Quilters' Questions for you all

K8OrlandoJune 26, 2013

I see quilting referred to as a craft, as an art, and as a hobby. Through the years, it's probably even been thought of as a utility, using scraps of fabric re-purposed to keep people warm at night.

How do you think of quilting and how do you think of yourself as a quilter? Because this may be influenced by how long you've been doing it, let us know how long you've been practicing too and how you got started.

I would love to see answers from those of you who don't often post, too!


I made my first quilt - just a bunch of 4" squares - for a friend's first baby over 20 years ago. Then I didn't make another one until the mid-1990s. Guess that first experience wasn't too positive or I would have kept it up. Mostly I think I felt like I wasn't very good at it. But when I re-discovered quilting, thanks to some gorgeous Jinny Beyer fabric, I was hooked. I fell in love with fabric, colors, patterns. I didn't grow as a quilter though until I found this forum around 2005 or 06. You people taught me so much and gave me the confidence to try more and more techniques. My mother Dorothy and my great aunt Julia made quilts but nothing artsy or even particularly pretty: lots of love in them but not much planning or design. Of course, I cherish the quilts I have from both of them.

I flip between thinking of myself as a artisan and an artist. I consider myself more than a hobbiest but not sure what to call myself. I don't think I'm technically proficient enough to be a really good craftsman or artisan, although I would like to be; maybe I'll get there when I'm retired. When I see the quilts of professionals I don't feel comfortable calling myself an artist but I recognize that I bring a lot of creativity to my quilting. I rarely use patterns and become bored almost instantly if I have to make the same block more than twice.

I think quilting can be a craft or an art, depending on the quilter and what they bring to the project. So, even though I asked the question, I don't really know how to answer it for myself! Although I use machines and typically select my fabrics very carefully, I feel an emotional connection to past quilters who sewed by candlelight on the prairie. And I also feel a connection to the incredible artists who do things with color and form that I can't ever hope to achieve, but who obviously love the color and form and fabric as much as I do.

I guess I'll just have to settle for calling myself a quilter.


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I started my first quilt when I was in high school (I think). My mom (also Dorothy!) taught me to sew clothes and embroider when I was very young. She made quilts, too, so that must be what inspired me.

My first quilt was king size (!) and a pattern I made up myself...sort of a log cabin variation in blues and lavenders. I cut all the pieces with scissors and templates and hand pieced it, even the backing. I also hand quilted it! It took years to finish it, mostly because I would get bored with it and put it away.

I think my second quilt was the one I made for my parents' 50th anniversary, and it was even bigger! I sent squares of muslin to family and friends to write messages on then incorporated them into the quilt. That would have been 1993.

I don't remember doing much quilting after that till I went to the local guild's show probably 11 years ago and decided to join the guild. Since then I've learned a lot about the "right" way to make quilts with the "proper" materials. LOL

I don't know how I would categorize myself. I tend to think I'm not very creative or artistic, but my friends (especially the art-y ones) always tell me how creative and talented I am. I make mostly traditional quilts but usually when I have a special purpose in mind ahead of time I design a quilt and it's usually not what you would call traditional.

How's that for non committal?! :)


    Bookmark   June 26, 2013 at 12:56PM
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Mine is an interesting story...through a forum friend..who was a quilter about 10 years ago now, I was invited to go to a quilt retreat that she was hosting. I didn't even sew at this time let alone quilt. However, I wasn't working at the time and she said it would be fun and I could help her out and iron for her. LOL. So I went and it was a blast. The people were fun, the location was beautiful and I watched what these ladies were doing. One of them was doing an appliqued baby quilt. I asked her a few questions about it and she showed me how to do a basic blanket stitch and when I got home, I attempted this four square applique pattern since my daughter-in law was pregnant. Imagine my surprise when it turned out so cute. That got me hooked. I've made a quilt for everyone in my family since then as well as everyone I know that has had a baby.

I consider it a hobby. I do it for enjoyment.


This post was edited by vanislegirl88 on Fri, Jun 28, 13 at 0:12

    Bookmark   June 26, 2013 at 3:32PM
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I have done this before but a new thread so will tell the story again.
Been sewing all most all my life but started quilting 35 years ago at the age of 45. Kids were gone and my first Gr. was on the way so I took a class with the home extension group on making quilts.
First was a queen sized bed quilt, all hand done. I learned a lot but didn't make another for a couple of years. I then got hooked and started to make more and eventually got talked into selling some at craft shows. So I guess that puts it into crafting/hobby group. I am just an intermediate quilter but love the process and sharing the results.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2013 at 5:07PM
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I've been quilting for about 13 years--I consider it therapy. It never fails to put me in a good mood. Even just looking at patterns and/or fabric is fun.
It's also a passion. Other than my husband and kids, and friends, it's something I just can't get enough of.
I'm very thankful that I happen to like quilting and every day that I'm still able to cut and sew is a blessing.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2013 at 5:40PM
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I was sewing clothes by the time I was 10 or so. I made my first quilt as a tween, b/c mom wouldn't spend 'big money' on a store-bought comforter to match my sheets. My next quilt after that was a machine stitched, king-sized Grandmother's Flower Garden... I was self-taught and there was no one to tell me it wasn't the place to start! I moved from there to king-sized Log Cabin.

There were no quilters in my family. It's all me. I think at first, I would have called myself a crafter, but as I made more quilts and experimented with techniques, maybe then it became a hobby. Now I think of 'crafters' as anything other than quilting.

I'm not sure how to define the difference between artisan and artist. Maybe I'm an artisan because I utilize color, pattern and design to create something from nothing. A true artist, to me, is someone who makes it their job; they sell their product. And although I've sold my quilts, it's not my 'job'. It's still a hobby...A life long, time inclusive, can't live without it, hobby.

How's that for non-committal? lol

    Bookmark   June 26, 2013 at 6:10PM
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I'm enjoying everyone's stories, keep 'um coming.

My grandmother taught me to sew in middle school (or maybe even earlier). However, I started my first quilt about 25 years ago - a nine-patch wall hanging. I made the pattern pieces out of cardboard and copied the quilting design onto plastic and cut it with an exacto knife. I really just made it up as I went. However, once I pieced it, I didn't know what to do next and it was put in a drawer. Eight years ago when we moved into our new home, I had a landing with a big, blank wall that needed something. I pulled out the quilt and called a friend I had met at our new church who quilted. I went to her house and she helped me put on border and told we what to get for batting. I finished it on my own and it now hangs on the wall. A couple of years ago a friend gave me brand new cutting mat, cutter and some rulers that so realized she was never going to use. Whoa, so much quicker! I joined gardenweb's Seed N Stitches and that forced me to make squares to exchange and got me going. Now, I've learned so much from this group. You really our my guild.

I think quilting goes beyond what I think of as a craft. I don't believe I have a great eye for design, but I love fabric and color. I also seem to be in a hurry since I started so late in life to quilt. So I wouldn't call mine art. But I think hobby describes my quilting. Maybe if I get "caught up", I'll slow down and approach it as an art form. Maybe if I took my time, I could do better on the design. But I agree with you, Jennifer, I can't imagine giving this up. It feeds my soul.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2013 at 6:48PM
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" It feeds my soul. " Yes, exactly.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2013 at 7:01PM
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" It feeds my soul. " Yes, exactly.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2013 at 7:02PM
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My mom had me sewing as soon as I could sit at the machine, but it was all home clothes. As a teenager, I would design my own clothes .....then one day I stopped, guess i was about 20ish and didn't start sewing again for over 15 years. I made a very small quilt as an experiment and didn't know what I was doing. Our first dog used it as his bed. I always enjoyed making stuff, but never had a direction until recently.
I think when I was laid off a few years ago...I started playing with this quilting stuff, had some time and played a little,but like others wasn't sure what I was doing or if it was right. Once I started working again...I put it aside...then another job loss and oh well...I'm hooked now. I can honestly say if it wasn't for my Florida friend quietly urging me to check out this web site...I may not have traveled as far as I have in the last two years. Like Bev, this is my guild. I look at quilting as a consuming hobby...love the creativity of it, love fabric (a bit too much), love putting it together. I don't think of myself as an artist or artsian, but a happy quilter I am.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2013 at 7:13PM
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Oh dear! My mother was a perfectionist seamstress and I knew I could never measure up so when I flunked the sewing portion of Home Ec I didn't touch a sewing machine for years! Then when $$ was tight, the girls needed clothes so made them and then made the DH a few Leisure Suits, too. Around 1978 I took a quilting class at one of the local high schools and we all made a placemat! It was finished and looked good! Even hand quilted! I thought hmmm, I better learn more about this....but didn't. Life intervened and it wasn't until around 1983 and the empty nest happened that I began to learn in earnest. And, there you have it. Many, many quilts, some were commissioned, on my terms, but most of them given. All of my family have had at least 2 or 3 quilts....because they are used! And I love it! I consider my quilts as more fun and loveable than being 'artistic' in any way, shape or form. As far as I'm concerned, it's a hobby and something fun to do that can also be a blessing when given to others.


    Bookmark   June 26, 2013 at 10:39PM
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I've always sewn.......started as soon as my Mother would let me at a machine. Was pregnant when my husband was a student, and made a postage stamp baby quilt. Totally clueless but poor and made a lot of his baby stuff. Never made another but aspired and had a tumbling blocks pattern from a magazine I kept for twenty years or more to do 'someday'. Necessity again seven years ago when I renovated our living room and needed a quilt for the daybed and could find nothing I liked. Made a puff quilt. Was so inspired with it turning out well, I did the tumbling blocks. Y-seams and all, sort of like Jennifer's flower garden quilt. I had no clue it was supposed to be difficult. LOL. The finished product was given to my mother shortly before she died. It's now at my daughter's house, and she loves it even if it is clumsy and amateur. That got me hooked. My husband and I live simply and modestly, so my quilting is done in the traditional sense as I needed bedcovers and I inherited a huge stash of materials. I think I am on quilt twenty seven or eight by now. I never dreamed that this would be my niche and had I not found this forum, it may never have happened. I don't consider myself an artist with my quilting, folksy art in the sense it gives me a creative outlet with what is at hand perhaps and I'm satisfied with that.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 12:25AM
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Such an interesting thread. I also started making clothes pre-teen but mostly because I could use the treadle and had no money for store-bought. Soon I was making curtains, mending for others, doing all sorts of things. When I married and had children, Dad bought me an electric machine from Montgomery Wards. I used it for years till a hubby thought I needed a Singer. Once the kids were grown, I no longer sewed much except hemming drapes or making a slipcover.

I had a good friend who quilted and she wondered how I'd missed getting involved. I did all sorts of artistic things including making stained glass windows for homes. She knew I loved colors and fabrics. So, when I suddenly became a house-bound caregiver ten years ago, it seemed like something I could do without leaving home much. By moving in here to care for an elderly, blind uncle, I inherited a couple more machines and then bought even better and a big frame. I took a few classes and I continue to try every new thing that comes along. Most everything I make is an art project. I want to try every pattern. I don't think a one has ended up on a bed except a few gift quilts but I have cupboards and walls just full of them.

We are on our own now and I sew as I choose. My husband is supportive and feels it is the best therapy for me no matter what it costs. I even have a sewing room.

And, I've made some wonderful friends along the way who also enjoy this "hobby" and don't think I'm nuts.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 1:04AM
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Like many of you, I started sewing young, I was about 12 years old. From that point I made a lot of my own clothes and continue to do some garment sewing even now.

My maternal grandmother in Kentucky always made quilts, by hand, from scraps mostly. She gave me a quilt she had made when I got married in 1969. Around 1980 I started a quilt for my youngest son - but never got it finished. After seeing a "Sunny Windows" quilt at the Folk Art Center near Asheville, I came home and made my own version. With no one around to tell me Y-seams were not for beginners, I just did it any way.

I stopped counting the number of baby quilts I had made after 25. I've only made 3 bed sized quilts. About 10 years ago I started making quilts on commission and still like to do that to fund my quilt retreats and trips. Our Round Robin group of six friends has been together for over ten years, beginning new projects every two years. I have taught some classes over the years and have a workshop planned for my guild on scrap quilt techniques in August.

This is a "hobby" for me, but I have found some ways to make some extra money to support my "hobby" as well. This Saturday I will go pick up a new-to-me second rigid heddle loom, partly paid for by the last quilt I made on commission. My interest in weaving began when I was a summer camp counselor in college, I'm trying to acquire all the toys I think I will need if/when I ever get to retire.

And I love this forum and our members,

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 9:24AM
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I started by fixing my grandmother's tied quilt that she had given me for my HS graduation. It was a simple 9 patch that I took apart and replaced some worn out patches and the batting, and put it all back together and retied it. That was fun, so I made a baby quilt (a pretty clumsy one) and I've done it ever since. It is a creative outlet for me, and a hobby for me during the winter. I am in a lull right now since I haven't made one since November.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 10:10AM
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I never sewed until I was a young, married twenty-something who needed inexpensive curtains, shower curtains, kids' clothes and clothes for myself. I never had home ec, but I am particular to a fault sometimes, so my projects turned out very well. I have also been a knitter, crocheter and embroiderer, but about 5 years ago, I was watching Alex Anderson's TV shows and I thought I'd like to give quilting a try. I bought the basics and started a Christmas tree skirt. I spent more time fooling with my old machine that I did quilting, so after a bit, I put the project aside. About two years later, I visited a new friend in Ketchikan, Alaska, who was a quilter and I was inspired. I came home and bought a new Janome 6600 and restarted my tree skirt. What a difference a good machine made. I was absolutely smitten, and I have been quilting for almost two years now with twenty-two projects, mostly lap/napping quilts, completed.

I consider myself a technician, not an artist or artisan. I have always used a pattern, but I love to choose my fabrics, and I think I have a good eye for color and pattern. Maybe someday I'll be more creative, but right now I'm happy copying someone else's ideas. I have quilted about half my projects myself, but I have had the rest quilted by a LAQ. I wish I could do that myself, but I think a long arm machine is probably out of the question for me. Quilting is my hobby and my passion.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 11:34PM
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My story isn't very interesting...just that I took a class at a local Singer store on a whim. I was home with my first baby and looking for something to do. It kind of grew from there. I consider quilting a folk art. It can be strictly utilitarian or as far out creative as you like. That's why it suits so many different kinds of people.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 11:49AM
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After I was given a quilt my grandmother had made and realized how special it was, I decided to make 3 quilts, one for each of my kids. So, I bought a book. My first quilt was a log cabin... but it was Paper Pieced!. Well... that's what the book said to do. haha. Then I found this forum. Then I started collecting sewing machines.... I've always been a 'crafter' but quilting has stuck like nothing else. Right now I WANT to be artistic, but I'm not. I'm hoping once this work-thing gets out of the way I will be able to relax and be a bit more artsy-fartsy but right now I still rely on patterns. Making a crazy-quilt is very high on my bucket list. So... I'd have to conclude that I fall into the craft/hobby category. (for now)


    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 12:21PM
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As a small child in the 70's I can remember playing underneath a quilt in a suspended frame hanging in my Great-Grandmother's living room and playing in my Mom's bedroom where she machine sewed clothes for us, she is really good can just look at someone and make a newspaper pattern. And she does beautiful embroidery work. And I can remember her repairing an old hexagon quilt that was on her bed and a bit scrappy. We did not have a lot of money so she would make us Barbie Doll clothes. I learned how to use scissors by cutting out paper patterns my Mom drew by hand and then would pin the paper patterns on fabric and cut out the fabric that way - I have no idea what became of all that fabric I cut as a small child.

My Mom has a younger sister, my Aunt Edie, who is very craftsy - she can tat, quilt, sew clothes, embroidery, crochet, a little knitting, and lots of craft projects, she loves to try new stuff. Sometimes I would stay at her house as a child and she taught me in 4 hours 1 night how to crochet when I was 9 and I spent the following 2 or 3 days at her house crocheting. Then in high school my mom finished detailed embroidery blocks of nursery rhymes, I believe it ended up being a full-size quilt for my older sister, She gave the blocks to my Aunt Edie who cut stripping and borders and made them in to a quilt top. She taught me how to quilt by hand when she quilted my sister's quilt on a suspended frame - that was in the early 90's. I took one home ec class in high school, I learned how to thread a sewing machine in that class and that's about it.

Then in college I took a board drafting class and a drawing class - both of which I really enjoyed. Then went to work in design fields in manufacturing and for engineering consulting companies. After I got married I wanted to do like my Great-Grandmothers, Grandmas, and Aunts and make a quilt. After being married for a little while, I remember going shopping with my mom for fabric for my first quilt, a queen-size pinwheel quilt, I wanted to make a quilt I could use on mine and my husband's bed. I forget where I got the pinwheel pattern from, but I made pattern templates for it and then proceeded to cut out all the pieces for the quilt at one time. Luckily I was at least consistent in how I cut out the pieces, because I cut out ALL the pinwheels backwards. It took me over half a decade to completely hand-sew my first quilt and after retiring in 2006 I had more time at home and was able to complete this backwards pinwheel queen-size quilt. My parents bought me my first sewing machine a Singer 5050 for Christmas in 2004. Then of course came baby quilts that were gifts to friends and family and 2 queen-size quilts for family. And after crocheting for 20-something years I started designing and writing my own crochet patterns that will be passed down in the family. So my quilting and crocheting are hobbies to me, and most projects are gifts for family and friends, but what I love most about these hobbies are their design aspects, and getting to continually learn new things and getting to connect with past family members who also did these things. I do most of my quilting by hand, because it relaxes me to rock a needle and I like the fullfillment of having a tangible project come together completed. And I love to see the reaction's of family and friends when they get the gifts I make, it gives me a great deal of joy.

Best to you,

This post was edited by quiltingfox on Sun, Jun 30, 13 at 17:50

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 4:06PM
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