Mark My Word Jan/Feb 2008
When I was a little boy, I would spend an occasional weekend at my Aunt Penny and Uncle Cash's house in Aliquippa, PA. I would sleep in the same room as their newborn baby on a freeform scrappy crazy quilt that my Uncle Cash's mother made. That's the first homemade quilt I ever saw, and the last one I saw until I was well into my 30s. But I can still see that quilt in my mind's eye, and can practically smell it. I remember tracing my fingers along the twisting seams and studying all of the different kinds of fabrics she used.
It wasn't a work of art. It wasn't perfectly stitched. It wasn't even what you'd call beautiful. It was functional and warm, well used, and well loved, and made by someone who knew how to quilt and enjoyed the process. It was exactly what a quilt should be.
I have been getting a lot of letters lately from new and former quilters who have stopped piecing because they're afraid that their quilts won't be perfect or even "good enough", or have felt the sting of disapproval because their quilts "just don't measure up."
I'm so weary of the quilting perfectionists who demand faultless points and over-the-top designs, the type who suggest that all of our quilts share their vision of perfection. We're making blankets, for gosh sakes! Now far be it from me to suggest that we shouldn't strive for artistic perfection in our craft, but geeze Louise, let's face it. . . unless there is an atomic blast and yours is the only quilt to survive, even your impeccable patchwork isn't going to be worth much down the road! Imagine tomorrow's anthropologists digging up Stack-n-Whacks, Blooming 9-Patches, and Turning Twenties over and over again. (I happen to love, bought, and made all of those patterns, but you get my drift.)
Quilts aren't magic or unusual. They're blankets, people! I never heard of a poor man covering himself with a quilt to become rich. A quilt never helped the blind to see, the deaf to hear, a struggling student ace a test without studying, or a miserable person become a happier one.
For us, my dears, there is only one thing that quilting does. It satisfies our lust for fabric and our creative spirit. So don't quilt or piece for someone else's vision. Who cares what they think of your creation? Piece or quilt for yourself. You don't become involved in the craziness and madness of gossipy guilds and online groups. Sit with your fabric and your ideas and sew. Don't be frightened to pick up your needle or rev up your long arm or try a new notion because the result might not be perfect. You have no one to impress. Don't like what's turning out? Toss it, buy more fabric, and start over again.
Tell the quilt world's Quiltzillas to kiss off. Do your quilt your way and trust me, someone will use your "less than perfect" patchwork, love it and remember it years after you're gone, just like I remember the quilt at my Aunt Penny's house. Meanwhile, you can bet that the quilting bullies who are willing to point out everything you've done wrong will have their "good" and "perfect" and "beautiful" quilts folded and shoved in the back of a closet somewhere never ever to be loved, seen, touched, or–God forbid–used.
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