The Quilt Scout
by Mary Fons
Quilter, Do Thy Thing
Like most folks, I’ve logged a lot of hours as a student.
First came grammar school, then junior high and high school. Then I was a co-ed, and now I’m in grad school. Through all these years of learning things in a classroom, it’s been clear that some people are good at certain things, and other people are good at other things.
The girl up front? That’s me, solving for X.
In junior high school, for example, I was good at chewing gum and writing compositions in English class–but I was not good at algebra. The kid who sat next to me in English class, however, was miserable when it came time to turn in our papers—but he sailed through pop quizzes in math. (I don’t remember how good he was at chewing gum; I was trying to survive algebra.)
What was true in school is true for us as quilters: People are good at different things. Saying such a thing might sound painfully “Mr. Rogers” to some, but it comes up a lot when I’m teaching classes, so I encourage folks to keep it in mind.
I teach a 1,000 Pyramid class which deals primarily with fabric selection. I talk about value, scale, contrast—scary words for many quilters who, even after years of practice, have a hard time picking fabric.
This lady might be hand quilting because she doesn’t know how to turn on a sewing machine! Doubtful, I know. But it’s possible! Image: Wikipedia.During the workshop, we move as a group
from student to student, analyzing the fabric they brought, sorting things, making choices.
In a class of 15 quilters, I’d say there are three to five of them who zero in right away to the workshop’s objective—students who make assured design choices without much thought. Good for them.
Other students are not so quick. In the beginning of class, I’ll see many looks of consternation, many furrowed brows. By the time class is done, plenty of the students have had “a-ha!” moments — and of course, I’d like to believe that I’m such a fabulous teacher no one will ever have trouble picking fabric again — but the truth is that some people are really good at pairing lights and darks and some quilters aren’t.
But remember: People are good at different things. The quilter who looks bewildered by her pile of fabric ends up being the one who helps everyone around her match the points of their triangles.
This is true everywhere. I know a longarm quilter who is, in her words, “hopeless” at choosing fabric for a quilt. She’s all about the quilt kit. But she’s booked three months solid for her longarm services.
I have friends who are technically brilliant. Their points, their stitches, their binding, etc.,
are all enviable. But ask them to design a quilt from scratch and they get a deer-in-the-headlights look.
Of course, it’s important to mention that my junior high school friend Matt was good
at absolutely everything. Those people do exist. Matt got As in algebra, English, and chemistry. There are quilters who are aces at everything, too, and we like those people. Most of the time.
There are so many aspects to making quilts. We get to play in the fields of design, craft, history, interpretation, and collaboration; any of these may become our individual specialties. If you don’t have the foggiest idea how your sewing pal thought to put black with her batiks (fabulous!!) and choose that stripe for her binding (gorgeous!!), it’s possible she’ll be coming to you soon with a question about prairie points.
One quilter’s heaven is another quilter’s anxiety-provoking errand.
In every class I teach, I see quilters who have their “thing.” Even when they’re new to quilting, hints as to what will be their strengths do show themselves.
So find your “thing.” It might take awhile. But the longer you make quilts, the clearer it will be what you’re particularly good at and what you’ll probably always struggle with. Be proud of what you do well—don’t get down on yourself about the other stuff and just ask for help.
As for me, I’m good with color, but binding is my waterloo. It’s so hard for me to get my two ends joined without a bubble. At that point, I reach for a piece of gum and try again.