Quilting in the 21st Century

I went to a “newcomers” orientation with Ocean Waves Quilt Guild on Monday. I’m a “member of the board” and was asked to come and talk about 3 or 4 different activities within the guild, including “Second Time Around”.  If you are a new follower, let me explain — My committee receives fabric and quilting notions from donors and we “make it pretty again” by pressing, trimming, folding and “selling” back to the members of the guild the day of our monthly meeting.  Funds we raise support our guild and enable us to have speakers from around the country.

When I get donations, sometimes I have to ask others “what” an item is or how it is used.  This is because I didn’t have an association with the hobby in the “previous” century, and I am aware that the hobby has changed dramatically since the 1970’s, the 1930’s and centuries prior.   My quilting “journey” began in 2008, and I learned to cut with a rotary cutter, learned how to cut strips with the June Tailor slotted ruler.  Some tools I see, I honestly haven’t experienced, yet my long departed grandmother would know exactly how to use them.  There is a resurgence in the quilting world to use vintage sewing machines, and to do hand work.  I learned at my grandmother’s knee how to thread her black Singer sewing machine, and she taught me the basics of sewing buttons on etc.  I learned this year how to sew a button on using my Janome.  Guess which way I like to attach buttons??

What was neat at the newcomers orientation is the WIDE variety of methods members are using in quiltmaking.  Some are employing centuries old methods, like “needle turn applique”  and “English Paper Piecing” while others are happy to work on t-shirt quilts and use those modern quilt kits that come with jelly rolls, and fat quarters and pre-cut 5 and 10 inch squares.  It was wonderful to see an entirely hand pieced project, and beautifully long armed projects too.  It was also wonderful to see a “first quilt”, recently made.  We all encouraged that new quilter to enter her project in our April 2019 quilt show.

My blog post yesterday about “machine binding” may have made a long time quilter gasp in horror that I would dare to enter a quilt in a show with a machine binding.  I’m sure much the same way as the quilter who had always made her own templates out of paper or cardstock when they stores started to carry that plastic template material, or when “gasp” rotary cutters and rulers came into being, or when the Accu Quilt Die cutting machines hit the markets.  Today, you can buy kits with everything pre-cut, with applique pieces digitally cut with “fusible” (gasp) on the back.  

Yes, quilting is here, in the second decade of the 21st century, with more technology that some might want, and technology that some of us crave.  I am the first to try a new gadget or tool.  I am also the one who says “my brain is not ready for another computer program to learn”.

My husband and I have two very different hobbies, yet they both are growing in leaps and bounds in the 21st century. He was dismayed yesterday when he read a comment on a group he belongs to about model railroading. The comment was very negative to the person who posted about finding a way to “cut out his building parts” using a Brother Scan N Cut machine.  The person writing the comment berated the man for not being a “real modeler” and that he “should be cutting those window out with an exacto blade etc…   My reaction was something akin to “B.S.”…..”that’s like telling a quilter that she didn’t make a “real” quilt, because she sent it out to be long armed, or because she didn’t “hand quilt” the quilt. Maybe others think the same of me because I use machine binding.

Personally, I think there is enough “room” in the hobby for all methods, and all tools and all INTERESTS.  My interests lie more in getting “finished” than languishing over a project for years and years.  I like “machine binding” and “machine embroidery” and “rotary cutting” and “fusible, machine applique”.  No, I don’t “quilt by check” but I do machine quilt.  And I learned to quilt free hand on a long arm…1 quilt down, but not award winning quilting like some who quilt professionally. But, it’s done!  And I did it, and I take pride it what I have learned along the way.

I think there is room for all levels of interest in this diverse hobby.   I’m sure you have heard some speak negatively about a quilter who doesn’t do a particular task “the right way” etc .  Is your “right way” the “only way”?

Is there room in the hobby for that attitude?  I don’t think so.  I think we need to be kind, to be helpful when someone asks a questions and wants to learn and also that we learn to not be our own worst critics.

Try to remember, a hobby, defined by Merriam-Webster  is “a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation”. Other definitions include – A hobby is an activity that you do in your spare time for fun . Retirement brings lots of spare time, and this grandma is having fun!

I’d love to know if you have been active in the hobby for a long time about the changes that have been made that you embrace, and those changes that you chose not to embrace and why not?  No judgements from me.   Just tell me how the hobby has changed during the time you have been part of it, and what you like or dislike.

Thanks for reading along!

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26 thoughts on “Quilting in the 21st Century

  1. I don’t have the experience to really comment on previous methods. But, I found it interesting reading this post that as humans we have even lost our tolerance when it comes to how we pursue our hobbies. I always thought that part of the fun and learning experience was to see how other people pursued the same project.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think it is the odd person rather than all people who can be disrespectful of another’s hobby efforts. For the most part I see what I would call Old Timers, those in the hobby for a long time, who are less than welcoming to new products, methods and tools.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I learned to quilt as a kid in the late 1950’s most of it was done by hand. I got to hear all the complaints you are talking about. I do the processes that I enjoy. I think everyone should do the same. Thanks for sharing it brings back memories of the 1980’s when new products and machines hit the market.

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      • Sometimes I just think they are members of the mean quilter’s girls club. LOL…They are usually the ones that are highly competitive and critical of the art. They take themselves too serious. To me it is all eye candy. I have been in the mood to hand applique a quilt. So I have been saving all the election’s giant post cards that has been coming in the mail to use. They will make great templates. I am in no hurry, Just want to enjoy the process. The only fad I could not see the purpose was putting beads and buttons on a full size quilt. Wall art…yup…have at it. Bed quilt with beads didn’t make sense to me.

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  3. Well written! My husband also belongs to a couple of modeling clubs, and share similar experiences that you have referred to. I think our ancestors embraced new methods if they found them useful. Whether one chooses to enjoy a slower process, or wants to work their hobby with the speed of light, the point is to find something that is relaxing and enjoyable to you. We are unique creatures, and having many ways to perform one task is a good thing, as we don’t all relate and learn the same way.

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  4. So true Mary, quilting has evolved over the years for sure – and yet we see people using the old and new techniques – sometimes in the same project! I now use ways of crafting quilts and other sewn projects that many years ago would have been considered “cheating” or inferior work lol. The best advise I have read and have taken is “finished” is better than perfect. As someone that has an inborn need to do things “by the book” I have learned to relax and get it done!

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  5. I started quilting in 2003 at age 70 and was thrilled to find improved methods and supplies from what I remembered people using in my younger years. I love my modern Bernina machine.

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  6. Really interesting, had some nasty experience with quilt group. Most are machine quilters and when I finished my hand quilt, using big stitch quilting they were not able to recognize it as another way of quilting. They kept on about how a quilt must be quilted according to the rules. grrrr I don’t follow rules I just enjoy my hand quilting and love to have it showing as one puts a lot of work into the quilting part. Well I left the group as they are unable to enjoy my art quilt. Still having lots of fun anyway. I absolutely agree that there is room for every type of idea and techniques. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • So sad that some chose to judge what is different from what they’re doing! ! We had a teacher recently demo big stitch hand quilting and everyone who saw her work and took the class was hooked! Do what YOU love!! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

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  7. As you know, one of my mottoes is “I have a tool for that!” I love how new and innovative tools has made quilting easier. I admire the people that have the talent to design these tools and take full advantage of the ones that work for me. Some of the ladies I know look down on using these innovative tools and prefer the old methods. More power to them, but I don’t want to spend a year on only one quilt. Too many things I haven’t had time to try yet. I have also heard that in the past (I’ve only been quilting since 2006) machine quilting wasn’t accepted into judged quilt shows, but now the machine quilted quilts have their own categories. I am happy to see that change. Also it seems currently some quilt shows will not accept any entries that have machine applied binding. Hopefully, in the near future that will change too since that is the only thing I use…not that I would enter a judged show anyway. I try to always keep in mind the purpose of my quilting: To give myself a wonderful creative outlet where I can let my imagination soar, and most importantly to be a blessing to other people by making quilts for people God places on my heart and for various worthy fundraising and other charity causes. i also enjoy teaching others and making new quilting buddies. Quilting with others is loads more fun. I call it Quilt Therapy time.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Very interesting post. I started quilting in 2013 and am amazed at all of the different skills and techniques that are being used. Even though I consider myself a “modern” quilter with machine binding, specialty rulers and a recently purchased accuquilt for cutting, I love to try different methods for each skill to see which works best for me. I’ve also made a point to learn some traditional techniques, like English Paper Piecing. It really makes me appreciate all of the work that has gone into quilts through the years!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I gasped when I ready the name of your blog…..there really IS a Quilt Police! 🙂 I do some EPP, and love the quiet stitching. We each are so unique and pick up different techniques and tips in our quilting journey. Thanks for finding my blog and taking time to comment.

      Liked by 1 person

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