Can you be a Modern Quilter but not make Modern Quilts?
November 6, 2015
My quilty friend Crystal has been hosting the fantastic Modern Quilting, Modern Women series over on her blog Raspberry Spool. Today she posted an interview with the resplendent Mary Fons.
In the interview, Mary talks about whether she considers herself to be a “modern quilter”:
I’m a modern quilter only if you take “modern” to mean now. I think that word actually can’t be used in this way, however, because of the genre we have. So I consider myself a “contemporary” quilter but in every other way a quilter can be modern today, I am. I used social media and video to do a lot of work; I lecture and teach and all that business (booking, promo stuff, blog posts, ticket sales, etc.) happen well and quickly because of the Internet.
Mary nicely sums up some thoughts I’ve had for a long time:
If you don’t make “modern (style) quilts” can you consider yourself to be a “modern quilter”?
This is certainly not a new topic. Many different bloggers have covered this same ground, several coming up with different answers (embrace it, ignore it, who cares?). So I’m not exactly covering new ground.
I think this conversation was really brought to head with the acceptance (or rejection) of quilts for the QuiltCon 2015 show nearly a year ago now. The Modern Quilt Guild strictly adhered to their definition of a modern quilt and the requirements of their categories. (Full disclosure – I entered my Blue Steel mini quilt and was not accepted, although after seeing other people’s entries on Instagram I was certainly not surprised, or particularly disappointed.)
And obviously it’s the MQG’s show; they can pick who they want to be in it. My hypothesis is that they really wanted to show a strong differentiation between modern style quilts, and traditional, or merely contemporary style quilts.
Shortly before this, I watched Jacquie Gering‘s MQG webinar (only available to MQG members) about the definitions of the modern quilting style. Not gonna lie – I felt like I was going through the five stages of grief watching this webinar. I realised then that the majority of the quilts I make are definitely not modern and those that are, are barely blips on the modern spectrum.
I had the opportunity to take a straight line quilting class with Jacquie at QuiltCon in 2015 and both she and the class were lovely. Unfortunately, I had almost completely lost my voice at the time, so I couldn’t take to the opportunity to further discuss my response with her.
The Imminent Future
Now that the Modern Quilting Movement has effectively entered its adolescence, the MQG (effectively the governing body and leader of the movement) will need to decide what’s more important – a descriptive style of quilting or people.
In the end, for the movement to be successful and enduring, it will need to side with the people. Styles and trends come and go, but people will always remain.
Like Mary Fons, my quilting and participation in the craft has been shaped by the people around me, including and especially, on the internet. My quilts may not be “modern quilts”, but I am most certainly a modern quilter in attitude.
In the end, it can be summed up by a new member of the fabulous Canberra Modern Quilt Guild: “I felt like I found my people.”
I’d love to know your thoughts. Do you consider yourself a modern quilter?
Arts and Crafts Enclave in Phillip Canberra
October 22, 2015
The suburb of Phillip in Canberra is home to a rabbit warren of half loop courts filled with a variety of shops. Among these are some fabulous arts and crafts related shops. And did I mention the free parking???
Below are some of the shops that I’ve visited with some quick reviews. I made a custom Google Map here for your convenience, and embedded below. Info was up to date upon the publish date – it’s suggested you check the website/call the shop in question before you arrive to confirm current opening hours.
Addicted 2 Fabric
Probably Canberra’s best known independent fabric shop. A2F carries a huge variety of quilting fabric – mostly in the modern style – as well as dress fabric and Liberty lawn. They also have a good range of notions.
If you like beads, this is an amazing place. They have a huge selection here, as well as classes. I’m not a beader, but they are very useful for random supplies like brooch backs, hot fix crystals and the like.
KimoYes carries vintage Japanese fabric including silk and cotton from kimonos. This shop is a must visit just to check out the beautiful fabrics. They also have gifts and pre-made items like purses and brooches made out of the fabric.
Endangered Heritage specialises in conservation and restoration of antique and vintage items, including textiles. They also sell some excellent specialised washing detergent for textiles.
Canberra Sewing Centre
Canberra Sewing Centre has probably the best range of thread (for sewing machines) in Canberra. They carry all the major brands. They also have a small range of fabric (mostly traditional style) and products for embroidery such as a selection of stabilisers. They also do sewing machine repair onsite. They really shine with their friendly and knowledgeable staff.
Eckersley’s is a chain of arts and craft stores, but they carry a wide variety of products. This particular store is nice and big, well laid out, and easy to navigate.
Margaret Hadfield Gallery/Studio
The Hadfield Gallery has a small selection of arts and crafts products and also provides painting classes. They are helpful and friendly.
Stitch ‘N Time
Stitch ‘N Time primarily carries yarn and products for knitters/crocheters. They have a wide selection of notions and a small range of embroidery thread and cross stitch kits.
Sew Simple has a small range of quilting fabrics, thread and notions. They have a wide variety of batting available. They also have a long arm machine you can rent by the hour.
They are also a Janome dealer and where I take my MC6600P for its servicing and buy my bobbins.
Of course, with all that shopping you’ll need to take a coffee break. Fortunately, Phillip is also home to some fantastic coffee shops. My favourites include:
- Hansel and Gretel – they roast their own beans and have an amazing selection of international chocolates.
- Coffee Cafe – friendly relaxed atmosphere with great coffee and food.
- Lava Espresso – definitely the hipster of the group. If you like to hang with the cool kids, this is the place.
- Pickled Pear Cafe – just opened on Dundas Court. Great food. I love their Pickled Pear Salad.
Canberra folks, have I missed a favourite shop of yours in Phillip? Let me know in the comments.
This One Blog Post About Quilter Clickbait Will Make you Laugh Until You Cry
October 8, 2015
As a general whinger about awful Facebook trends, clickbait has been a bug-bear of mine for awhile. Particularly those in the vein of the pioneer of the practice Upworthy.
Finally it seems like the media is catching on, with major web publishers like Mamamia claiming to swear off the habit (despite having a spoof spoiler Twitter account that continues to flourish). Facebook itself has begun to punish clickbait headlines.
But I admit, sometimes the damn things do catch me out. I’ve just gotta know what the puppy did to make grandpa cry!!! And after being inspired by this Daily Life post making clickbait headlines out of things said to female writers, I decided to write some of my own quilty clickbait headlines.
You won’t believe what she did to make her sewing machine run perfectly!
Sewing Machine Mechanics hate this one small trick!
This one easy trick will make your half-square triangles’ points match every time!
(Seriously, if someone knows this, tell me please.)
Woman makes post asking for obscure hard-to-find fabric. You won’t believe what happens next!
You’ll be amazed what happens when you take this traditional quilt block and make it BIGGER!
This simple trick for cutting fabric will change everything!
Fabric companies hate her! One simple trick for using your scraps.
We asked 25 people what they thought about quilts. What we found was shocking!
Have you come across any quilty clickbait in the wild? Have an idea for your own headline? I’d love to know!
The Tangled Thread Awards
September 21, 2015
With the Emmy Awards currently in full swing, I thought I’d come up with some categories for my own awards: The Tangled Threads.
But these aren’t awards for things you like; it’s for things that drive you crazy! Consider these the quilting version of the Razzies.
Nominations and winners are included.
Worst Noise to Hear While Quilting
- Sound of your sewing machine grinding to a halt for no particular reason.
- Sound of your needle breaking into 1,000 pieces.
- Sound of your cat having diarrhea while laying in your fabric stash.
- Sound of your partner asking you “what’s for dinner?”
- Sound of social media notifications to distract you from what you’re doing.
And the winner is…
Sound of your partner asking you “what’s for dinner?”
Least Favourite Tool to Use While Quilting
- Seam Ripper
- Hand sewing needle
- Hair clips or whatever “hack” is popular on Pinterest this week
And the winner is…
Hand sewing needle!
Most Annoying Thing to Find in a Pattern
- Reference to another pattern that you also need to buy to complete that project.
- A layout diagram that looks like it came from blueprints for the International Space Station.
- Use of a specialised tool that you will never ever use again for any project ever.
- Pressing instructions that make joining pieces as hard as possible.
- Pressing instructions to press your seams open.
And the winner is…
Use of a specialised tool that you will never ever use again for any project ever.
Most Annoying Fellow Quilter
- That lady that finishes two quilts a week, while maintaining a perfect household and Instagram feed.
- The know-it-all in your local guild (note – this may actually be me).
- The people who ask “what’s your favourite online quilt shop?” in your Facebook group at least three times per week.
- The person who insists if it wasn’t entirely done by hand, you might as well have bought the quilt at Wal-Mart.
- The person who comments “modern quilters don’t respect history” over and over again on any blog she can find.
And the winner is…
The people who ask “what’s your favourite online quilt shop?” in your Facebook group at least three times per week.
Agree with the winners? Have any other category suggestions? Let me know below!
Game of Quilts Voting Now Open!
September 17, 2015
Go vote for your favourite Game of Quilts entry over at the Badass Quilters Society now to 19 September 2015!
I would appreciate your vote for my two quilts (one in each colourway).
A Song of Ice and Fire
Spoiler Alert! A Game of Thrones Memorial Quilt
(I’ve blurred the names here, but if you click on the original post, there are MAJOR spoilers for the Game of Thrones TV show through Season 5)
My Favourite Free Motion Quilting Tools
September 9, 2015
If you’re just starting to free motion quilt with your domestic sewing machine, you may be keen to learn about some tools that can help improve your quilting, and your experience.
This post will go beyond the standard tools such as a darning foot, and talk about a few of my favourite “extras” that make my quilting better.
This handy teflon sheet allows your quilt to slide nicely across the bed of your machine. It helps to reduce friction and jerky movements that can lead to uneven stitches. It really does make a difference.
Use it with your extension table, or if you have a drop in sewing table, they make a jumbo version as well.
An important note – while it may be tempting to try to use this while quilting with your walking foot, it doesn’t have a large enough hole for the feed dogs and you will get it caught in the stitching on the underside of your quilt. Don’t ask how I know this.
Every different quilter will have an opinion on whether or not it’s worth it to use gloves while quilting. And those that do will have an opinion on the various different kinds of gloves available. There are even “hacks” for cutting off the tips of rubber or gardening gloves.
These are all well and good, but nothing I’ve tried has worked as well as the Machingers Gloves. The give you extra grip without getting in the way, falling off, or otherwise being awkward. They breathe well, so even in the summer, I don’t feel like I’ve got extra sweaty hands.
They say you can do lots of thing with them on. This is mostly true – I am able to bring up the bobbin thread (with the assistance of my Purple Thang) while wearing them. However, I’m not dexterous enough to wear them while sinking thread ends or other more complicated tasks. Fortunately, they are quick and easy to take off and put back on again.
One thing to note – these gloves do wear out. You can wash them, but I had to replace mine after a couple of years when the rubbery tips were starting to wear out. But they’re pretty cheap and worth it.
That Purple Thang
This is one of those “gadgets” you’ve probably seen at some quilt show and wondered “What the heck do I do with it? Why would I need that?” While it’s true that you could probably perform various functions with other tools, the Purple Thang just does them so easily and elegantly.
I keep mine close by when I’m quilting for two main purposes: using the tip to bring up the bobbin thread at the start of a new line of quilting, and using it to open and remove basting safety pins.
Bringing the bobbin thread up when you start quilting will help prevent it from making a tangled mess on the back of your quilt. If you plan to tie off your thread, you will also need to pull up a good length in order to tie a knot.
Because I like using the auto thread cutter on my Janome MC6600P, my bobbin threads are often very short when they come up. The Purple Thang allows me to easily lift it up to grab.
While you’re quilting, you’ll probably need to remove a basting safety pin at some point. Often it’s in an awkward spot that makes it hard to grab to open. Using the tip of the Purple Thang you can push up the point of the pin and lift it out of the pin’s head. You can also hook the tip around the base of the pin to pull it out of the quilt sandwich. After you do this a couple of times it becomes almost second nature.
The Purple Thang also comes in handy if you need to push in bulk while quilting. You could also do this with an awl or seam ripper, but if you accidentally get under the needle while it’s moving, the Purple Thang is plastic and won’t shatter your needle. It keeps your fingers away from the needle too.
Small Curved Tip Scissors
These scissors are perfect for trimming off threads super close to your quilt top, while lowering the risk that you accidentally nick the fabric.
You want a pair that’s a small size so you can easily get it around the sewing machine at any angle to nip those threads. They work well whether you use packing stitches or tie off and sink your thread on starts and stops.
I’m not sure what brand mine are, but they are one of my favourite tools. I’d be lost without them.
While it’s useful to have a small sandwich with backing, batting and top fabric(s) specific to your individual project to test tension, I find it equally useful to have a larger practice sandwich to provide a bigger space for testing your designs.
I buy 2 metres of some dark colour homespun and sandwich it between a metre of my favorite batting (Matilda’s Own 100% cotton), then use contrasting thread in my machine. The larger size gives me plenty of space to test out my design to make sure I have the motion down and it’s working out as expected. It also better replicates the project quilting experience by making me practice managing the bulk of a larger quilt. It can be really easy to quilt a design on a 10″ square piece, but doing it on a 40″ square piece can produce a different experience.
You can use a white marker or chalk to mark a “block” or even make yourself smaller squares to work in.
Once your practice sandwich is filled up, you can cut it up to make lots of things: pot holders, drawer liners, even put the pieces between dishes when moving to prevent breakages.
Last but not least, some groovy tunes
Free motion quilting requires a bit more concentration than just piecing or straight line quilting. So I like to listen to something a little bouncy to get my body moving, without having to think about it too much, like you do with an audiobook, podcast or TV.
I found a fun little gadget that incorporates an iPod player/dock with a lamp. I don’t think they sell them any more, but any music player will work.
My perennial faves are Daft Punk, Beck, Radiohead, La Roux and Underworld.
Don’t forget to get up regularly and take a dance break.
Do you have any favourite tools you use when free motion quilting?
When Your Quilting Fave is Problematic
August 31, 2015
More and more in recent years, the bad behaviour of those we admire seems to be popping up to the surface. Particularly when it comes to celebrities and social media, an offensive comment is literally one tweet away. So how do we deal when these kinds of behaviours or comments come from a favourite quilter, shop, group, or quilt celebrity?
50 Shades of Nope
When it comes to behaving badly, we have to admit that there is a spectrum – shades of gray, and those can vary from individual to individual. It’s up to you to decide what crosses your line, and what doesn’t.
I had an instance recently where a well known local professional quilter made comments disparaging of legalising gay marriage on her Facebook page. There was also an implied invocation of “freedom of speech” and “it’s my page, I’ll say what I want.” Was this comment as bad as using a homophobic slur? Of course not. However, on my personal scale of grayness, it’s still in the territory where I am not keen on purchasing this person’s services. And that’s my freedom of choice as well.
Many people will remember the stoush last year when Abby Glassenberg of While She Naps called out Aurifil Thread’s spokesman Alex Veronelli for making repeated sexist comments and behaviors on social media. I had actually unfollowed Veronelli on Twitter earlier that year for making a bad joke about women drivers, so I was definitely in agreement with Abby, along with many other quilters. I think it was extremely brave for Abby to do this, since the quilting community generally has a no-criticism allowed policy. However, there was definitely a vocal group of women quilters who defended Veronelli unequivocally and unreservedly. Veronelli did end up “apologising”, but it was personally very disappointing to see women who I admired wallowing in internalised sexism. Unfortunately this is not uncommon in the quilting arena.
Time Heals all Wounds
Did these comments or actions occur long ago? Perhaps when the individual was less aware/open minded? Have they apologised sincerely (see below) and made effort not to re-offend? If so, and depending on the shade of gray, I think it’s worth recognising that this may be an embarrassing episode that won’t happen again. Second chances are more than fair. Third and fourth chances though… pushing it.
Was there a sincere apology?
Along with the rise of public offensive behavior, the non-apology has followed closely behind. “Sorry to those who were offended” is not a sincere apology. A sincere apology recognises the hurt, takes personal responsibility, and offers ways to make amends. If a sincere apology hasn’t been made, does that person deserve forgiveness? Let’s just say, I still don’t buy Aurifil thread.
Separate the Art from the Artist
As with broader pop culture, sometimes we must try to separate the art from the artist. There’s something amazingly human in the way people can parse appreciating someone’s talent and execution, while still condemning their actions. To a point.
Traditional Quilts, Traditional Values?
For many younger and international quilters, I think it’s hard to understand just how conservative the traditional American quilt culture is.
The Quilting in America 2014 survey (PDF) shows that quilter demographics skew female, older, richer, and traditional in style. The survey doesn’t mention race, but I have no doubt white quilters make up the majority of the overall demographic. Part of this could be as a result of the measurement techniques (demographics were listed for “Dedicated Quilters” who spent “more than $500 a year on quilting-related purchases”, obviously this will mean more well-off individuals), but I think it does reflect the general make-up of active and vocal quilt consumers in the USA, and likely other Western nations.
Something that is slightly more unique to the USA is the deeply conservative, traditional and religious demographic that comes with quilting. Unless you grew up in it it’s hard to comprehend just how pervasive, and sometimes indistinguishable, religion can be as part of the culture in the USA. And this inevitably filters down to specific groups. And quilting itself is often tied to specific religious groups, such as the Amish. When I first started quilting in my twenties in Las Vegas, I had friends ask me if I was Mormon, just because I quilted.
I was a member of a very large (20k+) USA based Facebook quilting group for several years. I eventually had to leave the group due to a constant overtone of sexism, jingoism and religious privilege.
While it’s important to realise that quilting comes from a highly traditional background, and that can reflect in the actions and comments of those who participate, it’s also essential for those members who are more progressive to speak out, even when it can be difficult and controversial.
Each quilter must decide the where on her personal spectrum a behavior or comment falls. What crosses the line for me, may not for others and vice versa. In the end, you have to put your money where you mouth is.
How have you dealt with a problematic fave? Do you think people should be more vocal in addressing what they see as issues? I’d love to know your thoughts.
August 29, 2015
|Start Date||Dec 14, 2014|
|Finish Date||31 August, 2015|
|Size||45″ x 65″|
|Pattern||Kit from Logan’s Patchwork|
|What it’s for||Gift for friend’s baby daughter due in February 2015.|
|Batting||2 layers Sew Easy cotton batting|
Quilt Top Notes/Techniques
Easy to put together instructions and fabrics. Had plenty of fabric left over from the piano key border to make a strip to go through the backing fabric to get it just the right width.
Made a coordinating Stegosaurus taggie softie from First Day of Mae as gift for big sister.
Straight line and free motion quilting with YLI invisible thread, Gutterman 50wt cotton and Aurifil.
I remember now why I don’t buy Sew Easy cotton batting – it sheds lots of fuzzies from the edge during quilting.
In Defence of Printed Panels
August 21, 2015
Printed panels are a classic feature of quilt shops and fabric stores. Often with cartoons or other themes, they are available for many different kinds of fabric lines. I just can’t resist a gorgeous panel.
With the modern quilting movement, they seem to have fallen out of favour. But I think they are a fun and functional option for beginner and experienced quilters alike. Maybe I can make you reconsider using panels.
For beginner quilters
Quick and easy decor
Christmas (or holiday) quilts
Baby and kids quilts
For a challenge
Spoiler Alert! A Game of Thrones Memorial Quilt
August 17, 2015
This is my second entry in the Game of Quilts Challenge. This time using the “Mother of Dragons” colourway.
I decided I wanted to make a memory quilt for some of the fantastic characters who have met their makers on the Game of Thrones TV show.
Fair warning – there are MAJOR spoilers below for the end of season 5.