Thursday, April 8, 2021


I used to attend a lot of quilt shows.  I loved to see the quilts and enjoyed shopping and checking out the new products.

The last quilt show I attended was in May of 2019.  Before that I will admit that I hadn't been to one in a few years, the last was one of those shows where it was all about selling stuff and not so much about quilts on display.

Now, I like to buy fabric as much as the next person, maybe more, do you remember my stash?

And this was taken in September of 2015, and doesn't include several large tubs, and three more smaller bookcases.....I definitely have fabric stash cred!

A show I went to in 2017 was full of fabric vendors who thought it was so marvelous to offer their fabrics in only one or two yard pieces.  Whatever happened to fat quarters?  Not to mention that so many of the fabrics were ones I'd seen online for sale on fabric websites.  I ended up buying nothing, and the quilts on display looked like the same ones I'd seen the last time I went to that particular show, (and shame on me for going again!).

The show I went to in 2019 was actually a lot better.  It was held by the Umpqua Valley Quilters' Guild at the Douglas County Fairgrounds in Roseburg, Oregon.  We live about 15 miles from the fairgrounds so I thought I'd take a gander and was impressed with what I saw.  For one thing, the facility was modern and bright, so you could actually see everything.  The ladies manning the front table were friendly and helpful, (pretty much the norm around here), and the vendors were great.  They actually had fat quarters at reasonable prices and I even got into a conversation with a vendor about Kaffe Fassett and Philip Jacobs.  One of  my favorite booths was the one from the local yarn store.  So much wonderful color!  Too bad I don't have the patience to knit...

The quilts on display were very good, and I loved that they showed quilts from less accomplished quilters as well.  I love to see the best professional and amateur quilting, but I also enjoy seeing the joy in the quilts of those who are just starting out. There's something about those starter quilts that touches my heart.

So, it sounds like I had a good time, and I where does the crankiness come in...

Very little handwork!

It's been a peeve of mine for a while that so many of the quilters of today seem to do all of their work by machine.  I know it's not easy to do, I'm not dissing their ability, but I love to see something that has been hand-stitched, and therefore less than perfect.  Some of the quilts were absolutely gorgeous, but I kept thinking, how would they look with some hand-stitching?  Is there no room for us hand-stitchers anymore?

To all of you long-armers out there and those who love to FMQ, this is not to denigrate what you do, or to make it "less than" a hand pieced and quilted quilt. It's more like the two are different genres of the same thing.  

In September of 2013, I wrote the following:

What's most frustrating from my point of view is that for many years I was the renegade quilter.  The one that thought it was OK to mix cottons and other fabrics, who didn't freak out if something was off grain, and who wasn't overly concerned that my stitches weren't 10 to an inch.  In the early days there were a lot of hardliners and I encountered them at quilt shows.  I think they were afraid that their comfort zone was being threatened and us "darned art quilters" were going to take over and then they were going to be on the outside looking in.

I don't remember ever mocking traditional quilters, even while I was purposely stretching the limits.  I always appreciated their skill and their commitment.  Let's face it, if those dear ladies hadn't stuck it out as long as they did to teach a new generation, who knows what would have happened to quilting.  It could have ended up like macrame.

In the beginning of my quilting journey I was all for machine quilting.  I was young and in a hurry.  Today I've come full circle to the point where I do very few things by machine, and always quilt by hand. 

I know that quilting by machine is difficult, especially if you are hand guiding the machine, but does it rise to the same level of  hand quilting?  I'm not sure yet, but I do know that it bugs me when an entirely machine made quilt wins first prize at a big show.  I just think the machine quilters have an advantage, and a lot of that is financial.

Those who can't afford the expensive quilting machines are left out of the mix, and I think that's a crime.  I look back to my early days when if I had 10 bucks to spend on fabric that was a lot.  I wonder how many young quilters are discouraged when they find out how much a decent machine costs?  Are we helping or hurting the next generation of quilters by emphasizing a style of work not affordable to everyone?

Isn't it interesting that some of the same struggles that existed within the quilting community in the 1970s are still with us?  Will there always be this pull between traditional and non-traditional quilters?  I think it's eased a bit on the traditional end.  Different fabrics and color combinations are more widely accepted, and the ease with which machine quilting is accepted is a new thing too.  I wonder what things will look like 20, even 10 years from now?

It's sad for me to see that after 9 years, hand-quilting seems to have taken even more of a backseat.  I guess I'm just the old lady in the corner, pricking my finger and saying a ladylike swear word, while I'm still happily stitching away with my #10 needle and bright colored thread.

In the last few years I've played around a bit with machine quilting, mostly on utilitarian things like tote bags. I like the look in some ways, but maybe it's my early indoctrination that makes me feel like I'm cheating. 

I'm not saying that there's a right way or a wrong way to quilt. I've been on both sides of that argument and understand that for some people quilting by hand would mean nothing ever got finished. I get it! However, I also think it's important that those skills don't get lost. Every quilter should be able to quilt by hand, and who knows, someday a decent machine quilting machine will be available at a price everyone can afford.

In the meantime, I'm going to continue to enjoy the slower and quieter pleasure of pulling a threaded needle through layers of fabric and batting.  There's nothing like it!

Happy Hand-Stitching!


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