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Who do you quilt for?

That is a loaded question isn’t it? One which I have been mulling over in the back of my head….and where that question leads you to. Who do you quilt for?  How easy is that person to quilt for? How kind is that person upon receipt? How appreciative?

For example – I know a lot of quilters who quilt for themselves – the repetition, the steps involved, the opportunity to be creative, perhaps within a structure which some need. The opportunity to feed a hidden OCD beast. Fuelling a need to make, or create or explore…to play. Quilting can answer all of these needs, and fits neatly into little pockets of time wrestled from other commitments. Even to collect, hoard, pet and plan with their fabric but to never finish, that is a need fulfilled. Or, in my case, drop a project once the question, or puzzle, I was trying to answer has been solved in my head and the road to finish is too long and too repetitive.

The only problem I see, when I have people come into the shop or in my various guild meetings, is that people are too hard on themselves.  There are of course the “Quilt Nazis” or “Quilt Police”…fingering bindings on show and share quilts hung for perusal at a guild, matching points….I was once asked to demo a “modern” block in a very traditional, generally older than me guild.  I had someone watch my half-assed demo on my re-invention of a square in square block, a re-invention based on my need to reduce the steps and time involved in making the block, in the vain hope I may make enough blocks to finish the quilt before I got bored. (flash forward – never finished this quilt, not sure if I could even figure out where I put the bag I put it in) Upon completion of the demo the feedback I got was a sliding scale of confusion to outrage….well, I was told, if I continued down the path I was on I would lose my points.  Unless my seams were really scant.  Frankly – it is mathematically impossible to keep the points the way I re-jigged the construction, even with my glancing attention to geometry in school.  Why did I have to keep the points? Why was it assumed I was trying to keep the points? Who in the hell cares if there are points?

I know quilters who beat themselves up to a greater degree than my confused audience could ever grill me, or to a greater degree than the snippy mumblings and disparaging peering that is usually the worst the “Quilt Nazis” can do.  I have people sincerely upset, prepared to rip out or abandon entire projects because points don’t match, or the fabric they were using is long gone as far as an exact match goes…and for any number of other reasons.  I am happy to point to my quilts on the shop walls where you will find points that don’t match – if you look, or fabrics that while they match are not exact (on purpose). BUT the quilt is actually pieced, quilted and bound. A Finish – living on a wall for a while, frequently claimed for the day it comes down.  A Finish. Not perfect in all likelihood, but done and I am still here to enjoy the fruits of my – as brief as I could possibly make it and still have the damn thing look good and stay together – labour.

I guarantee – the people I bother to finish quilts for have no idea. Points? Their degrees of happiness progress through I actually made it with my hands, therefore it is precious (not because of real costs, because of effort – my mother – the mother who had saved kindergarten colouring work from school and buried the quilt I made her away to keep it “for good”), to I like the colours (my nieces), I like the theme (nephews) and I like the specific fabric choices, colours and the fact that you gave it to me (my kids), I appreciate that you thought of me and made something (my in-laws and assorted baby quilt recipients)… these are the reactions I observe – not a one of them, to a person, even my own kids – has ever looked at the points. Or lack of. Or wondered what the block was. Or how I made it.  They look at the whole, from a couple of feet away.

Some quilters have long lists of people they have to make quilts for, or occasions. I have a few on my list, and given how infrequently I bother to finish stuff I have to quilt expeditiously, and keep myself engaged.  Which for me usually means either a puzzle, or something graphic, colourful and frankly pretty simple.  I will never hand piece a Feathered Star – I won’t even strip piece one.  I could teach you how….but my heart would not be in it.  I will never complete a Mariner’s Compass, or a New York Beauty anything, or anything derived from it.  I figured out how all of these work, and the work to achieve the effect is monumental.  It is highly unlikely I will ever put hundreds of hours into anything.  I have my own peculiar form of functional ADD, once I figure something out in my head I am gone.  But I have to progress through my list.

On my list is my dad, and he asked me for a quilt this year.  That in itself was colossal and classic miscommunication, with less than 10 words the request was made, and I assumed the wrong bed. With a few more words used it finally became clear.  I had figured the spare room, as it only had a duvet on it, as opposed to the comforter.  But that was on purpose and with some logic that escaped me. I had pulled the fabrics and immediately decided I did not love the project and had no pattern or enthusiasm for the incorrectly assumed spare room.

In a way this was a good thing. He meant his room. Hmmmmm. Great. But it got better – he likes the colours in pillowcases I had made for my mom and wanted something bright and colourful. WTF.  We are talking about the purple/blue Chrysanthemum print by Kaffe Fasset Collective. Which is wonderful, I simply love the fabric. But how to make a quilt for a guy with that…I mulled this over for a while as I wandered through books, magazines and the inner webs.  I decided on a hollow star, versions of which were flooding the inner webs.

This block is perfect for my purposes – Scaleable? Check. Seriously, there is no way this quilt will be queen sized if the blocks are not big. Scrappy? Check. I am matching to a fabric that I only have about half a yard in my stash to work into the quilt, which is fine, this is a license to do what I love which is work scrappy, pull in a ton of fabric and riff on the colours. Simple/Fast? You betcha. This totally works with how some of my better quilts have come about. I can sit down for 10 minutes while the various other attention demanders in my life (no, not just people) are all sated and whip of a few blocks.  Get in some stitching and colour play and then re-enter my own personal whirlwind refreshed and arguably in a slightly better (less homicidal) mood. And finally – Flexible? For sure. Points? ROFL – what points? Who cares? The entire premise is wonky – which means NOT MATCHING. EVER! And I assure you my dad will not be worried in the least.

So pick your project that isn’t perfect in some fantastical wonderland of imagined perfection – embrace the uniqueness of it and forge ahead to finish, knowing there will only ever be one of whatever it is. If you need more motivation go read about the Japanese aesthetic of Wabi-Sabi, as I see it quilters should be required to understand this.


2 thoughts on “Who do you quilt for?

  1. I enjoyed reading your post.

    I love to make unique things to give to others or keep for myself. Being honest, I mostly made things for myself, but then after almost every room in the house had quilted wall-hangings or quilts, I started to gift my quilted projects to others. I have an assortment of completed projects, just ready to be gifted to the next recipient! But then, once in a while, I will get a request for a baby quilt with owls in it (or some other particular detail). It’s hard to not tell them that I have 3 finished baby quilts with elephants in them! So off I go to purchase more fabric to make the next quilt.

  2. Loved your post. So very true. Quilting is for enjoying not for policing

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