The Quilt Scout

by Mary Fons

On Cheating

Column #17

It is perhaps unwise to pay too much attention to the Quilt Police (in life and in this column), but there are too many issues in the quilt world that arise because of their involvement to ignore them altogether.


Photo Right: Making girls into women in a class in Iowa.


I recently heard a lady tell a story about being in a hand-appliqué class. She was working on her project, chatting with the women around her. A lady nearby, upon hearing that this woman was excited to learn a hand technique because she typically did applique by machine, said tersely:


“Machine appliqué is cheating.”


Let’s examine this statement by looking at ways we cheat, absolutely none of which is endorsed by anyone, including me:


  • on our taxes
  • on our significant other
  • on our algebra test
  • on Monopoly


Bad choices, all. Webster’s defines “cheating” thusly:


1 [ no obj. ] act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage, especially in a game or examination: she always cheats at cards.

• [ with obj. ] deceive or trick:



Photo Below: Bonafide cheating, no two ways about it.


I don’t see quilters as a group of people given to regular cheating. Some of the groups that come to mind who might possibly be: pit bosses in Vegas, politicians, etc. So there’s that consideration when we think of how to respond to the lady who accused the other of cheating on her sewing. She is probably wrong to accuse it.


We also need to take the broader view. Using machines to help us do things is not new. Is it cheating to:


  • use a furnace to heat your home instead of chopping and hauling wood to a potbelly stove in your log cabin?
  • make coffee with a coffeemaker instead of whatever they used to do to make coffee?
  • drive a car rather than use a horse and buggy?
  • eat scones instead of raw meat?


It’s clear that the logic followed by the Quilt Policewoman is faulty.


Photo Right: Would this early sewing machine (1825) please our Policewoman? There's probably one on eBay and we could sent it to her with a nice fruit basket.


I’m the first to admit that hand-appliqué looks great and, if I’m completely honest, I like the look of it far more than machine applique. My mother used to do a ton of needle-turned hand-appliqué, and the little puffs she would make around the edges were exquisite. It’s on my short list, learning from her how to do it for real; I’ve done demos with her on TV and on a past episode of “Quilty.”


But if were to choose to do appliqué with a sewing machine for the rest of my life, I would not be cheating. And I would finish my quilt a lot faster than if I were to do it by hand. And, thus, I could get back to the Monopoly game with my sisters and skim money of the top when I get to be the banker.