So, I’ve been reading a lot today and the past few days about some interesting language floating out there in the quilting world. My interest was piqued because I remember thinking a lot about this after reading a number of blog posts after the last professional quilting conference in Texas in the fall. If you haven’t heard the hubbub, there is a lot of talk about “dumbing down” in quilting. There are claims that the online community especially is dumbing down quilting techniques and proclaiming that “simple” blocks are the end-all and be-all of quilting.
I’ll admit, I have mixed feelings. I get tired of seeing the same concept done incessantly. Or I get frustrated when a quilt is only deemed beautiful because it has a scrap of flea market fancy or another out-of print and ridiculously hard-to-find fabric. HOWEVER! I do not begrudge anyone for their choice to make such things. I find it beyond ridiculous to think that every person who participates in a craft/art/hobby would be an innovator. As a person who mainly makes things of my own design, I find it refreshing to follow patterns at times. I love to participate in a quilt along where I get to see many different versions of the same patterns. Other people are the guinea pigs with fabric and color combinations that I have not tried out yet. lol.
I struggle, as many of us do, to maintain the pace that I do given the constant pressures of life in my home with an almost toddler (I’m not calling her a toddler until she literally toddles!). It is difficult to handle the pressure of making things constantly and do them perfectly AND do them in the most difficult way possible. I know that I am taking this topic too personally, but it is something that I already struggle with. So I find it quite off putting to see that anyone (and there are a lot of them) who would dissuade others from enjoying the quilting that they are doing merely because their techniques are not up to someone else’s standards.
I entered the world of quilting fairly young in comparison to many. I was 17 when I did my first quilt. I am completely self-taught and a complete overachiever. I did not start with a small project but immediately made a bed-sized quilt for my dorm room. I am a rule follower and felt quite the rebel when I made that first quilt because I chose to back the quilt with a print rather than muslin which was the industry standard at the time. (isn’t that too funny!?) I was drawn into the online world because I finally found a place for like-minded quilters who not only enjoyed challenging quilting projects but ALSO beautiful fabrics. I still remember the first time that I saw Anna Maria Horner’s Chocolate Lollipop line. It was mind-boggling and sooo needed! (darn me for missing out on FMF though…aren’t I full of contradictions?)
There are any number of reasons that people have offered as the cause of “dumbing down” quilting including precuts, large floral motifs in fabrics, and then the ever insulting “they just don’t know better”. Don’t get me wrong…I’m a total perfectionist. You know that if you have been around here for even a post or two. I pour that into every aspect of my life. And you know what? THAT is exactly why I need do to improvisational quilting sometimes. Sometimes you just need to put some beautiful fabric together and love it. Trust me, I do the difficult math requiring point matching pieces too. But heck, I still love a quilt with squares of beautiful fabric on a white background. Simple can be just as beautiful as complex. It is really about composition and color choice.
And I’m all for “dumbing down” (aka learning a new craft) if it makes more people interested in quilting. I’ve seen people argue that quilting has always been around and popular…but it is just NOT true. Modern fabrics and approachable design make quilting ACCESSIBLE! No one will develop more difficult skills if they do not have the confidence to tackle a simpler project. I never knew a single person “in real life” who was a quilter my age until I joined the Modern Quilt Guild. It has been amazing to share quilting with other people who love it for the reasons that I do. Literally life changing.
Bottom line: there is room for everyone. So buy that fabric and make whatever your heart desires. Maybe everyone will not love it, but it is important that you do and that we all feel confident to share our strengths and weaknesses. Growth comes from that dialog.