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By Edie McGinnis
When I began quilting, I didn’t own a sewing machine. My then mother-in-law gave me some old turkey red and white blocks that had been hand-pieced. She told me I could start with those because most quilters pieced and quilted by hand anyway. I found hand-piecing a calming experience, and I loved seeing a quilt grow steadily and slowly in my hands.
I could take my quilting anywhere and did. I pieced blocks while waiting for my children at ballgames, swim meets, doctor and dentist appointments, and every other place you can ever wait for a child. I was never bored as long as I had my handwork along.
When other quilters saw me hand-piecing my quilts, they gave me several labels. The first was, “Oh, you’re a hand-quilter.”
The second was, “Oh, I see you’re one of those purists. I bet you never use your sewing machine.”
Sewing machine? No, I didn’t own one. If I wanted a quilt, I only had one way to make it, and that was by hand.
Then one year my husband surprised me with a sewing machine. It was on sale for $99. It was one of those deals where you got exactly what you paid for. The machine didn’t work worth a darn and was in the shop more than it was out, so I continued to piece by hand.
I fell in love with feedsacks. I collected and researched and learned their stories. I made quilts using feedsack fabric. I was happy to be able to reproduce a quilt that looked like it had been made in the ’30s, and even a certified appraiser couldn’t tell it was new until she looked at the label on the back.
It wasn’t long before more information was added to my label. Now I was a hand-quilter who made ’30s quilts. I got that label after making one quilt using feedsack fabric. Granted, it was a quilt that won ribbons, but it was one quilt
The label of hand-piecer, hand-quilting purist stuck to me like glue. And for a while, I was OK with that.
Then I bought a sewing machine, a real sewing machine that worked like a charm. I still enjoyed piecing by hand, but I was in a car wreck that tore up my left hand. Handwork wasn’t going to be an option for a long time. But I had quilts I wanted to make, and I was determined that nothing was going to stop me. I learned how to make quilts using my sewing machine.
Now I had a new label. I was a machine-piecer. I also quilted my quilts on my home sewing machine, and that was added onto my label, so I became a machine quilter as well.
I made a quilt that was based on patriotic Kansas City Star quilt patterns. I chose the colors of our beautiful flag for the quilt – red, white and blue. The quilt was bright and stood out. I loved it, and I got a new label. Now I was a quilter who loved brights. And brights were not in fashion that year. I was told that it would be a good idea to “tone my quilts down and use more earth tones.”
So I gave it a whirl, and I even learned to use colors I didn’t really like, such as brown. I also learned to use reproduction fabric in my quilts. Along with those quilts came a new label. Now I was a traditional quilter.
Then I made a wall hanging based on “The Phantom of the Opera.” I appliquéd the phantom in the upper right corner onto a black background. I made a three-dimensional rose, placed it over the mask the phantom wore and put it in the lower left corner. I quilted in the notes to “The Music of the Night.” The quilt was not my best work. I had a lot of trouble with the phantom’s face. But suddenly, I had a new label. I was an art quilter.
I decided to try an appliqué quilt using different size blocks I designed using the old-school method, graph paper. The quilt is dark and was different from anything I had ever made before. People I knew loved the quilt and I, as a quilter, was re-labeled. Now I was a primitive quilter.
Now we have a new category of quilter, the modern quilter. One of the things I find so uplifting about the modern quilt movement is the way it has gathered in new quilters with an accepting and encouraging attitude.
But I also hear I can never be part of this world because I wear the label of traditional quilter. And apparently, I should not be called a traditional quilter because that label implies that I think my way of making quilts is the only right way to make a quilt. According to some schools of thought, traditional quilts are really utility quilts.
I recently heard a woman explaining modern quilting at a quilt expo. She said if you liked reproduction fabric, you could never be a modern quilter. And if you liked prints, you could seriously forget about making a modern quilt. And then I quit listening to her.
I quit listening because this is what I know. I can make any quilt I choose to make. I can use any type of fabric I like. I can make a quilt that looks older than the hills, or I can make one that looks as sparse and modern as any other.
The important issue at hand is that we want to be careful with the labels we attach to others. No matter what type of quilt one chooses to make, the only thing that matters is that the maker is happy with the result. It’s his or her quilt, not yours and not mine. And let’s face it, whether that quilt is your cup of tea or not, I’ll bet you can find something to admire and appreciate in it.
You can try to cram a creative person into any type or size of box you like. You can label the box with anything that suits your fancy. But creative people will surprise you. They will jump out of the box you’ve stuffed them in as soon as your back is turned. They will not be happy with being categorized and will make you look foolish when you’ve decided which label they should be wearing.
As for me, there is only one label that is ever going to truly fit. My label reads, “I am a quilter.”
Edie McGinnis is an author and editor for Kansas City Star Quilts. She writes every Friday.
Kansas City Star Quilts books make wonderful gifts. And as our big holiday thank you to our readers, you can shop the Kansas City Star Quilts Store through Dec. 16 and take 25 percent off your total purchase!
With a wide variety of beautiful books from which to choose, you’re sure to find just the right one for all the quilting friends and relatives on your list. Every book is filled with creative projects, beautiful photos and inspiring stories.
Visit www.KansasCityStarQuiltsStore.com to begin shopping. After shopping and before you check out, enter the code KCGIFT13 in the promotion code box. Then click apply.
Or call your order in to 866-834-7467 and be sure to mention the code.
Remember, this offer is good only through Dec. 16!
We wish you and your family a wonderful holiday season!
For more quilty laughter from Mrs. Bobbins, get The Big Book of Bobbins by clicking here! Just $7.95!
By Edie McGinnis
It’s Black Friday, and I am not out shopping. I see the lines of people camped out in the cold, and I wonder what item they are so excited about having that makes it worth enduring the freezing temperatures.
I am not much of a shopper. I buy new clothes when I have to and things for my house as needed. It is only when shopping for fabric that I can come close to matching the stereotype of women holiday shoppers. Even then, I have a hard time envisioning myself fighting with someone over a piece of yardage.
But Christmas is coming. It is only 26 days away, and I have children and grandchildren. So a-shopping I will go. Just not on Black Friday. I will wait until the weary overnight campers have gratefully returned to their homes with their bargains before I venture out.
Some of the gifts I give will not come from the store. They will come from my hands and my heart.
Not everything I make needs to reflect my quiltiness. (I’m sure quiltiness is not a real word, but it fits here.) Pretty placemats with a matching table runner would fit in anyone’s home, as long as I pay attention to color schemes.
I have Insul-Bright on hand. It is a perfect choice for batting when making oven mitts, trivets and potholders. I also like to use it in table runners that can double as trivets for hot dishes.
Mug rugs, coasters and dishtowels always come in handy and can be made to fit in any décor. A little bit of appliqué adds a personal touch and sets them apart from the ordinary, run-of-the-mill items from a big-box store.
Throw pillows are a quick and easy gift to make. New pillows can refresh a room and add some spark. It’s easy to find remnants of decorator fabric large enough to make sofa pillows. Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that not everyone wants their home decorated with quilted items, hence the decorator fabric idea.
Pillowcases are always a good gift. I like to make sets using wintery fabrics that showcase snowmen or snow-laden trees. They look Christmassy, yet can be used all winter long. Flannel is a great choice when making pillowcases for friends who live in cold climates.
And speaking of flannel, a rag quilt, the size of a throw, is a cozy, comfy gift that is quickly and easily made. And if you buy pre-cut layer cakes of flannel, you don’t even have to take the time to cut the squares.
Bits of fabric, trim, buttons, crayons, yarn, pipe cleaners, glue and safety scissors packed into a cute box along with some construction paper makes a wonderful “busy box” for a child. You just have to make sure he is old enough that he is no longer stuffing everything he touches into his mouth.
Twenty-six days left. Yikes, I better get busy!
Edie McGinnis is an author and editor for Kansas City Star Quilts. She writes every Friday.
By Donna di Natale
No, this isn’t a misprint or a typo. It’s the name of the holiday broken down into two very important words. Thanks and giving.
Many families begin their Thanksgiving feast by having each person at the table say one thing he or she is thankful for. When it’s my turn, it’s hard to say just one thing; I have so many, many things to be thankful for. For one, I’m thankful for quilting and all that it means to me.
Through quilting, I’ve found a second career doing what I love, made friends with some wonderful people, studied history in ways that my teachers never dreamed of and discovered the joy of creating a lasting thing of beauty that makes me feel just as happy to give it away as it does to make it.
Giving is where the second half of Thanksgiving comes in. As quilters, we seldom keep the quilts we make. The majority of quilts are made for giving to friends and families to celebrate a special event: birth and birthdays, graduation, marriage, anniversary, holidays or a new home. There are many reasons for giving a quilt as a gift. Some are extra special.
Those extra-special quilts are the ones we make to give to someone we don’t know – and may never know. The quilts are given to organizations that distribute them to those in need. Maybe it’s a child in a hospital, a woman who has escaped an abusive partner, a member of the military returning from war, someone undergoing medical treatment, or a person who simply needs to know that someone cares.
You can find these organizations online or through a local quilt shop or quilters guild. Some organizations have restrictions as to size and materials. Some have specific pattern instructions. Many offer a variety of suggested patterns. Most are simply happy to receive as many quilts as possible because they always have a waiting list.
Of course, there are many more Web sites to search, but these will give you a start.
So when you sit down to celebrate this Thanksgiving, remember there are two parts to that word. Both are equally important to giving thanks.
Donna di Natale is an author and editor for Kansas City Star Quilts. She writes every Wednesday.