The dumbing down of quilting

EDITED TO ADD:
1. I am not calling “you” dumb. I don’t know you.
2. Nor am I calling your quilts dumb.
3. Please read the second and third posts as well, linked at the bottom. There’s a bit less snark.

Anyone who is easily offended, please stop reading.
Anyone who believes that Sew, Mama, Sew! is the be-all and end-all of fabric crafts, please stop reading.
Anyone who thinks bloggers should always write nice, happy posts, please stop reading.

If you’re tired of seeing the same seven quilts on every blog you visit, keep reading.
If you’re frustrated by lopsided log cabin blocks being called “adventurous,” keep reading.
If you’re able to disagree constructively, hey, welcome! I don’t mind healthy discussion.

So what set me off today? Sew, Mama, Sew’s blog post about sewing trends: What’s New?! I agree with the trends listed, I think they’re spot on. Pinwheels, ruffles, embroidery and cross stitch, gray and yellow, painterly fabrics – yeah, sounds about right. But listen to this:

Quilting Trend: Pinwheels
I’m seeing pinwheels everywhere! I think they’re a nice challenge for the intermediate to advanced quilter.

Seriously? Pinwheels are four half square triangles sewn into a four patch. Any intermediate quilter worth her salt could whip out a dozen pinwheel blocks in a couple of hours. They might be a challenge for a beginner, but – SERIOUSLY?!?!!!

Please, please understand that I love simple quilts. I make a lot of them. There’s nothing wrong with quick, basic quilts. There’s a real satisfaction in knocking out a whole quilt in a few days or a week. They’re beautiful in their simplicity, and easy quilts should be respected (along with their makers). I encourage beginning quilters to try their hand at larger quilts using some of these simple construction techniques. But I also encourage them to then try making something a little more complicated. Something that requires focus, concentration, accuracy.

Quilting has the potential to be a wonderful outlet, a way to engage both sides of our brains. With one side we get to create things with colorful, beautiful fabrics. With the other side we use our mathematical, logical skills to work accurately and accomplish something useful. But we need to exercise these skills, stretch them and push them. We also need to stop stroking the egos of some quilters simply because they make things with pretty fabrics and bright colors (and take awesome photos). If a quilter can’t work with triangles, she’s a beginner, I don’t care how many quilts she’s made. If she can’t sew a consistent quarter inch seam, she’s a beginner. Makes the same quilt seventeen times in a row? Beginner. Makes only wonky blocks because they’re don’t require accuracy? Beginner. (NOTE: If her work is primarily improvisational because she love the freedom and enjoys adapting the technique, that’s a different matter entirely!) I’m not naming names because, well, that’s just mean. But I believe there are some very popular blogging quilters that are doing their readers (and themselves) a disservice by focusing so heavily on the simple stuff. Like everything else in this world, quilting experience isn’t about quantity, it’s about quality. I sew with a number of quilters who soak up new techniques, then think and twist and push them in a different direction. It doesn’t matter how long they’ve been quilting – every one is at least an intermediate quilter.

Try something new! If pinwheels and HSTs are new for you, then great! Try them. Master them, then try something else. Learn flying geese. Make a block with more than 20 pieces in it. Try 60 degree angles. Then learn curved piecing. Learn applique (I’m trying!). Try working with smaller blocks. Don’t worry about making a whole quilt. Make a block. Make a sampler. Make something, hate it, stuff it away. That’s fine. Try it! Try one of the hundreds of free patterns available on the web. Check out Karrie from Freckled Whimsy’s patterns – she does a great job of taking a new technique and breaking it down into manageable components. Join a quilt along (Jeanne at Grey Cat Quilts is going to be starting a Double Wedding Ring quilt along in April – try that!). Look around you for patterns, shapes, colors, and make up your own design. Simple or complex, creating a quilt entirely out of your head is a fantastic accomplishment.

Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself, because we don’t grow without challenge. And doing the same thing over and over is pretty damn boring.

Please take a moment to read The Dumbing Down of Quilting, Part 2 for a little clarification and a somewhat gentler attitude.

Also, take the time to read Sew, Mama, Sew’s response: Weighing in on the Great Quilting Debate: Three Guiding Principles. I am grateful for their moderate and understanding take on this issue, and their invitation to contribute a guest post on their blog.

I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, but I do appreciate those of you who have respectfully disagreed with part or all of what I wrote. To those who have taken the opportunity to use MY blog as a forum for name calling and vitriol, I wonder if you recognize the contradiction in your behavior?

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112 thoughts on “The dumbing down of quilting

  1. I really do have to agree with you. I suppose we should be happy people are still quilting given the time constraints and other opportunities everyone faces…still, it’s frustrating to have everyone ooh and aahing over something that is truly on a very basic level.

    I’ve done blocks with multiple partial seams that are closed later in the block construction. Small Mariner Compass blocks. Complex blocks that are still precision cut and sewn (Judy Martin’s methods rock for that sort of thing). Moving beyond basics yields a great deal of satisfaction. Not sure why no one promotes it.

  2. I also saw the pinwheels remark and couldn’t believe that was “intermediate.” I know I still have a lot to learn (and play with!) but pinwheels seem to me to be a pretty basic block…thanks for taking the time to write your thoughts.

  3. I can see where you’re coming from. There are posts like this every once in a while in the knitting community as well, and I understand the frustration of seeing stuff that’s pretty simple get treated like it’s brilliant. (And yes, I admit that I could live without seeing another wonky log cabin for a while.)

    On the other hand, I think that it’s wrong to assume that everyone should get the same thing out of crafting. For you, you might get the buzz from doing things that are both complex and beautiful, and that are indeed really challenging.

    I figured out a problem at work yesterday that I found really difficult, but the way I solved it was very satisfying. So I get that that feels good.

    But on the other hand, not everything I do needs to be that. My job is stressful, my life can be pretty stressful, and knitting a pair of plain stockinette socks (with the skill and experience that it takes to make them fit perfectly) or whacking together a baby quilt feels good. I don’t have to think about them. They get done quickly. They’re usually very pretty colors.

    I’ve made complicated knit stuff, and learning new techniques always seems to be easier than I expected it to be. I’ve been quilting for longer than I’ve been knitting, and usually push myself to learn new techniques and to get better at the ones I know.

    I’m trying not to miss your point here, which is that people who don’t stretch their skills don’t move up the ladder from beginner to experienced automatically, without trying new stuff. And yeah, I can agree with that, although I’d think that a quilter’s 17th stippled strip quilt without any intersecting points will probably have a pretty steady seam allowance and better executed stippling than the first one.

    My mom has a friend who has made hundreds of garter stitch scarves and nothing else. I don’t even think she knows how to purl. She likes it! Who cares? Why would my life be better if she would just learn to purl and make a yarn over already?

    I don’t really agree with criticizing people for not trying new stuff. Sure, encouraging people is great, and stuff usually isn’t as hard as it looks. But not everyone needs to get the same kinds of satisfaction out of quilting.

    Finally, if the evolution of popular knitting over the last 10 or so years is any indication, this shift will happen on its own. Ten years ago, or whenever knitting officially became popular again, most patterns were shapeless stuff on huge needles with chunky yarn. Now you’ve got thousands of knitters making huge, crazy-intricate shawls in cobweb-weight yarn, steeking, doing stranded and intarsia, etc. etc. etc. Once people get sick of making strip quilts, they’ll go looking for the harder stuff.

    • I wanted to go a little farther than dittencraft and say that after quilting for two years, I still consider myself a beginner. Although I agree with Sandi on a lot of the points made as well. As a beginner however, I do try and stretch myself and may not learn a new technique as fast as expected. I find myself doing pinwheels until all points line up every time I make them. I don’t want to just know a basic technique, I want to master it before I move on to the next. I bet dittencraft’s moms friend can make a garter stitch better and faster than anyone else around. Rather than blocks as Sandi suggested, i use mini quilts to try out new techniques because I do want to stretch myself, just not too fast.

  4. Thank you for putting it so eloquently. I too am tired of seeing wonky considered brilliant. However, I must admit that in my busy life it is sometimes satisfying to begin and end a project in a small amount of time. Some of my latest challenges is to make my guild CW blocks in miniature and to join the Dresden QAL

  5. Oops… To continue after hitting the wrong button. The Dresden block we are doing has a curved seam and will explore a qayg technique (Lily’s Quilts). As much as I enjoy something new, I like it to be something I can complete.

    There are all kinds of quilters. In library school we were told that some of us would not be catalogers if we enjoyed completing a large task bc there are always new things to be added to the collection. It seems to be the same w quilters. My UFOs are a source of stress at times bc I like tasks to be completed.

  6. That has to be written for the uninitiated. LOL I read down the comments and someone actually said that quilting is making a comeback! Where did it go??? LOL

  7. I can see your point about the dumbing down of quilting. But, to everything there is a season. There is a time to be complex and a time to make 9 patches; a time to paper piece, and a time to log cabin. A time to spend 4 hours in a fabric shop picking fabric, and a time to use charm packs and jelly rolls.

  8. Amen!! I’m so tired of wonky blocks! They were cute 3 years ago!! Now, not so much. Another term that drives me up a wall is “organic”. I ask are you making a quilt out of sticks and leaves?

  9. I have been thinking about this all day. I took my first class in 1983. Loved it. Then I took a 20 week course mostly about drafting patterns in 1984. Loved it so much that I did the same thing again. I can tell you how to make your own Mariner’s Compass block in any size you need. If you need a 7 inch nine-patch block I’m your girl. I am not afraid of templates. Oh no, not me. I blame some of the dumbing down on the pre-cuts. I do buy them too,because, hello, they are soo pretty.I will probably use pre-cuts to make a quilt for the grandchild I am waiting for in October.My daughter is not a quilter, and she has a colour palette. I am so tired of seeing squares sewn together in those retro-modern fabrics. Also half-square triangles sewn together in those retro-modern fabrics+grey. Plus, also? Coin quilts from charm packs. I think your post is very gentle and long overdue.

  10. One of my favourite things to do is to sew triangles — for me there is just enough of a challenge to keep them straight and evenly sewn and enough that I can pretty much do them mindlessly while my mind occupies a show on tv. I have taken one most every quiltmaking and piecing challenge that I have ever run across, but those triangles keep pulling at me because they can be use absolutely everywhere…

    I do dislike all those squares and rectangles that are supposedly marvels and am amazed by the work of one artist who has everything in grey with a red square and straight quilting lines and gets the items hung in galleries — what am I missing there?

    • You are missing the fact that artistic appreciation of color and composition impact does not necessarily relate to quilting skill. I marvel regularly at the art museum textile aquisitions, that may resemble colored and stitched lint, or my favorite install that looks like big rope hanging from the ceiling. It is all made of fiber, therefore it is called textile. Anyone who excels in quilting, tapestry, and stitchery competes for recognition with the color aesthetic that is not necessarily the best example of skill.

  11. Thank you! Your post has really resonated with me. When I started quilting, one of the first quilts I made was a sampler where we learned a multitude of different techniques. It opened my eyes to so many different aspects of quilting and I will be forever greatful for it. I feel that class is the reason I have no fear of any pattern or design, no matter the intricacy or difficulty.

  12. I agree! Pinwheel are BASIC learner. I was amazed to read it is advanced??? Is the advanced part figuring out how many your need to do a border? Sewing them certainly is not Advanced.

    I am always looking for something else to learn. I am currently working on a One Block Wonder with inserted Cubes. Looks easy but getting all the seams sewn and overlapped and ironed correctly is a challenge.

    Also I have a Wackeroo quilt finished except for the borders. Hardest part is lining up your 4 or more layers of fabric.

    There is so many patterns out that to challenge quilters. Paper piecing is my favourite. I have made stars with 32 points. That is intermediate or advance.

    Yes there is days when you just want to make something easy. But that is what it is EASY.

  13. I’m a beginner quilter, so anything that is posted is interesting to me. Well…let me take that back. I like seeing the process involved getting from Point A to Point Z when making a quilt. Seeing the finished product is nice, but I’m still trying to learn how to sew a consistent 1/4″ seam. So I enjoy seeing the process from beginning to end. And I love hearing all of you “seasoned” quilters tell me “WHY” you picked the colors you did, and “WHY” you changed your mind about some color choices when you did that. And “HOW” you fixed something you screwed up because you didn’t want to go buy more fabric, or you just wanted to prove to yourself you could fix a problem you created because you cut the fabric too short, or sewed something together wrong and didn’t discover you did it until you had sewn more fabric to that incorrect item. And I still find it amazing that I sew a block, measure it, it measures exactly what it should, so pat myself on the back. Then I sew another block, measure it, it’s fine, pat myself on the back again. Sew the two blocks together, and for the dang life of me I can’t get the two blocks to line up correctly. It’s totally amazing to me! I stress over making that first cut in my fabric. Then I stress sewing them trying to get that perfect 1/4″ seam. So I measure the seams after I’ve sewn them, and I rip and re-sew if something doesn’t look jus perfect. And then I stress because the blocks don’t exactly measure the same, or don’t sew together the same, or the colors I thought looked beautiful when I bought them look cruddy when all sewn together. Maybe I’ll get it one day. I sure hope so! And then I can feel I’ve become a “seasoned” quilter. Amen! (I’m putting my “new test” blog here, because for some reason everybody gets sent to one my daughter set up for me about 5 years ago that I never used. And I’m new to blogging and can’t figure out how to fix it. Sorry)

    http://deborah-deborahstestblog.blogspot.com/

  14. Took your survey. Interesting to read the comments of others. I’m a newbie, and know that I am. People quilt for different reasons. Some are happiest progressing in level of difficulty. Some are happiest doing the “same old, same old”. I’m happy if I can get something finished. Ha. I love seeing the amazing talent of others – the way some can put together colors, come up with an original design, etc. That’s not me – at least not at this point in my life. It’s also awesome to see what beauty can come from a very simple design, but maybe with a twist thrown in.

    As long as there’s patience for the newbie, without arrogance, I’m a happy clam. :) We all have to start somewhere. But I love seeing the spectacular work of talented quilters – something to aspire to! :)

  15. I am fairly new to quilting but have been sewing and loving fabric all of my life. I love simple and complex quilts and while I can’t say that I could make any type of quilt, I feel that I am pretty well rounded in my abilities and could figure out just about anything, no matter how long it may take. I love to look at quilts of all kinds made by other people. I don’t care how simple or complex they are, whether they are wonky or not, and whether they are “labeled” as beginner or master level. I appreciate the love and time put in to each of them. I do have my own likes and dislikes, but I would be hurt to find out that I was blackballed because someone didn’t like what I called quilt or my skill level in making a quilt. I believe everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and everyone else has the option to like or dislike it for whatever reason, but I feel what you said was very harsh. I get the feeling that you are a very skilled quilter and I hope to be also, in time. I think that is amazing. I do feel that you may be too tied up in what labels others are putting on their quilts. Because, after all, that is all it is, a label.

  16. I did take your survey and am glad I did. It really make me think about my personal preferences. It also helped me to take a look at what areas I have yet to venture into.

  17. Wow. Such emotion. I had learned to quilt in th 90s through liste servs on the internet, self taught bc I couldnt afford to take classes. Watching Georgia Bonestell on PBS, using fabric from my two grandmas and a $1 yard sale box. Doing swaps online. I learned what I liked and didnt. Dont like whole quilt patterns but love traditional blocks and improvisation and mixing techniques. I love hst and strip piecing and one block quilts. Quilting does not have to be about technical perfection and the # of pieces in your block. It is about a personal exression of creativity. So many people grow up thinking they are not creative. If all a quilter or knitter can create is a variation on simple paterns more power to them. We dont all make the Olympics of quilting but we can all play on the local Y team. I think if someone doesnt like what they see on some websites then they need to find websites that match their focus or idea of quilting. It is the snobbiness of local quilters that helped turn me away from quilting when I moved away from a supportive guild. And it is the wonderful supportive blog world that has given me back a missing piece of myself. Its a big world and everyone has a place.

  18. Funny, my mind was in this same mode today. I’m thrilled new quilters are coming along of all ages and both sexes, but there isn’t anything they are doing that’s new, just new to them.

    There is enough room for all of us, but much of what is being pushed is social network carpola disguised as sewing.
    Sharyn

  19. And here I was thinking it was just me. Sigh. There’s not a thing wrong with basic & simple, really. But it would be nice to see something more complex than a wonky log cabin, and something a little more difficult than pinwheels. It would be nice to see some traditional blocks done to perfection. Thank you for this post. At least I know I’m not the only one thinking these things.

  20. Hi! I took your survey and thought this was an interesting post. I have been quilting for a few years, sewing for longer and consider myself intermediate. I read the Sew Mama Sew post and I agree that pinwheels are popular now. I just finished a pinwheel quilt myself :) I am a fan of “modern quilting”, and think that there is an art to design and fabric choice even when the design is simple. In fact, I often prefer simple design. I do love some of the new fabric lines and what’s wrong with that? We all want to sew with fabric we like. Pinwheels were new to me and now I am currently doing a dresden QAL – so that is something else new for me. But I have a full time job and family responsibilities and don’t have endless hours to sew. I sew for creative expression, and usually make my own designs. I find he online Modern quilting community open, supportive and interesting. I agree with the poster above who said there is room for everyone.

  21. Nicely said! I think you may be forgetting about the fact that a lot of these bloggers and sewing sites are money makers. They therefore are catering to their largest market which is the amateur sewist who doesn’t have the time to immerse themselves in a complicated quilt project. I guess what I am saying is that they are setting the bar pretty low to appeal to the widest range of crafters/artists. Not saying this is right, in a way it is kind of sad but the truth is a lot of these bloggers make good money making wonky log cabins so that is what they stick with.

  22. Just to clarify what I meant in my above post, the bar is set low in terms of TECHNIQUE, not in how the quilt looks! I have found lots of beautiful quilts that are dead simple to make.

  23. I think Sarah above hit the nail on the head. The almighty dollar.

    Along the same lines as your post is my continued grief over those ‘designers’ who do nothing more than take a block or pattern that’s been around the block several times, slap a new fabric in it and a new name on it, and everyone thinks they are geniuses!

  24. I just came over from flickr to enter your giveaway and just read this post. Ouch! I actually grew up with a mother that taught sewing and we all made our own clothes. I can follow any pattern despite my every attempt to not learn (sorry Mom). Even though my mother quilted I was never interested until I saw the beautiful quilts of Gees Bend and found the on-line quilting community. I enjoy picking out the colors and fabrics and sewing as I go and seeing what emerges. Maybe I will make a quilt from a pattern someday but, if not, I feel they are still valid quilts. I think it’s just a matter of taste. I actually appreciate the technical expertise in my mother’s quilts more now and treasure them, but the ones I am making for my children and friends are more my style. And my Mom (the ultimate expert) … she just loves that I’m quilting now and can’t wait to see and hear about what I’m sewing.

  25. Well said. We all love the quick and easy patterns that we use for gifts and donations, but I tend to keep the quilts that challenge me to step out of that comfort zone whether it be applique, color or a gazillion difficult pieces.

  26. I love the design possibilities of simple shapes … but cannot believe that if one person makes a simple quilt everyone has to make one, but very few will try to change the design by shifting the contrast around a bit.

    The ones which drive me up the wall is seeing ten ‘crazy quilts’ with the same identtical blocks!

    Very few people have enough self confidence to work without being told what to do. Wonky Log Cabin is as far as they will go towards improvising, but I have met heaps who will only do that sort of thing with a printed paper pieced block. For those with that mindset perhaps a Pinwheel is for intermediate to advanced.

    I was at a quilting bee one day working with a group making quilts for charity when one of the girls said that she loved these working days because she learned to do new blocks. She had been quilting for quite a few years, but she still didn’t know how to look at a block and work out how to make it … no one had told her that she was allowed to do it herself, which meant she was destined to be a perpetual student.

    I find it easy to teach beginners to be adventurous, but if someone knows how to make quilts, trying to get them to throw away the pattern book is really hard. Money is possibly where the blame lies … new quilters rushing in to buy tools, fabrics, threads etc keep the stock turning over and paying for classes … but surely there must be some satisfaction in taking those beginners to the next step, instead of feeding them basic kits and classes without giving them permission to work on their own.

    Personally, it doesn’t matter if a quilt is a simple design suitable for a beginner or something in the upper levels of advanced, I just want to make original quilts, and encourage others to do the same.

    Judy B

  27. I should have spoken up when I first read this, but THANK YOU. As a learner I’m a little bit stumped by what I see out there, especially in the what-is-modern arena (some of that looks an awful lot like last century, and the century before, to me!). I’m beginning to trust myself enough to select what really interests me and to get instruction from whichever source works: usually that’s an online quiltalong or tutorial, sometimes a class. I think the important thing is to do what you love, in the medium you love, and stretch your brain while doing so.

  28. I am a self taught quilter who of course uses the internet to learn. Quick and easy were great when I started, but lately I’ve been thinking “the emperor has no clothes” when I see a pattern or book. I see blocks on blogs that have been around for years, that someone has renamed and claimed as their own. After learning the basics and wanting to grow as a quilter, I turned to books and magazine patterns, only to run into problems with untested patterns. It’s frustrating that you need to go to the publishers website to learn the about the misprints. I’m at a place now where I want more challenge, so I have my graph paper and pencil (which gets thrown down often), at least I’m causing my own frustration.
    I think Modern has it’s place and for some people it’s enough, but I think a lot of quilters will continue to grow and keep challenging themselves. These are the people who will still be quilting years from now.

  29. (sorry to have posted this comment in the wrong post first.

    Those blogs were/are good for me to push me to use color but for design? Not so much. I had this conversation with a quilting buddy of mine in Australia (love Skype) a couple weeks ago and if I could have said it as well as you, I’d have posted it long ago, too! HERE, HERE!

    That’s part of the reason I am hosting a quilt along (just started) on paper-piecing. One block. easy enough for beginners. Many color and layout options to challenge those a little more familiar with paper-piecing. And by challenge, I mean just get them thinking about what they want to do instead of thinking to use my canned design out of EQ6!

    I didn’t realize Grey Cats was hosting a quilt along or I would have waited and joined hers. Hmm, wonder if I can manage to participate and do my own?

    Anyway, thanks for this post! I’m going to be linking to it to say “what she said”. :)

  30. I’m tired of magazines that use the same block patterns over and over just changing the fabric line. I’ve cancelled all my subscriptions because I don’t see anything interesting. Of course, I started learning to quilt by drawing around my mother’s templates back in the 1940s. I’ve seen a lot of patterns and variations. I’ve been through complex. Now I like learning new techniques that I can finish fairly quickly and will be used and not left on a shelf.

  31. I really appreciate this post, thank you for writing it. I completely see where you’re coming from and agree with some of what you’ve said here. Pinwheels are hardly “intermediate,” and we should all be pushing ourselves to learn and grow and develop new skills.

    However, one of the things that drew me to quilting is the design aspect of it. And from a design perspective, simpler quilts can be just as good, if not better, than complicated ones. Choosing colors and fabric and making them work together IS a very challenging part of the process, and a huge part of what makes a quilt successful, regardless of how difficult it is to piece. So the design aspect, in my mind, is a separate issue from the technical execution aspect, but shouldn’t be considered any less important.

    If we’re evaluating quilters strictly on their technical skills, than I think all your comments are spot-on. But just don’t forget about design as well.

  32. Well, I had to delurk for this post. I so agree with everything you said. Yes, I also did the survey. I teach quilting to a smallish group of people who certainly don’t need me to teach them any more–I’m more of a security blanket for them and it gives them dedicated time to get the quilting done. Like many of your commenters, I no longer buy magazines and a book has to have at least 3 or 4 patterns I want to try before I’ll buy it.

  33. Amen! I still consider myself new to online quilting and blogland, but I have been amazed to see what some sites rave about. Not only pinwheels but square in a square. It’s like one person makes one with a 2″ square in the middle and the next person make one with a 3″square in the middle and all of the sudden it’s a new pattern. Same thing with pinwheels (which I love and make regularly) it doesn’t matter what the size or with how many different fabrics you use its’s a pinwheel. I have been quilting since the early 90′s. I have made all kinds of quilts on every skill level. There are some quilts that just do not interest me, Mariner Compass and Dear Jane for example, they are both beautiful quilt but I have no desire to make either. But I do like a little bit of a challenge. I have made my share of easy quilts but I also have made challenging quilts. I love both depending on my frame of mind at the time. I am amazed at what is online and how people keeps putting the same quilt in their post for weeks and act like it is new and like we don’t remember it was posted about last week or last month. I like vewing the color choices, again some I am amazed and some I go “WHAT!!??” I can’t believe you think this is pretty”.

  34. I understand what you’re saying and yes, I’m a beginner (to quilting, not to sewing) but I *like* the look of simple quilts. Not only making them but I like looking at them. I have tons of respect for those that make the complicated stuff but for me, it’s just too much visually.

  35. Took the survey – a lot of interesting things to think about. I’m only a beginner–but an adventurous one, I guess, based on what I’ve done and am wanting to try next. =) I’m looking forward to learning more as I go…

  36. Great post. When I started reading quilting blogs I was blown away at some of the stuff that people did. Now, a year later, I am seeing the same things on the same blogs. I’m not really blown away anymore. ;) I enjoy more variety.

    If I see someone make a wonky log cabin or a four square I don’t care. They had fun and made something pretty. They feel good about themselves.

    But I personally like to try new things and learn more techniques. The other day I tried applique (after years of thinking that it was too hard) and it was easy and fun!

    I just found your blog and am excited to have found someone who seems more interested in quality than quantity. I’m right there with ya!

  37. Interesting post. I’m a pretty new quilter, and I love it. But, I have other things in my life that keep me from pursuing more complicated quilting, and that’s more than ok with me. Quilting eats up a lot of time!

    Broadly speaking, though, it’s easy to be opinionated on something that you believe in, but it can come off as passing judgment on others, which is usually not so nice. Regardless, I respect your opinion and agree to disagree :).

  38. Oh my….guilty-of sew many things here. I love ruffles, I try to add them as much as I can. I am new quilter less than a year. I make small quilts. I know I am pretty dumb, because I reached out to many designers when I first started and they thought I was a joke as I asked questions about quilting…they never bothered with me, didn’t have the time. Sew I bought books, none of theirs (LOL) and started on my own lesson…I cried a lot, I still do, never ever will I be someone who will be asked to quilt for others….BUT I am doing my best to get my feet out of the bed every day and I reach for my quilt, ( sometimes I used it to dry my tears) and I try to find humor in it all.. and I try to find inspiration in others, even if it is copying their work or using their fabrics in all one collection and I quilt….thank you for letting me tell a diff’t story.

  39. Wow, I agree with so much of what you and your commenters have said. I too find many of the current trends in “modern” quilting (wonky log cabins, lots of negative space, random lines, shapes, and colours haphazardly superimposed on a gray/black/Kona snow background) to be simplistic and quite frankly, overused. As well, frequently they’re just not very attractive. While there’s a place in quilting for everything from simple to complex, and we all have different ways to express our creative impulses, it’s nice to know that others also admire and enjoy creating something a little more complex and a little less trendy.

  40. Real quilting is done by hand and is an art. You want challenge then hand quilt. Machine quiling is a hobby or a craft.

  41. My friend and I have been making jokes about this subject for the last year or so. We have another friend who only makes simple square quilts for that exact reason, they’re simple. Every quilt magazine you pick up has nothing but quilts made up of squares and rectangles. I am so sick to death of this style. I am a relative beginner however I like a little challenge. Most all of the quilts I make have either applique or stitchery in them. I prefer making smaller quilts but I have made several large quilts by Leanne Beasley, Bunny Hill, Crabapple Hill,Rosie’s, and others. I want to be challenged. Sure in this fast paced world people want to simplify processes but this has gotten out of hand. I quit subscribing to magazines for this reason. I admit I don’t know alot of the traditional blocks due to my facination with art quilts but that’s why I sign up for a class every now and then. I personally love pinwheels and stars at the present time. I want my points to be as perfect as possible and my intersections to match up. I doubt I will ever make one of those square quilts. It’s nice to know it’s not just us.

  42. Thank you for saying what I have been saying to myself for months. These “modern” quilts would have been the end product of a “beginning quilting for children class” a few years ago. And if you don’t make a bed sized quilt once in a while you are definitely a waller not a quilter. As for only using collections and the latest ones only, it is like paint by numbers. Where is the challenge in that?

    Again, thank you, thank you, thank you

  43. Thank you. Thank you for saying what has been driving me mad for months and months. I’ve been part of the industry for a long time, and I’ve been writing for stores, magazines and quilt groups for going on 10 years now and for the first time in my quilting life I don’t want to be part of the industry anymore.

    I can’t understand the new batch of quilters and their followers who think they have re-invented the wheel, or the attitude that really bugs me, that they have ‘saved the craft industry’ (and belittle the rest of us in the process) because they have discovered pastel brights, added some white fabric or gasp! linen.

    Don’t get me wrong, I adore simple quilts, especially when they use colour/fabric to great effect, but there is a difference between simple and sewing together a pile of 4 1/2in squares and calling it a design masterpiece. I also think it is terrific that these 20 and 30-somethings have discovered craft in general and quilting. Some are really leading the way and astonish me with their talent.

    A great many stores and magazines want projects using whole ranges of fabric, and preferably geared to pre-cuts or fat quarters, and they want to capture the newbie market with simple, make in a day or two patterns. I can understand it, especially from an industry point of view, but I am so bored. Bored out of my mind.

    I’m internet savvy and have a blog, a Facebook account, Flickr etc. but I don’t want to spend my days networking and bribing others to promote myself and this a BIG thing, you need to be online constantly, you need to be constantly promoting yourself and having giveaways. The social media also demands something new every few days, how are you supposed to make something beyond the simple when you need to impress your followers constantly or run the risk of losing them? Maybe I need to hire a staff member to blog/tweet/facebook for me? lol

    Sorry for the epic rant but it has been a very frustrating time, not just for me, but for a great many people in the industry.

    PS. Before I’m condemned for being old-fashioned etc. I’m only 40 and am considered to be ‘a contemporary-style quilter’.

  44. I’ve been reading your three posts and the replies with much interest. I agree with some of what you (and Carrie, in her post) have said. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t really matter. Simple, difficult, pre-cuts, yards…what matters is that the art (or craft – however you regard it) lives on.

    Having said that, there are a couple of things that bother me. One is the ability of some “designers” to make so much money from reinventing a classic pattern. There really is nothing entirely new and it seems silly to me that some people take credit for their “innovative, new” patterns. The other issue I have is with people making quilt tops and having them quilted by a long-arm quilter. Don’t get me wrong – if that’s what you have to do, by all means do it. Just don’t call it “quilting” because “quilting” is the art of sandwiching that top with a backing and batting and sewing the three layers together. I’ve made many quilts and never paid to have one quilted. Mine aren’t perfect but they are 100% my work and represent my struggle with challenges and my learning of new techniques.

  45. Hi,

    Took the survey and added some comments. I’m still in my first year of quilting so I’m still figuring out what I like. After taking quite a few classes;

    Beginning Quilting
    Disappearing 9 Patch
    Wonky Stars (can’t remember the name of the class)
    Paper Piecing
    Beginner and Intermediate Free Motion Quilting

    I’m now working on developing techniques so I can finish these quilts. :-)

    I should also add that I come from the world of embroidery where I am an expert stitcher in several different techniques. So the color/fabric choosing isn’t a huge issue for me. I love to play with the possibilities! :-)

    It’s not just the dumbing down of quilting. You see this is many other crafts/hobbies/arts. I think this has been going on for years/generations as there are always those who master techniques and those who just want to have fun. I think the big change is that we can now share this with everyone via the internet where before you could just share it with those in your close circle of friends and acquaintances.

    Cynthia

  46. Thanks for your thoughtful post. Carrie’s post is also spot on. Will you be posting the results of the survey?–that will be interesting!
    I started quilting 37 (yikes!) years ago (book taught/self taught at first) and have had lots of other ways to learn since–workshops, guild, trial and error, more books, classes, friends, new ways to make old patterns, quilt shows, more trial and error, blogs, quilt shops, etc.
    Simple quilts are wonderful–beginners should start there, or just for fun, for something quick. My grandmother returned to very simple quilts in her last years (we made 100 of them together after her 87th birthday).
    As for more complicated techniques and a creative and artistic future I hope that we can grow in our quilting, try new things, build on strengths, fail sometimes, teach others, share what we’ve learned, help someone get over a sticking point, and encourage each other.
    Let’s talk/share about the challenges as well as the simple and help each other grow–in quilting and life.

  47. I have taken every workshop and class available in my area. I can do intermediate work when I want to and take the time….. but the people who I give my quilts to… kids, grandkids, and relatives have a different sensiblilty…. they love modern, simplistic, contemporary quilts… Traditional blocks, samplers, repro are not to their liking or the way they decorate their home. Give them a MODERN QUILT they ohhhhhh and ahhhhh… give them civil war reproduction with feathered stars, etc…. it gets stuck in the closet. My Ricky Timms kool kalidescope is getting fought over… to the point I have to make two more. The Dear Jane almost got given to the dog till I took it back….. NON quilters have little or no appreciation or understanding of the work quilters do.

    I also find that making the modern quilts I do not have to spend money on patterns…. I just look at the pictures … buy pretty fabric and sew… couple of days the quilt is done. My traditional quilts are taking a life time to finish and usually end up as ufo-s.

    So I just work on the projects I like working on and to HECK WITH WHAT ANYONE ELSE THINKS…. If it does not float my boat… make me happy…. I just do not do it.

    NONNIE

    this is my story and I am sticking to it!

    .

    Happy Quilting… Nonnie
    http://nonniesquiltingdreams.podbean.com/
    Nonnie’s Quilting Dreams- Podcast
    ********
    http://nonniequiltingdreams.wordpress.com/
    Nonnie’s Quilting Dreams – Blog

  48. I agree wholeheartedly with you that calling pinwheels intermediate is wrong, I don’t completely agree with the sentiment of your post. Yes, a lot of the quilts aren’t technically difficult, but it’s also a question of aesthetics. I have a great deal of respect for the many complicated quilt designs out there (both patchwork based designs and applique ones). I learnt from my grandmother who makes gorgeous quilts, as do her friends. However those incredibly complex designs aren’t really to my taste. I could (and have) made many of the more complex blocks during my learning process, but I prefer the simpler designs that are popular at the moment, they fit better with the aesthetic that i’m going for in my house.

  49. Pinwheels=intermediate to advanced?? Surely she jests … but we know she is not. In HER view, in HER context of experience she truly believes pinwheels are somewhat advanced.
    I made a PINWHEEL quilt for my FIRST quilt, when my oldest DD was 2. I had sewn for years since I was 12, and the Pinwheel pattern was NOT advanced back then – nor is it today! What WAS advanced for me then was the HAND-QUILTING I learned to do.
    Today I rarely hand quilt and now machine quilt most of my quilts.
    I just hope these new young quilters who are very full of themselves and their “designs” will realize that there is much to learn and much to experience in quilting. No one is a pro, or a design whiz after one or two square in a square quilts!

  50. I laughed so hard! Thank you, I needed that! I SO agree with you and with Maree, but I too have been quilting for 15 years or so and my very first beginner quilting class (sampler blocks quilt) included pinwheels and a LeMoyne Star.

    I love the simple look, but I don’t love the attitude that I see in *some* of these quilters and if I see another over staged “my cute little life is so perfect” blog I am going to throw up.

    I’ve been in the internet way too long, and been in the quilt business for 12 years, and I’ve been taught and have taught others lots of techniques.

    I have a “let’s all do our own thing attitude” but too often I bump into the attitude of a new quilter that their way to make a quilt/machine quilt/bind a quilt is the ONLY RIGHT way. There are so many ways to do everything in quilting. I just don’t understand this attitude among purportedly fresh, young, modern quilters that is so limiting and negative. I don’t like it from the old guild guard or from new quilters.

    I went and read your other posts and I can say that you are not being “quilt police”. A beginner block is a beginner block.

    Quilt police are the ones who say “you can only make it this way, all other ways are wrong, all other quilters are wrong.” Quilting is much better without that attitude from anyone.

    I applaud your idea of a skill builder series – good for you!

  51. I disagree with a lot of your points here. I don’t think the evolution of quilting is necessarily as linear as you’re suggesting. A quilter does not have to follow the trajectory of beginning with block patterns and progressing to patterns involving intricate piecing. There are many directions one can go. I personally enjoy expanding my quilting by incorporating different textures and colors in simple designs rather than intricate piecing. It’s what I prefer aesthetically. Just because a quilter doesn’t progress in the same manner you did does not mean they are not advanced. It’s all relative anyway unless there is some quantitative quilting scale I’m not aware of.

    Instead of criticizing blogs and websites for promoting the type of quilting you don’t like, why can’t we celebrate the fact that a lot of young people have become interested in this craft which means that much less mass-produced stuff is being bought and the quilting industry is enjoying a boon?

  52. Some days easy, no challenge is just right. Mindless is good. But other days, figuring out how to do something new is good. I haven’t taken classes, but each quilt I make I like to think of as a learning experience – a new way to do something old, a whole new technique, a new color combination. Quilting is so fascinating because of that. I enjoy the conversation too – your post is good food for thought.

  53. Thank you for writing this post. I love quiltmaking, but I sincerely dislike the dumbing down of it. As you say, it is GREAT to churn out a quick quilt, but really exploring the process of quiltmaking – more blocks, smaller blocks, more pieces, crazy angles is even more satisfying. I find myself immersed the process and wanting more and more and more. You go girl!

  54. I’m stopping by to say that I’m sorry that my sentence about pinwheels set you off. I suppose it was just a quick statement meaning that beginners (as in: just started quilting) don’t usually try pinwheels until they’ve got matching corners down. In my mind, once they can match corners accurately, they’ve moved on to “intermediate”. I now realize by reading this that you disagree and it takes much more skill than that to be intermediate. I never meant that pinwheels are difficult for an advanced quilter, only that *I thought* they like making them. I apologize for offending you and all advanced quilters out there. I see now that the word challenge is the offensive word in the statement and, in retrospect, I didn’t mean for that word to apply to advanced quilters. I should have been more careful with my words.

    • Melanie, you don’t need to apologize for voicing your opinion. You didn’t offend me, you just illustrated the point that very basic components are considered more advanced by the new crop of quilters who are learning online than they are by quilters who have had the opportunity to learn to quilt in a “real world” setting.

  55. I have spent a few minutes reading this post and some of the comments. I like to push myself to learn new things and make more challenging quilts, to be more accurate and do more but I also like simple, quick and easy.

    If the blogs and or websites you are reading are not supplying the amount of challenge you or someone else needs then maybe you are not looking in the right places. What’s out there, that is less complex might just be someone eles’s cup of tea. When I post about my work I post to share with my friends and because I like to keep a record of what I’m doing not to necessairly live up to someone eles’s idea of what I *should* be posting or talking about. I guess what I’m trying to say is if you don’t like it move on. It may be new and or exciting to someone else.
    It seems to me that some people spend way too much time tearing down what others are doing rather than doing what makes them happy. I quilt with a lot of women who’s skills are not the same as mine, so what? I love that they are willing to try and that they are advancing in their own way. Not everyone will aspire to make show quality quilts and that’s alright in my world. Sometimes simple quilts show off precise piecing, or form or color placement and value.
    We should be encouraging people not criticizing them for not doing what you think they should be doing. Why spend your time even thinking about it. Seek out what you like and spend your time there. I agree with Leslie, everyone’s idea of advancement is different, but no less valuable.

  56. There’s such a thing as performing a craft for the relaxation aspect of it. Not everyone that paints wants to create gallery masterpieces. Not everyone that writes a story wants to be a recognized published author. Not everyone that quilts wants to quilt to be in a show and know everything there is to know- not everyone WANTS to be what you’re telling them they should be in this post and it’s wrong of you to tell people what they should and shouldn’t be or do because it’s what YOU want to be or do. The very idea that you’re basically saying “This is what you should (or shouldn’t) do because it’s what I do (or don’t do)” is absurd. Who made you the boss?

    SO WHAT if someone wants to do the same quilt 5 million times in a row? Why rain on their parade if that is what they enjoy doing? What sort of self absorbed person are you to say they SHOULD be doing something else with THEIR time for YOUR amusement? It’s not your time they are spending to make the quilt. It’s not your money spent on the fabric they use. Don’t like the blog post about it? Guess what- no one is making you read it. Don’t like the quilt? How about being a decent person and choosing to “treat others the way you’d like to be treated” (it’s called the Golden Rule) and just let them be happy? I don’t understand why there has to be negativity like in this post, when your chosen, shared activity is supposed to be done because doing it makes you happy- HOWEVER you choose to do it.

    • The irony of this comment is that she’s telling me I’m wrong for telling someone they’re wrong!

      One more time – the point of my posts is not that I think people should stop making simple quilts. It’s that we shouldn’t limit ourselves and others by claiming that these simple quilts are challenging. Don’t want to make a gallery masterpiece? Fine. Fingerpaint, for all I care, and have fun doing it. Just don’t claim it’s a Picasso, and don’t tell others that crayons are too hard to use.

  57. I freely admit that I am a beginner using a sewing machine though I have been quilting for 20 years. However, I am almost exclusively a hand piecing/hand quilter/needle turn appliquer and am advanced in those methods. I too feel it’s sad that some quilters do not try to stretch themselves. Personally, if I ever see another Turning 20 quilt I may loose my cookies.

    My solution to this is to not follow blogs of people who have no interest in advancing their skills. Life is too short to worry about their lack of interest :0)

    Crispy

  58. Where do you get off telling people what is challenging for them and what isn’t? Maybe the people doing pinwheels find them to be challenging, and if that’s so then those people are doing what you’re asking them to do- and being berated by you for doing it! If that’s what is challenging for them, that’s what is challenging for them. It’s just mean to say it’s NOT challenging for them just because it’s not for you.

  59. I think I understand where you are coming from with this post but I have to disagree with you.

    First off, I think that a lot of these “simple” quilt designs are just more aesthetically pleasing to younger people. We shop at Ikea and we love Danish Modern and we don’t really like the muddy colours, prints or the heavy, fussy look of more traditional or “advanced” quilting. I am a beginner quilter, but I would be willing to take on something difficult and time consuming if the results were something I would love.

    I actually used to believe that I disliked quilts and quilting, until I discovered the modern quilting movement. Now I am pretty obsessed with quilting, fabric and design. After reading many of the blogs that you have alluded to, I found the creative inspiration to design my own quilts, and to take on more challenge.

    I don’t think that it is possible to “dumb down” a form of expression. People have to start somewhere, and those that aspire to become better quilters, or who find something they really want to express, are always going to make that happen. I’m just not sure that perfectly matched points and time consuming applique dresden plates are going to be the result of that passion.

    The world of craft, like the larger world of art and design, is moving in a direction you aren’t happy with. Sorry, but I think this post is a petty strike at a movement which is just going to keep on evolving with the rest of the world. Keep working on your own idea of perfection but please don’t tell us we are dumb if we don’t agree.

  60. Wow!!!!!! I read someone complaining about this today and i’m SO glad I came to read it!! I think the people who are complaining failed to read your first two paragraphs.

    there is beauty in simplicity…but I think there is also the group think factor. You see someone with over 1000 followers and you start to think there MUST be something special behind there last 12 posts about strip quilts.

  61. I’m here to respectfully tell you that I find your tone here very condescending and inappropriate. I have no desire to ever make fussy quilts out of fussy blocks with perfectly matched points. Does that make me less of an artist/quilter than you?

    Live and let live, without judgment, eh? I do not follow the blogs of those whose style do not relate to… why do you? Insecurity? Jealousy? My hope is that you can appreciate other styles of quilting as you can hopefully appreciate different styles of music, painting, etc. Best to you!

  62. I would like to say that some of us have children and just don’t have time to get into intricate designs and applique. Or maybe some of us just enjoy simple quilts. Why say such nasty things and make others feel badly? The internet is a wealth of information! Intelligent people will do the research and read the blogs and sites they enjoy. Period. Who are you to pass judgment? Maybe Obama made you the Quilt Czar?

  63. I wanted to back you up here. Your post is very polite and I can’t believe there are adults on the internet who are so insecure and such special, special snowflakes that they’re mortally offended by it.

    You were a lot nicer than I would have been because in addition to everything you said I also get squicked out seeing well-off stay-at-home ladies co-opting Gee’s Bend and using it as a smokescreen to hide behind and defend their “wonkiness” as art.

  64. Ok, I have been lurking about this dumbing down for a couple of weeks. I think some people have made some valid points (this blog and Carrie’s) and some points I disagree with.

    I have been quilting for ~20 yrs. (I am 43) I am a very traditional girl at heart. I love two color quilts. I love points that match. I love perfection in piecing and applique. I belong to a guild with about 450 members. These members are mostly older than I am and a mix of traditional and art quilters. Here’s the thing. I recently started going to a modern quilt guild also. These younger women are so excited about quilting – it’s invigorating! They have embraced the fact that THERE ARE NO QUILT POLICE! They don’t care if their points line up. They embrace simpler more graphic designs. Do I love everything that they do? no. Do I leave the meetings inspired? yes! I don’t love everything the more traditional group of quilters does either, but the show and tell of the quilts inspires me.

    I think we all need to remember how much we love this art form and I stress ART FORM. How many of us have been to a museum and have for one reason or another, not liked the art. The artist may be world renowned, but that doesn’t mean everyone loves it. We all don’t love what each other does, not even our best friend. (My best friend recently made a small quilt – I can’t tell you how many times I told her I loved the pattern, but, gosh I hate that gold fabric you put in there!)(And how blessed am I to have a friend that I can be totally honest with?) But here’s the thing we all have in common: we do love quilting. We love expressing ourselves in fabric and thread. We love the fabrics that are available to us now. Some of us love learning new things and others want to make the same quilt from pre-cuts 500 times. IT DOESN’T MATTER! Live and let live and support each other – stop the us and them and let’s get back to the enjoyment of our chosen passion (obsession).

  65. I think there is room for a real discussion on these issues. I also think that, as many have said, there are so many styles and types of quilters, that there has to be room for everyone. I believe widening variety doesn’t have to mean a lowering of skill. This “nothing is new, only re-hashed” is true of all art. In both MQGs I have attended, the virtue of craftsmanship was revered above all else. Then design/personal style. In all areas of crafting (crochet/knit, paper crafts, and now quilting) I have found this debate to rage. Tradition v. modern. Tow words that are widely misunderstood by the opposing sides. Fact is, the debate never seems to move the sides closer to mutual respect.

    Two more quick thoughts –
    * matching up 8 points in a pinwheel that lie flat and are easily quilted over on any scale is not simple. Nor is it advanced. It really should be part of all quilters skill set. I think the basic skills lessons/blogs are a great idea. There should be a core set of skills in any craft/art.

    *I venture to think that most quilters, in any style, would love to improve/expand their skills. But time, stage of life, target receivers, storage space, cost, ankle biting kids, careers…. et al just do not permit it. Given time, who knows?

    Thanks for giving us the chance to respond.

  66. I went to the sites and appreciated the opinions presented.

    Because I don’t wish to hurt someone’s feelings, often I struggle to find something I like in that person’s quilt even though I personally have seen it again and again, only in different colors or fabrics. These quilts are fast, easy to make, and thoroughly loved and used by the individuals receiving them. That in itself makes the quilts worthwhile.

    However, when I see the same maker not moving on to a new challenge, it bothers me. How many of these quilts does a person really need—unless you are making them for RACS or an orphan girls’ or boys’ home? Then again, some folks just like the feeling of having a finished product. Okay, I won’t criticize that reasoning; but, maybe, after seeing the same quilt ten more times, just maybe I won’t try as hard to find something to like.

    It thrills me when a student tells me that she has altered a design (even one of mine!) or wants to try something entirely different. I think this keeps our brains exercised! And, when a person tells me that she has no creativity, I tell her that everyone has it, only some people develop their inborn creativity more than do others. It’s just like doing an adequate quarter-inch seam, you have to practice.

    And, you know what? Making half-square triangles, a variety of star and log cabin blocks, little nine-patches, etc., in the manner of our mothers and grandmothers is a very good place to start. Once you know the rules, you can break them ten ways to Sunday. Squares and rectangles forever and ever ain’t gonna do it, no offense intended.

  67. I wondered what I was missing when I read on someone’s blog of dumbing down quilting and so googled you and have just read all the comments. I wrote a long reply and have just deleted it all because I enjoy what I do and enjoy what I see out there and quite frankly you need to climb down off your high horse.

  68. I have read through several weeks of your post in one afternoon. Your post on colors and fabric is great. I have been looking for this advice for a long time.

    I am a new quilter, and I want to share my experience with you. I am 59 years old and bought my first machine one year ago this month at the insistence of my 34 year old daughter, who is a lovely quilter.
    She has taught herself how to sew.

    I joined a great quilters guild and a woman there took me under her wing. I learned so much from her that I ask my local community college to hire her to teach beginning machine quilting. She filled two nights of classes and had a waiting list of 20 within 3 days of the class being posted.

    We made a shoo-fly lapquilt for our first project. I am so proud of that lapquilt. We are now working on a sampler quilt, and I gripe and grumble when she gives us a new block that takes us a step futher, and challenges us. Inset blocks, needle turned applique (hate it), machine applique, templates, curved blockes, etc.

    Recently I bought a Quilts and More magazine and wanted to make something that would give me instant gratification, so I chose a line art quilt to make. It requited a jelly roll and some cutting. Very easy to sew, very difficult to arrange the colors, and the design. Turned out to be an easy, almost boring sew but a mental challenge. And a real challenge to keep a 1/4 inche seam for 62 inches! I liked the top so well that I decided to make it a queen size quilt so I am figuring out how to add a border to it.

    I know this post is long, but I want to say that learning the techniques is so important, and have a particular teacher is the best thing a new quilter can have. However, sometime we need something that is easy to sew to we can experiment. Thanks for your blog and for opening up a good discussion. It helps to open all of our minds to the wondeful possibilites of creating and sharing our creative abilities with those we love.

    I am very glad to have found your blog through an unusual circumstance. I plan to follow it as I know I can learn from you.

  69. I personally think quilting style is simply a matter of preference. I started quilting a little over a year ago and as I love it so much now, I’ve often thought about why I wasn’t into it before. The answer for me is that I’ve never been interested in traditional quilting styles. Sure, traditional quilts are nice enough and I have a couple that I’ve put to good use, but I’ve always thought they were a bit boring. I love geometric and modern designs, so the types of quilters that you’re knocking here produce the types of quilts that are aesthetically pleasing to me. I certainly consider myself a beginner, but I think that just because I PREFER to piece straight (consistent) 1/4″ seams and make quilts that are more linear doesn’t mean that I’m less of a quilter than you. My preferences differ from yours and THAT’S OKAY! Get off your high horse and let people create whatever they want to create. Who are you to dictate what makes a quilt good or bad?

  70. I kept hearing about your post and wanted to read it for myself.

    Having been around quilting most of my life and quilting for longer than most people will accept when I tell them, I have had many of the same thoughts that you so eloquently and gently expressed. As an artist, I believe that each person has their obsession and it is what drives their work, but when I don’t see growth over a period of months or years (or watch their level of complaining increase), I lose my interest/faith in their work and what they have to say.

  71. It seems that the market is flooded with quick and easy books and patterns. As Rachel noted, people are making money from marketing the fast, easy, drive thru, get it finished quick on the assembly line of life; presenting their products as if they just invented the square. I’ve noticed that many online quilt stores sell only the hip and modern styled fabrics with bright colors and flashy allure. It’s getting harder and harder to find fabrics for those of us that that like to make reproduction quilts. And as another put it…the kids really don’t like the reproduction type quilts. However, I machine quilt. I don’t feel that it’s less of an art than hand quilting. Each has it’s own learning curves and it’s not easy to machine quilt. I deeply appreciate history and the work hand quilters have put into the few old quilts that I have and because I want to keep them in good condition, we don’t use them. I want our sons, daughter in laws, grandkids, nieces and nephews to use the quilts I make for them. I don’t feel that it puts my quilts or quilting into the hurry up get it done category. I want my quilts to be used and to withstand use long after I’m gone.

  72. I think there is scope for all styles.Pin wheels may not be anything but beginner level and the wording of the post that sent you off on your *rant* may or may not have been a last straw kind of thing.

    I have not been quilting long, I’m not a purist, I use a sewing machine! I am not a purist because I enjoy seeing what happens if I do xyz rather than yzx. I wasn’t a purist at art college either. I experiment I learn by looking at the images people put up and by trying to figure out how they did what they did. But I suspect your annoyance isnt against folk like me. When I was earning my living as a sculptor I’d get similarly annoyed at people who bought made in china pre-made moulds poured a bit of plaster into them and sold the results as hand made art.
    For me it seemed folk didn’t care or couldn’t tell the difference in the final result. But you know, in reality they could tell, some could tell and didnt care of course and likely never would, some could tell and it gave them a new found appreciation for the real art works. Some just couldnt afford my work and the pale clumpy imitations were their way of saying I aspire to that but can afford this.

    Self promotion happens with all sorts of people. If the latest trend draws the first glimmer of interest from a whole new audience a goodly number of those will stick at that first, inviting level but others, like me will make that a toe dipping step and who knows where we will end up?

    I love looking at all the variations on a theme, sure I will get bored of simple blocks, just as likely I will get bored of repetition in appliqué designs but for those people who have so enjoyed their new adventure into quilting who can begrudge them looking for praise? Dont we all like a little pat on the back from those we aspire to be our peer group? As others have said there is more to quilting than pure technique, there is more to any art form than that, but lack of expertise doesn’t stop the DIY home handy man from getting out his tools and having a go, shouldn’t stop the DIY quilter either.

    The internet is a place of ideas, ideas freely shared for the most part. Don’t like one set of ideas move to the next there’s plenty to go round after all. The internet also has opened up access to fabric buying for many of us, it is capable of giving us choices long since taken from us in the high street. If we toe dip by buying charm packs what of it? even squares have to eventually be cut in some way. And it does give affordable variety, or must we, in these days of poly cotton and man made fibre clothes wait a lifetime to amass our own stash of off cuts?
    So promote the next level of quilting as you see it, because to carp at the baby steps and inviters-in of the new, only puts off the timid to try.

  73. why do people care what others are doing? Just do what you do and let others do what they do. I don’t get why what strangers do frustrates so many of you. I think its kind of crazy that anyone would let what other crafters, WHOM YOU DON’T KNOW, Who likely live in another part of the world and who’s lives do not impact yours in any real way, do, actually affect your emotions. I think real life is tough enough and filled with things that are actually challenging and if you have the time to be frustrated by strangers, then I guess you have a pretty nice real life. Seriously, what does it really matter in a world where folks are trying to survive earthquakes, tsunamis, the loss of loved ones, the loss of jobs/income, what type of quilting/crafting anyone does? Seriously….

  74. I understand and can appreciate why you made the comments you did. Neither was I offended. People’s perceptions of quilting is based on the own set of experiences and knowledge so to one person a pinwheel is an intermediate block and to another it is not. I just love how many people are in love with all aspects of quilting. It is a great outlet for some people’s creative juices and I am inspired by everyone’s ideas and creations. I blog because I am starting a very small long-arm business and this gives my customers a chance to see their quilts or show them off to family and friends, but I am very internally motivated and I do not need to blog to make myself quilt. I quilt because it is part of who I have become at 46 years. Thanks for your thoughts and it is too bad our opinions sometimes are not received as they were meant. Happy Quilting :o)

  75. the “dumbing down” thing irritates me to bits… it’s that kind of “snobby, quilting police” attitude that holds the quilting industry back… quilting should be for everyone… it should not be about judgement… people should be allowed to create what they want to create, what brings them joy….

    i, personally, don’t enjoy quilts that are so intricate that they are too precious to touch or use… i remember seeing a winning quilt at a quilting show a few years back, that had taken the lady 10 years of solid work almost every day to make… i actually found the quilt to be quite ugly… i thought her workmanship was spectacular(and i totally appreciate the man hours that went into it), but i also found it kind of sad that the woman had nothing else in her life to show for the 10 years but this one quilt which was to be hung on a wall somewhere and never used…. she must have really enjoyed making this quilt though, so good for her! but it was certainly not my favourite quilt in the show…

    for me, quilting is about creating pretty blankets to be used by my family, by rough-and-tumble children- to be enjoyed… since when were these kind of quilts less worthy?

    throughout history quilts have been made for many different reasons, one of most popular to use up scraps of fabric to be frugal- to create a pretty blanket… were those quilters throughout history dumbing it down?

    please get off your high horse… there’s a reason why simpler quilts are the most popular, because they are the most achievable by most sewers… not all of us a retired with nothing else to do in our day but quilt- but does that mean we shouldn’t quilt?
    people craft for different reasons! please let us not judge why people quilt- or their finished results…

    make things that make you happy and if they make others happy, well that’s a bonus- but nobody should be making something because the “quilting police” told them to…

  76. p.s- one of my mother’s best friends has now made around 100 log cabin quilts… maybe more… they are the only type of quilt she makes… she had a stroke several years ago and this one pattern makes her extremely happy, so she makes it over and over again…
    is she a beginner quilter? no… her quilts are meticulous with extreme attention to detail…
    but quilting is a kind of therapy for her… these quilts make her happy… does she need to make a different type of quilt? i say, not if they don’t make her happy… she is quilting to please herself, not you or anybody else…

  77. I’m a little late to the game with a comment, but I wanted to take some time to consider it. I am sorry that you have experienced so much negative feedback– especially since nearly all of the negative comments missed your entire point and jumped to the defensive. I think your points about why bloggers blog about simple quilts is an interesting discussion to consider, and something that the “top bloggers” should think about.

    If I’m interpreting you correctly (and correct me if I’m not), your issue is when simple techniques are lauded as more complex than they are– and I feel that this is a good point. There’s nothing wrong, as you said over and over again, with making simple or modern quilts. The problem comes when squares or pinwheels are considered advanced techniques. Over-emphasizing the complexity of certain quilting patterns and blocks does little to help anyone, and devalues the work that people put into very advanced techniques. There is a difference between being an experienced quilter and an advanced quilter. If people don’t WANT to learn new things, that’s whatever. Simple quilts are fine. But they ARE simple, and they should be called such. I make simple quilts, because I just started quilting. I’m not ashamed of it, and I don’t feel any need to defend that, and so I can see your point clearly. People who feel defensive easily probably don’t feel very good and confident about their work, because confident people aren’t defensive. JUST SAYIN. :)

    Thanks for being willing to stick your hand in the flames for such an interesting discussion!

  78. I do what I do. You do what you do. I avoid snobby quilters like the plague. Who wants to be in the presence of snobs? Do I tell them that I think they’re snobby? NO, that is rude. I just don’t come back. I like people who are encouraging. I like challenges. Why should what I do matter to you? Why should what you make matter to me? I can appreciate your work. You can appreciate mine. We are all entitled to our own opinions, but it’s impolite and downright mean sometimes to tell an entire group of people that their work sucks. It’s also impolite and downright means to tell people that they are snobs. So, let’s mind our own p’s and q’s. If you like it, fine. If you don’t, fine. I’m enjoying what I do. You’re enjoying what you do. Great!

  79. In my opinion, anything that brings more people into the world of quilting is fine with me. There’s room for all kinds of quilters and all styles of quilts. The recent resurgence of the art of quilting has brought fabrics and products into the marketplace that as a 30+ year quilter I never could have imagined. Thank goodness we have choices beyond calico and drab colors.

    This issue isn’t any different than the classical painters condemning the Impressionists, or the Impressionists wondering what the heck Picasso was up to, or the art world wondering if Andy Warhol, David Hockey, Keith Haring, etc., should really be called artists. Whether you’re a painter or a quilter, or any other artist, we have the right to express our creativity in any way we choose. There is no right or wrong way.

  80. Thank you for this post, for your honest, unabashed opinions and for lighting a spark! I agree and disagree – which is why we all are so lucky to be able to voice our opinions!

  81. I’m a novice – one completed quilt and one in progress to my name but I really loved reading this post. It encourages me to stretch and try.

    I like modern and clean (but not wonky); however, I don’t want to sew squares and rectangles forver.

  82. I’m beginner – I’ve started sewing almost a year ago, but still didn’t finish any quilt (and there are a lot of things which I didn’t finish). I’m not interested at all (ok – almost at all) in making my works better and improving my skills.
    I presume that for 10 years I’ll be at the same level of skills with the same attitude.
    All because I’ve got stressful job (my brain is so tired after work that sometimes I’m not able to reply to easy questions), lots of obligations and so little time for sewing. When I’ve got time (and I’m not too tired to sit at the machine), I simply make something I love – sometimes very simple, sometimes I’m too fixed in one idea and I’m repeating it over and over (like rainbow stuff).

    I agree with many of your statements, but not with all – simply because I know that people quilt from many reasons. Not just because to be good at it. Some people (like me) appreciate the time spend on making something – doesn’t matter what it will be (it doesn’t have to be artsy, perfect or clever etc.).
    Oh… and I don’t think you were mean!

    PS. I would like to write more about it, but I can’t speak English so well to clear my thoughts properly.

  83. Many interesting opinions here. I agree that everyone should do what makes them happy, but also agree that characterizing simple blocks such as half square triangles as advanced is not accurate. (However, the plethora of methods and products on the market for making accurate half square triangles might cause some to disagree.) What I have noticed is that more and more of the quilts in even the best magazines are presented as new and wonderful, even though they are fairly traditional, because they are made entirely from some designers fabric line. Picking out fabrics is part of the challenge and fun to me and using only one fabric line is kind of boring. I’ve been quilting for for 18 years and started with patterns that were simpler, fourpatch, ninepatch, irish chain but have moved on to more complex patterns, and more advanced techniques. I find kind of amusing the notion that these “modern” quilts are so new. I bought Gwen Marstons book, took a class from Jan Mullins and concluded that I don’t do wonky or spontaneous very well, I’m better at controlled regular patterns. And the wool scrap quilt on my Grandmothers guest room bed was squares and rectangles sewn together randomly with no pieced blocks. I also have very rarely used someone elses pattern. What I like about quilting is taking a traditional block and designing my own quilt. But I have friends who sew only with kits. I guess what makes me sad is the perception that “Modern” quilters aren’t welcome in guilds and must have a separate group structure to thrive.

  84. Thank you, Mama Sparks! Your comment said exactly what I wanted to say, in a much nicer way than it would have come out had I said it! I’d also like to add that I make quilts for a quilt ministry that in the past year has placed over a hundred quilts with people going through tremendously difficult times in their lives. Those quilts were real quilts – pieced, quilted, bound – all by machine, so that we could keep up with the need. There are about 20 ladies in my group, only about three of whom have been quilting more than a year. I am so proud of them that I could bust. They are making a difference in people’s lives while they learn a skill that gives them a creative outlet. Many of them were told they “couldn’t” learn to sew by “teachers” that they were paying to show them how. These women now feel empowered through the simple act of creating a quilt that brings someone comfort. Expand your skills all you want – create tiny miniature quilts with hundreds of tiny pieces – call yourself a “real” quilter. I’ll take my ladies and their creations any day!

    I’m off my soapbox now!

  85. I’m not a quilter but found your post referenced on a blog I follow. There is a lot of critiscm about what you posted, but people are missing the point. It doesn’t matter what the craft or hobby is, there are different stages. I don’t take umbrage at someone saying a beginner stage of anything is brilliant but I agree, no matter what it is don’t promote it as being intermediate or advanced if it isn’t. I like looking at quilts, and don’t know if I have the patience to make one. If I ever do, and I see a site saying beginner steps are intermediate, or advanced, I might be put off. I can sew, and I’m pretty sure I could make a half decent beginner quilt, and I don’t need anyone telling me that basic steps aren’t – well, basic.

    No matter what the craft, there will always hopefully be someone who wants to try a new level. Thank you to bloggers who present the stages are they really are, for those who need to know.

    Thank you for a well thought out post.

  86. I agree with you. Everywhere I turn I see the same quilts that are not challenging and like you state only have lovely patterns. That is why I do not make them, I always look for patterns that require time and precison not a quick whip up. Thank you for your post. I also see that the designers that give away free patterns for their new fabric lines just give out simple basic non inspiring patterns.

  87. I came over to your blog, because I noticed that you had visited me…and this was the link back, I did write a short bit about being a quilting snob as I am sure that you read though. I totally agree with your point of view but I also think that sometimes it takes years and years to get past the designation “Beginner” simply because it is a hobby and very little snippets of life is spent practicing it — but then again, I never considered myself an expert or even a intermediate parent and I spent many hours doing that! I’m surprised everyday that my boys and human works of “art”! Anyway, I enjoyed your point of view and alot of the subsequent “rants” on the subject in other blogs too. One of the things about being creative is that it really doesn’t matter what other people think of your work as long as the ‘artist’ thinks it is right. If you need approval for your work, then really you are actually a salesperson looking to make a buck. I don’t press for sales, although it would be nice, since even after 40 years of sewing, knitting, crocheting I am still a starving artist!

  88. oh my gosh! really!? this is what is getting your goat these days? why doesn it offend you that someone is complementing someone else’s ‘easy’ quilt? who knew there was such quilt snobbery anyway. people do what they like and what looks good to them. i personally don’t give to flips what other people think of the quilts i make. i like them, thats why i made it to begin with.

  89. You are talking about two different things – the beauty of a finished quilt and the difficulty level in using/mastering different techniques in making a quilt and, frankly, the two are NOT necessarily related! This is a common theme in many crafts. I’ve had people show me necklaces that were extremely difficult to make and required lots of time and skill that are hideously ugly! The same can go for quilts and as far as I’m concerned, I really don’t care if a quilt was complicated to put together and required a difficult technique if the end product is not pleasing to my eye. That being said, tastes run wide and long, so what is pleasing to one is not to another. Some quilters are fascinated with fabric prints and want to showcase them while others enjoy mastering different ways of piecing – one is not better than the other. Who cares? Do what you love and ignore the doubters and the haters.

  90. So is that little post what all the fuss is about? Well, I agree with you honey and didn’t see anything rude or mean-spirited at all in what you wrote. You were just expressing your opinion. Somemof the responses were so emotional as to be a little creepy. Anyone so upset by it must ask herself why. It is because they agree, deep down but won’t admit it. I have often had the same thoughts as you. I don’t get the love for wonkiness personally but not as much as I am confused by raw edges “on purpose”.

  91. G’day! I’m in Australia and I didn’t even know this kind of thing exsisted!

    I do understand what your saying, for generations of quilters, pinwheels are probably pedestrian, but for someone like me, who’s only contact with the quilting world was my local quilt shop (which is still half an hours drive) and what they decided to teach, which was machine strip piecing, bit of applique and whatever it was that the pattern said.

    Thanks to blogs, I can “create” my own quilts.

    Most of my learning comes from what you people are kind enough to share with me. It is so hard over here to learn traditional techniques. I am currently paper piecing. Who’d a thought I could make a quilt by hand! I know, I know, how dumb is that! We only know what we are fed. I haven’t had the priveledge of being taught by my grandma and knowing how to do perfect triangles, how to set in pieces by hand, or even how to do much by hand, but I am gratefully learning.

    So thank you for sharing all you do, I am loving the skill builder, and thanks to those also that make me think outside the box.

  92. I have just read this post and while I agree that Pinwheel block is for beginners i think that ‘simple’ quilt blocks are fun ,easy and quick. I have been making quilts for 20 odd years. Some have taken me years! like my hand pieced double wedding ring. I find it quite freeing to make simple square quilts and large rectangles as they are very quick(lap size only) and show off all the wonderful fabrics,old and new, that I have. By the way many of these modern quilt ideas that I have read about I have been practising for years through neccesity as i do not live in USA. I am going to make the whole quilt star block soon. I have been wanting to do that since the begining of my quilting life. By the way I have never made a log cabin quilt either. All the best and keep on blogging

  93. I agree! But for now I disagree. Although my natural skill set and past projects reach far beyond what I’m producing now, I’m lucky if even one side of my brain is working at the end of a hard mommy-day. So for now, to experience the intoxicating joy that fabric brings to my senses, I’m sticking to simple stuff. Maybe when I’m an empty nester, I’ll have time to be pretentious again. ;)

  94. Reblogged this on Books quilts and sewing and commented:
    I wanted to go a little farther than dittencraft and say that after quilting for two years, I still consider myself a beginner. Although I agree with Sandi on a lot of the points made as well. As a beginner however, I do try and stretch myself and may not learn a new technique as fast as expected. I find myself doing pinwheels until all points line up every time I make them. I don’t want to just know a basic technique, I want to master it before I move on to the next. I bet dittencraft’s moms friend can make a garter stitch better and faster than anyone else around. Rather than blocks as Sandi suggested, i use mini quilts to try out new techniques because I do want to stretch myself, just not too fast.

  95. Some 3 years ago I was made chairman of a quilt group in the UK. Once prestigious it had become a club for its committee with falling membership and little on offer for its members. I was brought in to breathe some life back into it but I must tell you that I failed. Despite a really exciting programme of talks and with workshops by the great and the good plus a 100% increase in membership so that it had to be capped, I got it wrong. I raised the bar too high, wanting more for them than they wanted for themselves, and got badly burnt – well, singed at any rate! So whilst I personally agree with everything you say there are lots of people out there whose aim does not exceed their grasp and who are well satisfied with what they do and so be it. I think it’s that self-satisfaction that I have found so difficult to deal with. I am an experienced quilter but not so long ago a novice with a good eye criticised my points and I binned the project. She was absolutely right and i didn’t mind the criticism. My reach continues to exceed my grasp even if just doing a Jelly Roll race and I thank heaven for it! Best.

  96. Isn’t the point of quilting and art to please ones self? If you are pleased and satisfied making “pinwheels”, cartwheels or banging rocks together, I say do it! If you enjoy challenging yourself or feel satisfied with quick projects, go for it! I don’t feel that it is bad to simply enjoy making things for the sake of making them. I appreciate all levels of skill and all rates of development. For any of you, reading this article who feels a little less like a quilter and more like a “beginner”, let me tell you now that there are people who Love what you do no matter what. I do! I have seen gorgeous 4 patch quilts made by hand from flour sacks that are worth a thousand fancy “art” quilts. Those beautiful and delicate “masterpieces” will never come down from a wall hanger, never cuddle on the couch, never warm a baby or a puppy, go on a picnic or fortify a pillow fort… So the next time anyone turns their nose up at your “beginner quilt”, just smile. Remember that you are bringing beauty, joy AND utility to the world as you use the time you saved enjoying things outside the sewing room :)

  97. I so agree. If they called it “accessible quilting” I don’t think anyone would have a problem with it. But they call it “Modern Quilting” which by definition implies that the other kinds of quilting are old-fashioned. Beyond that, these MODERN quilts are typically very easy. They are beginning quilts, or “quilts for people who don’t have time to quilt” turned into a movement. But if you say that, you’re a bad, bad person. Well guess what? The emperor has no clothes.

    And simply creating their own guilds and such is about creating an us versus themness. We don’t have a piecing guild or an applique guild. Why have a modern guild? I guess it’s so that they can get away with calling triangles “advanced,” because in reality, the “modern” quilts are well-intentioned beginner quilts. They are fine as quilts. They simply don’t deserve a “movement”.

    I’m no expert quilter, but I also haven’t created a guild for my quilting style or ability. And if I did, I wouldn’t give it a name like “modern quilting”.

  98. hahahahhahahah these @!&^%$&^&***&^%$ pinwheel blocks are driving me crazy lol yes my first ones really really i am trying to challenge my self its my 2nd quilt Btw love your snarkism ; )

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