Inspiring Quilters, Stitch by Stitch
How can I say how grateful I am that we all can choose what we want to do and by what means. I am one who has always enjoyed different media and exploration into all types of creative works. I agree there is nothing more beautiful than a perfect hand stitch, unless it is a splurge of beautiful colors, mixed in a way to instill an emotional response. I do not think that computerized long arming should be acceptable in general but possibly in a category of it's own, in quilt shows. I longarm but use my eyes, arms, shoulders and brain to control the stitches. I do not use a stitch regulator or any sort of computer. I draw on quilts and it is an artform. The two reasons that I do not hand quilt, are time and arthritis. After 6 inches of hand stitching there is swelling the size of a goose-egg on top of my right thumb. I am going to have the thumb reconstructed and carpel tunnel surgery in Jan.2014. I will not be able to my hand for 3 months according to doc. Not looking forward to the surgery but afterward I will be able to at least to hand stitch the binding on my quilts and maybe throw in some bead work?. It's in our nature to be competitive and strive for perfect and it does seem that sometimes others have an advantage such as computerized embroidery and quilting. I just think of it as another form of creative expression. I also think it should be in a category of it's own and given the benefit of owning all the expensive equipment I could do the same and all you could too.
The quilt shows I have been to usually have different catagories for hand or machine quilted and are judged separately. I do agree that the more intricate a pattern on a quilt is, the more likely a machine w/a computer did it and that is kind of a shame. I do like to see the hand quilted ones best though.
I started out as a hand quilter in 1968. I started with a floor frame. As the years pasted, I started using different sized hoops and needles. I've never quilted on a home sewing machine. The idea of pushing fabric through a stationary machine on a table never appealed to me.
Although my main interest was quilting wholecloth quilts, I also pieced top. I got to the point where I had more tops than I had time to quilt. Even though I thought, "my quilt is going to come back looking like a mattress pad!" I decided to send one to a local longarm machine quilter. When I picked the finished quilt up, it was beautiful! I realized that I was arrogant in my thinking that only hand quilted quilts were "real" quilts. I changed the way I thought about the way quilts are finished.
In 1990, I saw an advertisement for a longarm quilting machine and thought it might be a nice hobby and possibly a way to earn a little money when my husband, Jim and I retired. When I walked into the longarm dealer's show room there was a huge machine with plain muslin on it. It was quilted in all different beautiful ways. I realized that quilting on a longarm machine would be a way for me to hand quilt with an electric needle! The quilt was layered and held in place, I'd move the needle!
We bought one. I practiced for a year before I took my first customer's quilt. I ended up making a business out of longarm quilting. When Jim was laid off from his job, we bought a second machine. We both now quilt full time.
I bought my machine before stitch regulators and computers were added to longarm machines. I had a bit of an attitude about the new computers. But, once I saw quilts that were quilted by longarm quilters who had the new technologies, I was astounded by the quilts, the quilters and my, once again, close-minded arrogant attitude! I realized that quilting on a computerized longarm machine, which, if done well, takes a tremendous amount of talent, gave quilters more and different ways to express their skills and art. It take a huge amount of talent to use those machines well. I had to change my ways again!
I quilt on a longarm machine all day. When I leave my studio and go home at the end of the day (which is just downstairs!) I have my dinner and I hand quilt while watching TV! I just finished hand quilting a quilt that I hand pieced. The fabrics are all authentic 1800's fabrics. Quilting is my passion. My hands and eyes aren't what they used to be, my stitches aren't as tiny, I'm selective about what I choose to hand quilt, but, I'm still quilting!
The next quilt I'm quilting is a 120" x 120" Irish Chain. The center of each block was made on an embroidery machine. The quilter pieced it by hand. It's for the woman's son's wedding. She could have hand quilted it, but she wouldn't have had time to meet his December wedding date, besides, I can make this quilt beautiful by quilting it with my longarm quilting machine. She left one block plain so I can quilt her son and daughter-in-law's names in along with their wedding date. It's going to be a beautiful hand pieced, machine embroidered and machine quilted quilt!
I believe there will always be men and women who do hand work and technology will keep advancing. It's not a bad thing.
A really good post. All points well made. Quilt Away! Ann
This is a mistake many non-computerized machine quilters and hand quilters make, to think that you can cook dinner while the machine does all the stitching. Oh that that were the case. It takes a tremendous amount of time and energy and yes "skill" not to mention blood, sweat and tears to produce the masterpieces you see at quilt shows. I wonder how many of the hand quilters of generations past would have given their eye teeth to be able to use a quilting machine. I believe the sad part is that women don't spend the time quilting together like they used to do. The social circle was just as important to them as the finished product.
Ah, Cindy, I've been thinking along the same lines. Although I belong to a guild that meets once a month, I've been thinking of forming a small sewing group of friends. The guild meetings are at night and I'm often too tired to go.
The internet is great and it's easy to chat on a site like this. I love the exchange of ideas. But, I think I want, or maybe more to the point, need to do more for myself.
And, to add to your sentence about the time, energy, skill, blood, sweat and tears: longarm quilting is very hard on the body. I'm very aware of how I use my body, I have mats on the floor, I always wear good shoes, all of my tools are designed to help me care for myself. I have a hydraulic lift on my machine --installing that a few years ago was one of the best things I ever did for myself --I can raise and lower the height of my machine. That feature helps me keep my body at right angles to whatever I'm doing. I also have a saddle stool. If I'm quilting an area that needs dense quilting, I can lower the height of my table or raise the height of my stool and not stress my body or eyes. I have crazy muscles in my arms and legs from standing on my feet quilting all day fifty or more hours a week for the last twelve years!
I keep getting the image of sitting around my living room with a group of friends sewing and chatting. Sunday afternoons.....coffee and cookies break.....doesn't that sound great?
The only down side is that I'd have to stop quilting and clean my house first!!
My friends and myself meet with a group of friends to sew and its the most wonderful therapy in the world, espeically if the cake is lovely! I have on my wall in my sewing room a picture which is actually a page from Harpers Weekly dated December 21st 1872, I quote:
There was a time when Amercican housewives prided themselves on their neat and often elaborate patchwork quilts; and merry indeed were the 'quilting bees', when the women, young and old, married and single, used to gather at some neighbours house to take a hand in the work. What a hum of voices, what cheery laughter, what plying of needles, made the afternoon pass swifly, while the work progressed as if invisible hands 'assisted'.
It goes on the add that when to needles, thimbles and scissors were put aside the cheerful hostess invited her friends into the clean tidy kitchen to tea. "The steaming tea pot, hot biscuits three or four varietes of home made cake."
It also goes on to add that she is a type of race which is rapidly passing away under new conditions of society. "The nex generation will know them only by tradition and by such pictures as the one on the page. (A woman sitting quilting)
As a child of the 60's I am so glad that this time has come around again, with the inclusion of course of male quilters and maybe the odd glass of wine at the quilting table.
Great reply, Linda. I agree - the more and the more diverse the merrier!
Hi Linda, I agree with you wholeheartedly and am afraid that people who are attracted to quilting might be put off by thinking that they have to spend a lot of money on both machines and notions - the cutting mats, rotary cutters and all the other bits and bobs that one sees in magazines. There's also the speed element, as if it is the speed at which a project can be completed that is almost as important as the project itself. What happened to quilting as a leisure activity? Of course, some wonderful pieces are created by using a machine, pieces that could not perhaps be created by hand, so there must be room for both in the quilting world. I've just been researching the Hmong textiles of south-east Asia and the Hmong communities in places like St Paul, Minnesota, and Berkeley, California. The fear there is that the old textile arts will be lost in the USA as young people are no longer interested in learning the arts and skills that were traditional in the past. Girls no longer have to show to their prospective mother-in-law examples of their skills and artistry in textiles. Generally people are not willing to pay for the time it takes to make things by hand, and cheap, shoddy, machine-made items are entering the market to be snapped up by people who don't know the difference between cutwork done by hand and cutwork by machine. Oh dear - I see to be on a rant! But I've seen too much of it on my travels. I'd best shut up now!