the skill inside so you will be able to recall the skill and practice it.

Now, let’s get out there and start practicing! Let’s make our Quilting Path start to curve or wobble, or even change a bit. Quilting changes. Don’t stay stuck in the same old Sunbonnet Sue path; enjoy!
...and definitely not for the faint of heart...even the dog gave up on me!