While many comments were supportive of my original “dumbing down” post, there were enough who felt I was overly harsh that I want to clarify it a bit, without the passion and snarkiness. Please do not be critical of those who disagreed – I am grateful that they took the time to share their point of view.
As I said in the original post, I do love the look of simple quilts and I believe the quilts and quiltmakers should be respected. I’m actually working on a coin quilt right now, as well as the Dear Jane, and a Double Wedding Ring is in the planning stages. I expect over the course of those two more complicated quilts I’ll work on a lot of simpler quilts. Less complex quilts were not the target of my post. I took issue with the idea that very simple quilting techniques are being portrayed as much more challenging than they actually are. This discourages new quilters from trying them.
I believe many, if not most, new quilters are from a younger generation and tend to be attracted to “modern” quilts and quilt bloggers. That’s fantastic – I’m thrilled that more young people are being drawn to quilting, and it’s a lovely aesthetic. Those same people are blogging to share their excitement for their craft. Now we have a huge group of young, new quilters blogging about their quilts. They are proud of their accomplishments, and they have every right to be. But because they’re mostly relatively new to quilting and are often self-taught or “blog taught,” they don’t know a lot of different techniques and they tend to make the same things over and over. Remember that old saw, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?” It’s true. When we see something that we find beautiful, we naturally want to create something similar ourselves.
I would like to see some of these bloggers with a leadership role push themselves to try new things and share their efforts with other new quilters. If popular bloggers were to showcase some new techniques, others would follow. People would realize that half square triangles are not hard, and mastering them could help new quilters open up to a world of possibilities. If these new quilters learned how to make half square triangles, quarter square triangles, and flying geese, they would be able to create more than half of the pieced blocks in the quilting world, if they wanted to.
Now, several people made a point that I think it’s only fair to acknowledge. Sometimes people choose to do simple quilts, and don’t want to do anything more complex. Certainly that is their right, and I respect their decision – and their quilts. My frustration lies in the fact that some people are making simple quilts because that’s all they know how to do, and they’re afraid they can’t learn anything else. When they see a pinwheel block referred to as “a challenge for an intermediate to advanced quilter,” how can you blame them?
Here’s an analogy: Say you make chicken breast, peas and brown rice. It’s pretty good for you, and you’ve practiced to master it. It is the best chicken breast, peas and brown rice ever. It’s a little boring when you eat it every evening, so you try sprinkling some paprika on the chicken breast. Wow! What a change! After a week you realize you’re still making chicken breast, peas and brown rice, and even though the paprika perked it up for a day or two, you’re still bored. Unfortunately, you don’t know how to make anything else, so you’re stuck with it – chicken, peas and brown rice. CP&BR, CP&BR… Boy, that lasagna looks good, but it’s way too difficult. You could never make that. CP&BR. Then one day someone tells you how to make lasagna. Well, that doesn’t sound so hard. You give it a try, and – look out! – it’s pretty good! Sure, you didn’t put enough sauce over the top noodles and they’re a little crunchy around the edges, but you can fix that next time. Your success encourages you to try meatloaf, and then one day you chance a souffle. Maybe you succeed, maybe you don’t, but now you know that it’s okay to try it. And you know what? You can still make chicken, peas and brown rice when it sounds good. (Insert any other creative endeavor if you don’t enjoy cooking!)
I hope that I was more clear in this post – I truly do not believe that anyone should be discouraged from quilting and sharing their accomplishments because they choose to make uncomplicated quilts. They may prefer that aesthetic, and that’s their right. I just don’t want them to shut themselves off from other possibilities because of fear of the unknown.
(Also, I know there are many young quilters who have been quilting since childhood, there are many modern quilters with mad skills, and there are many new quilters who seek out new techniques on their own. Go, ladies (and gentlemen)! My comments here are based on a generalization, and I mean no disrespect to those of you who already experiment with new ideas.)
Please read The dumbing down of quilting, part 3 (final!)
Also, I’d love it if you could take the time to complete a brief survey about quilting. This post has an introduction to the survey as well as a giveaway.