Something that I really enjoy is the sociology of the world. I love finding trends and seeing things that maybe others don’t (or do). Something that is fascinating to me is the constant cycles I see in the quilting community, at least in our “young” “modern” quilting community. I’ve been blogging 4 years now, which is not that much longer than a lot of quilting bloggers out there, but it’s been enough time to really see some of these cycles. One of the cycles I’ve noticed is in the making of quilts.
When a person first begins quilting there is the mindset of “just get it done”. It doesn’t matter how you get there, or how it looks, just get that quilt made. The new quilter doesn’t care about which way the seams are pressed, or if seams match up, or blocks are square…if points are chopped off. You run out and buy all the nifty quilting tools, which promptly go into a bottom drawer and gather dust. It’s about learning the very basics of operating your machine and finishing a project at this stage. I think it’s pretty safe to say we all start off this way. Deny it if you want, but I’m guessing to some degree you were there at the start, and quite honestly, I think this is a great way to start. Who cares how it looks or how you get to the end product, the important part is to begin.
Next the quilter starts to notice their seams don’t line up. They begin to see other’s work and think “why can’t my quilt look like that”. So they see that others are pressing seams, instead of ironing them, using a few pins when sewing (what a pain, but if it will help…), and checking for accurate 1/4” seam allowances. They are trying to figure out how not to get those points chopped off, and even succeeding on a few. Which is good enough to them! The quilter is probably still resisting squaring blocks. The seam ripper is in hand quite often. Possibly the first one is worn out and a second has been purchased.
The evolution continues, and now the quilter has reached a plateau. Things are looking better, but they really would like everything to match and look as refined as some of these winning quilts. Wonky was fun, but now we want to have more precision, because sometimes “wonky” just looks like you sewed your seam crooked (at least if you’re me). Now the quilter (drat it all) squares those 125 half square triangles for the quilt top. Every last one of them. Pins are now a must. At every seam. On each side of the seam. Blocks are pressed precisely, first from the back and then from the front. And probably pressed again just before sewing them into rows for the quilt top. Points are never chopped off, and if they are, the seam ripper makes an appearance. The seam ripper is used less, but is a must in their arsenal, always on hand and never ashamed to be used.
Finally, or maybe not “finally”, but more of a “somewhat finally”, the quilter is pretty precise in their quilting. The tools gathering dust in the bottom drawer now come out periodically, and some new ones join the group, because there is the right tool for every job. They have learned that as wonderful as “modern” quilting is, there is also some value in “traditional”. Things to be learned and applied to their “modern” aesthetics and techniques. They realize the new and modern are deeply steeped in the traditional and have a new appreciation for traditional work. The quilter can now look past the brown calico’s and see the beauty in the pattern, looking past the fabrics that don’t appeal, and apply it to their own modern interests. If seams don’t match, they rip them out and sew it again, because if they’ve put this much time and effort into it, what is a few more minutes fixing a seam. Their motto becomes: If you’re going take the time to do something, do it right.
After this point the true hunt for knowledge begins. Quilting has become precise and honed and tops are churned out with perfect points and matching seams. Where does the quilter go from here? Teaching, pattern writing, more learning on other topics (applique, hand piecing, hand quilting), ...
So what is the point of this post? No point really. Just my observations. I find this all fascinating. I love seeing these trends and evolutions in quilters and bloggers. I actually was reading Krista’s post, Old Ladies Know Stuff, and having a little chuckle over the title when I thought, you know, it’s time to write this post. Everything she has to say is very true, and new to quilting or not, I think it’s worth the read. I firmly believe in learning from our past and older generations. I began quilting when there was only one way, what we now consider the traditional way, so my learning has always firmly been in that arena, but I still feel I went through these same steps on the quilting-evolution ladder. I see a lot of quilters approaching this last stage of quilting right now. They are coming to understand there is a place for traditional in their modern quilting, and find that they want better results and to take their time. It’s a good place to be. You might even consider yourself a quilter by now, because we all know how long it takes for us to except that titles as ours.
Where do I sit on this “ladder”? I think I’m in that “true hunt for knowledge” stage. I know how to do just about everything there is in quilting, but I don’t know all the ways to achieve the same result. I know a little bit about a lot of things, but now I want to learn more and hone some of those other skills. I want to get better, find better ways, and learn more about the processes behind everything. I want to learn from others and see what works for them and find what works best for me. It’s all about the “precise” result for me, and the processes behind them, so learning everything there is to learn and assembling the steps that work best for me is where I comfortably sit. Where do you feel you sit on this ladder?