Saturday, March 26, 2011

Debates in Quilting - "Dumbing Down"

Like anything the quilting world is rife with debates about everything under the sun.

Prewash fabrics? (never do it)
Rip vs. Cut (mostly cut)
Hand v Machine (machine)
Polyester or cotton threads (either)
Best way to make HSTs (half square triangles) (check my patterns)

The one that bothers me though is the idea about "dumbing" down quilting. Here's why.

Not everyone has the time, money, skill or desire to make a Baltimore Album, or Judy Niemeyer paper pieced masterpiece. ( I "borrowed" the pictures from Stitchin Heaven's kit page)

And that's perfectly alright.

It's not "dumb" to decide your hobby should be enjoyable and leisurly. Or that your quilts should be machine washable because kids actually use them.

And there is nothing wrong with making the elaborate touch-and-you-die type quilts. I have one on the go now. And the Baltimore Album-type and Judy Niemeyer paper pieced are on my bucket list.

Why do we feel the need to judge other peoples way of doing things? Unless its in a competition there really is no need.
If you don't like the patterns that are being put out there design your own!

We all have different aesthetics. What I like maybe you hate and vice versa. Yes, in my patterns I try to make more complicated designs simpler to construct. But that is my preference because I don't want to spend an immense amount of time ripping out stitches to get that perfect y-seam.

This idea that because its simple it's "dumbed down" is ridiculous! Why on earth would complicated equate intelligence? or somehow make it more worthy? or artistic?

And as beginners it is better to start simple, finish it and feel accomplished then get something way over your head that you never finish and turns you off quilting forever.

Ok, I get seeing a Turning Twenty in a judged show would make me go "whaaa" but honestly it's not going to make me throw my hands up and declare that quilting is going to hell in a handbasket.

For the fast majority quilting is a HOBBY. By definition hobbies are supposed to be enjoyable.

If applique makes you pull out your hair, or quilting the top on your home machine causes you pain, or precuts allow you to actually get to the part you like faster then there is NOTHING wrong with that!
Don't do it, use fusible, send out the top and buy away! It's for you!

Yes, stretching ourselves is good, learning a new technique could turn out to be the best thing you ever did because you fall head over heels for it but really that is no ones business but yours!

Do what YOU want. You quilt for YOU. The Quilt Police can only have power if you let them.

And if you're someone who thinks because it's easy or quick it's not worth doing....good for you! But really don't judge everyone because they don't share your opinion.
And if you don't think it's worth spending a year of your life on a huge intricate project then don't, but don't judge those who do.

 The only "rules" I say are really necessary are 1/4" seam allowance for a pattern. The pattern is written for it so without things won't match up. And pressing instead of ironing because of stretching. Which will throw everything out of whack.

But really the only golden-must-not-be-broken rules in quilting are enjoy what you do, and be nice and supportive to your quilting sisters and brothers.

Let's lose the superiority complex, the judgmental and elitist attitude and go back to being a community who share a love and passion for hacking up bits of perfectly good fabric and sewing it back together again.


Laine from said...

Cara - you couldn't have said it better. Someone's blog has a saying something along the lines of "blogging without obligation". Quilting and sewing and sharing what you do should be like that. I enjoy each and every person I choose to connect with and don't connect with those I don't enjoy! Thank you for being our voice!

Sarah Fielke said...

here here Cara - I get that from people a lot, that because some of my patterns are simple they are somehow "not worthy". I've even had quilters tell me it's "a shame" I hand quilt using Perle cotton, because my quilts are lovely and the big stitches are "cheating".

Isn't it better to have people able to complete a project and actually participate in and enjoy the quilting community, than to have them start a scary, must-be-perfect type project and have them give up in despair? Or feel inadequate because they like simple piecing? And why does everyone have to make a "show quilt" in order to be a REAL quilter?

The fact of the matter is that I am capable of making those quilts, I just choose not to. And my choice should be celebrated for what it is and not looked down upon. Which unfortunately is not always the case!

Here endeth the ranting :)

Jennifer said...

Well said!

Terry said...

Well said! I've seen bits about this on a couple other blogs but you summed it up the best. This is a hobby we're supposed to enjoy. And while I do like a good challenge every now and then, I also like doing simple projects in between. I dare anyone to think they're better than me because of it!

bari said...

great post, Cara!

Anonymous said...

Yeah! I totally agree with you! Quilting is my passion and what keeps me from leaving retirement and getting another job because I would go crazy with boredom. Thanks for speaking out!

Kasey said...

Amen, and hallelujah! Quilting can be art, or therapy, or both, but it doesn't have to be either. It's whatever the hell I want it to be. I want to be a designer someday, and I WANT to design things simple enough that people still want to make them!
I don't think quilting is being dumbed downed- doors are being opened to welcome a wider audience. It's one's own choice how challenging she wants her path to be.
I know none of my quilts would be considered worthy by the elitists, but I ask them: How warm does your prize-winning quilt keep you at night? My three "dumbed down" bed quilts are deliciously warm AND beautiful to me, thank you!

Elizabeth said...

Well as a complete newbie to quilting, I really appreciated this post because I'm wading into it with the greatest of ease and if all I have do is the more simple quilts, I am just happy to have found something else to enjoy! Thanks!

Kim said...

Amen and hallelujah! As a beginning quilter I am very well aware that my skills need a lot of improving. Yes, I have grand designs for beautiful applique quilts and complicated quilting patterns but I also work full-time and I have a pre-schooler at home so my time is limited. I also LOVE so many fabric lines. I choose to work on patterns that are accessible to me and I can more and buy more fabric. :) A little challenge is good but I don't want to pull out all my hair trying more than I'm ready for. So many experience quilters are willing to share their expertise and they teach without being judgmental. The rest of them aren't no better than any other group of that is intolerant of other views. I frankly don't get why everyone wouldn't want to encourage more people into this wonderful hobby. But that's just me.

Pokey said...

Thank you, Cara. I feel better for your share.
Now, I'll go back to my hacking and sewing...!

Sew Shine said...


Vicki said...

I agree! But I am getting the feeling there is drama out there on the quilting blogs lately and I'm dying of curiosity! I loves me some good internet drama.
Seriously though, people should make what they want to make and not judge what others are doing!

Christine said...

Thanks, Cara. Very well said. I agree - enjoying your chosen hobby is the bottom line.

Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

I guess I haven't seen anything out there in the blogging world that set you off - but well said - I hate quilt police - I do hard things, I do easy things - and I do most of it my own way which sometimes have people telling me I did it wrong :) LOL tough luck, I do it for me.

Mauby said...

Well said Cara! :)

I believe that Part of the fun of quilting or any creative outlet for that matter, is figuring out a way to do things differently. Manipulating and changing the way things are done based on changing tools, methods, and desired outcome.

How can we expect to progress in any area if everyone always does everything the same way. When you only play according to, "the rules"
then there is less room for ingenuity.

"If you always do what you have always done you will always get what you have always got." Henry Ford.

I think what is can be considered "cheating" is sometimes what propels innovation forward. :)

Jacqueline said...

Well said.

"Love what you do, do what you love." GOOD MOTTO! And that is what I hear screaming from your post. xoxo

QuiltNut Creations said...

* applause*

couldn't agree more!!

julia said...

hi cara,

i totally agree! if someone wants to make intricate pieced quilts, go for it. if you'd like to keep with squares - go for it, too!
i love big stitch quilting, but also quilting with regular quilting thread ~ hey, if we all wanted the same, what a boring world it would be!

i've read on another blog (don't know which one...there are so many :) ) that it was somehow "sad", that now HSTs are considered/declared as complicated/only for intermediate quilters by shops/bloggers/whatever and therefore beginners could be discouraged to even try them...i have to say, that is a point i can also agree to. half square triangles aren't complicated. okay, maybe you rather want to start with squares for your first quilt (i didn't, but that's another story), but i think they're managable - especially when not too small - for beginners.

somehow i don't get all the excitement. there are many peas in a pod - let them all be unique!

Sunnybec said...

I have been reading the other blogs too and did wonder what sort of quilt they started on when they began quilting. I only started in August last year, without the simple quilts I would never have been able to do it. We all have to start somewhere and then progress as we get better, we all have to walk before we can run. I don't even know what a Baltimore Album is or Turning Twenty (I just wish I was that age!!) and paper piecing baffles me, and why does it worry people what others are doing.... I love the quilting that I do, and as far as I am concerned that's enough, I don't need to win any competition as long as my family and friends like their gifts I am happy. Not every artist is a Picasso or Rembrandt but it doesn't make them less of an artist.

Paul said...

Bravo! Very Well written. And I could not agree more.

LJ said...


KendasCrafts said...

Nicely said, Cara. I am mostly self-taught and find that I usually do things the 'wrong' way. I appreciate someone not trying to make me feel badly about doing something differntly.

Flo @ Butterfly Quilting said...

Very well stated Cara.
As a beginner, I am quite happy with my simple quilts! In fact, I don't even really like the complex, pieced ones, I find them too busy and old fashioned for my taste. I love the modern simple lines. So each to their own, and enjoy what you do!!
I must admit, though, I have received a lot of encouragement and handy tips from experienced quilters as well, which I do appreciate.

Debby Brown said...

I have even fewer quilt rules than you do:

#1 Don't quilt over body parts (yours or anyone else's)

There is no #2.

Have FUN quilting!

sandra said...

Yeah for you Cara so well said. I love quilting for the hours of pleasure it gives me and not to be judged by others. I hear the quilting snobs sometimes at quilt shows and I want to ask them where their entry is because they have probably never entered one. Thanking you for giving voice to what a lot of us think

Wendy said...

Very nicely stated Cara ... you have an excellent way with words and you used them most nicely. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

YAY!!! Cara, you said it so well! I am in total agreement with you! I hand quilt everything I make, and if the quilt police (or the snobs) don't like the size of my stitches, I don't care. I enjoy the creativity, and my family loves the results. That's what is important to me!
Jacque in SC

Jacqui's Quilts said...

Amen sister! That drives me crazy too when people are so opinionated about someone else's quilt. You said it perfectly. I'm working on an Indian Orange Peel and my friends think I'm insane. I agree with them, but I'm having so much fun going insane, why not eh? LOL

Jacqui in SW Ont. Canada

Anonymous said...

Thank you for putting into words what my brain just couldn't conjure. Perfectly said!

SundaysChild said...

Good for you! Thank you for posting this.

We just have to look at the Gee's Bend quilts to see that for the most part, very little of the fabric was purchased JUST for a quilt or because it was made by a designer. In the "old days", the quilts were mostly made from leftover scraps, feed / flour / sugar sacks and old clothes - repurposed, recycled.

My mum remembers the crazy quilt that caught on fire from a hot brick used to heat up her bed! Grandma just "slapped another piece on to cover the burn".

We are fortunate now to be rich enough to purchase patterns and good pieces of virgin fabric .. to be cut up and sewn back together. :-)

Julie Andrea

jacquie said...

thanks cara...well said.

Marg said...

Well written, I couldn't agree more, I love some of the more intricate quilts but I don't want to make one or have one lying on my bed. I love simple modern patterns that showcase the fabrics. I love modern hand stitching that is not tiny and precise and I am gob smacked that someone has said to Sarah Fielke that big stitches are cheating.
I think it is healthy to discuss the different ideas and techniques but there is no need to disparage others.
It's a big world and there's lots of room for different ideas. If we were all the same it would be very very boring.

Elizabeth Dackson said...

Very well said Cara, I totally agree - "the Quilt Police only have power if you give them power." I think that quilting should be enjoyable, above all other things, and that everyone enjoys different kinds of quilts, and that is A-OK. Very well put!

Zegi said...

Exactly! Thank you for summing it up. It disappoints me so much that some are trashing on quilters who choose to do work that is not overly complex. So what? I don't understand what the big deal is. If making simple quilts attracts more people to quiltmaking than it is a homerun, IMO.

helenip said...

Quilting is a creative journey and, therefore, is unique to the artist. I didn't know I was creative until I began quilting eight years ago. Surprise! I have never enjoyed coloring within the lines, so my quilts often stray from the pattern (which causes me to think harder). I love to work on landscape and portrait quilts, but I find that I make many traditional quilts as well.

I love taking classes and getting excited about a new technique or an easier way to accomplish something.

Constructive criticism is a good thing, but I only want to hear it if I ask for it. :) Sometimes I love the project just the way it is and other times I just flat out don't like my creation - but I have learned and grown with each project.

Quilting keeps me happy and busy in retirement, and that is a very good thing!


Katrina said...

Very well said! Quilting should be fun - if it isn't fun don't do it. Well - I never find binding fun - but I find finishing a quilt fun LOL!

Anonymous said...

I'm late to all this... just finished reading the original/s about the whole 'dumbing down' saga and I giggled my head off! At the original post/s AND the comments. Imagine the bunfight if those people were all in the same room! Seriously.. don't we all just do what we do because it a) suits the purpose, b) it fits the timeframe and c) it just feels good? I LOVE your attitude, totally agree and will keep playing with whatever floats my patchwork/quilting boat at the time - simple or complex - because that's what makes me happy :)
BTW - I also LOVE Sarah Fielke's hand quilted quilts with perle thread... :)
Have a fun day!
Cheryl x