Friday, September 17, 2010

Picky About Quilting?


I want to talk today about the actual quilting that is done on our quilts.  My discussion on this is not meant to be offensive to any quilters out there; they are just observations and food for thought.  I have great respect for all hand quilters and machine quilters.  I like and appreciate both hand and/or machine quilting and think they are both beautiful.
I have both machine and hand quilted myself, so I know exactly what is involved in both processes.

What I want to talk about in particular is this--Are we getting too critical/picky about the quilting itself?  The reason this has been on my mind is I have observed in the past year some very serious "discussions" ( at least, that's what I'll call it) on what I will loosely refer to as the "quality" of someone's stitching. I have observed that it seems to be in the minds of people that the quilting on quilts must be perfect, whether it was machine done or hand done!  When did we raise the bar so high that only perfection is acceptable?  That every stitch, hand or machine must be perfectly even? That's there no room for for anything but? I just don't agree with this, it really troubles me that we have taken our human limitations out the picture.  I have observed quilter's gathered around a newly machine or hand quilted quilt literally picking it apart!
  "oh, look there,  those stitches aren't quite the same size!  She's a machine quilter, it should be perfect! because I paid her to do it!  I won't be taking my work back there!"  Says who, I want to know!  Using a quilting machine takes a lot of time and patience to master, but it is still just a machine being run by a human operator! Even with all the technology available on quilting machines, which I might add not all machine quilters use (and that's fine),  you shouldn't expect perfection!!

"Oh my, her hand quilting is not blankety blank so many stitches per inch and look there...she left a gap in that spot...it should have quilting there too!"   REALLY??!!!  I say kudos to her for hand quilting it period! If you look at the centuries of hand quilted quilts we have around, the quilting is not perfect but it is lovely and enhancing to the quilts.

Are we becoming SNOBS when it comes to the stitching?

Now, to just step to the side for moment, I am NOT talking about the rare times when there is a really true issue with the quilting quality....missed and skipped stitches, thread bunches on the back, severe puckering, etc.

I'm talking about when the quilting seen from 3 feet away looks just fine. I mean, once that quilt is on the bed, do these quilter's really spend their time examining all the stitching?  Isn't the overall appearance the key?  Do these people realize what kind of pressure they are putting on the people who they have do the quilting for them?  Don't they see that they are taking the joy out of their quilt?  And the enjoyment of others who may be standing by looking at their quilt?  

What do you think?  Me, I am just happy my quilts are quilted and now I can finally use them.  I try to do my very best when quilting my quilts but I know I'm only human and therefore, my quilting will not be perfection. My hands and my machine are bound by my human limitations.  I am happy with "the best I can do".  I am happy with the best my machine quilter can do when I send her a quilt. What are you happy with?  Happy quilting:)

39 comments:

Darlene said...

Oh, I love this post - thank you so much! I'd like to add one more thing - when did we decide that meandering was no longer 'good enough' - I happen to believe that meandering gives a quilt just the right amount of texture without detracting from the piecing. I can't count the number of times I've heard "oh it's just meandered" Why is that a bad thing? Thank you for letting me share.

Vintage Sandy said...

Thank you for this observation I agree totally with you that's what makes every quilt unique!
I'm a very new quilter so I have alot to learn yet, but perfection will not be one of them I'm sure!

scottylover said...

Thank you so much for saying this! I went to guild last night and during show and tell, one lady pointed out she quilted one end of the quilt one way and the other end differently. Her words were "You don't see both ends at the same time, so what difference does it make?" So true!

Sandy A

Kristi said...

I find I am picky on customer quilts, but not on my own. I don't typically know whether they are as easy-going as you!

Doreen , Houston, MN said...

THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!!! That definitely needed saying, and, really, isn't that what we have all been feeling lately????

Brenda said...

Love this post. Thanks for sharing. I think this is why I always hate to take the first stitch in hand quilting. I'm afraid that someone is going to pick apart my stitching. i frankly hand quilt because i can't afford to have a quilt quilted ( only have once for a special occasion).

Skeena Designs said...

Awesome post. Hear Hear.

Shakerwood said...

Personally, I've never seen the quilting police. And they aren't welcome at my house. I would rather someone just look at my quilt and just smile ...... That's all I need.

Cathi said...

I often wonder about those who are most vocal in their criticisms of others' quilts -- whether their own quilts meet their seemingly high standards or whether, perhaps, they are so vocal because they're disappointed in their own quilting skills?

That said, I think we all do our best. Unless one is entering a judged show, aren't we mostly making quilts to be used and enjoyed?

Barbara said...

If I was going to enter a quilt in a show, I would do my best work, however I like to make a lot of scrap quilts and I don't strive for perfection - just quilted. I am just about finishing one and I know that people are going to make comments about how my squares are not even or straight (which I did on purpose) because it's a SCRAP QUILT THAT I WILL WASH AND USE ON THE BED.

But if someone wants every stitch to be perfect, then they shouldn't be sending their quilts out and do the work themselves.

As far as meandering, I'm not a big fan of it, but that's a personal preference. Do I do it, you bet. Sometimes that's all a quilt needs. It does break my heart when I see a beautifully pieced quilt with all the empty space that would be perfect for some special quilting designs. But then I think it's not my quilt and if they like it, so be it.

Cindy said...

And since I've ran into you via other blogs, I thought maybe I'd enjoy following and getting to know another blogger friend.

Hugs.

paulette said...

Excellent post!! I almost didn't put my quilts into our little Fair...for this very reason! I was hoping that the judges would give me some tips on how to improve my quilts. I know that my quilting is not great...so imagine my surprise when I won some ribbons!! Made my day and makes me want to quilt more and improve all my techniques!! So thanks for the post!! A good reminder on why we quilt...for our own satisfaction and use! There's more to a quilt besides the quilting!!
Paulette

Mary Lou Casada said...

Shelley, You are absolutely right! :-) It's the same with piecing, too. Oh that point isn't sharp and this blunted end and that doesn't match...Blah, blah, blah! When I teach, I try to teach excellence, but excellence is not the end, at least not for me and not for my classes. JOY is the end (my blog ain't "Cheaper than Therapy" for nothing!")! In a perfect world, all corners would meet, all stitches would be the same size and I teach those as goals. But only God is perfect. Me, I'm having the time of my life and that's what I want for other quilters! Looking at my finished quilts gives me joy. Even those that aren't quilted to perfection -- does that hinder their design or beauty or usefulness!? No. JOY!!!
Even my ugly quilts (see my "That's just ugly!" post today! LOL) bring me laughter and joy. I can be a good quilter without losing my joy. Great, thought-provoking post! :-)
Blessings,
Mary Lou

MJinMichigan said...

I've been quilting for 30 years and have taken many classes where perfection is stressed. Recently I realized that trying to make everything perfect was taking a lot of the enjoyment out of it. I also really like antique quilts especially the quirky ones. After looking closely at the quilts I like best, I realized that it's the imperfections that I find interesting and that I find quilts that are too perfect to be boring. I like be able to tell that a quilt is handmade. Hope this makes sense.

grendelskin said...

Thank you! As a fairly new quilter it does put a lot of pressure on thinking about making it perfect, and I'm never satisfied with a piece when it's done. I recently had to remind myself, out loud, "It's a BLANKET." I felt so much better! We love the old quilts because they're made with love and attention, not becasue they're perfect. Thanks again.

Kaaren said...

I'm an avid collector of antique quilts and every one of the 23 of them is hand quilted...key word being "hand". Not one of them is perfect and if they were, then they wouldn't have been "hand made".

I don't mean for what I'm about to say start a philosophical discussion, but what is PERFECT anyway? As an art teacher of mine used to say, "There are many ways of right". Well I would like to add that there are many degrees of perfect and to me all quilts and anything made by hand is perfect indeed!

Great post, Shelley!

Stray Stitches said...

Amen! And that is precisely why I don't enter my quilts in any type of competition nor belong to a guild. I only give quilts to friends whom I know will not critize the work, but like it for what it represents. Bless you for stating what needs to be shouted out at all quilting shops, exhibits, stores, and fairs!!!

quiltytherapy said...

Oh man, this definetly struck a nerve with me. It's this an art form? Room for errors?

As for people that pay others to machine quilt their quilts...Who are you to judge so openly and critically. The quilters don't go around telling everyone how bad your piecing was or how much they had to do to make your quilt quiltable.

This is why I have not entered any shows. I have been encouraged, but I won't. I'm hard enough on myself when it comes to my work.

Carol said...

AMEN! AMEN! AMEN! Very, very well said!

call me crazy said...

Very good observations Shelley! I don't like going to quilt shows only to hear someone picking a quilt apart and one time I even pretended to know the quilt owner just so they'd be quiet. LOL

I'm happy to get my quilts on the beds where they can be enjoyed and wrap someone in a hug. :-)

Sara said...

I completely agree - the quilting need not be perfect unless the whole purpose of the quilt is to win an award. If I focused on perfection I would probably stop enjoying the process of quilting. Too much pressure!

Stitched With Prayer said...

Shelly, I also agree. I especially liked Kaaren's comment, that anything hand made is perfect. Whether it is sewn by machine, or hand stitching, the thought, care and love that goes into handmade projects of any kind makes them all the very definition of "perfection" to me!!! Having said that, have I had quilts returned from the quilter that I wasn't happy with? Certainly! All but one were due to my own choices of quilting design. I chose the design, I chose the thread color, hence, I am responsible for the final result. Only once did I have an actual problem quilt. The stitching started coming out as soon as I opened it up and looked at it closely at home. The quilter had all of her adult children (7) and her grandchildren there so I told her I knew it would be fine and took it home. Did I call her and let her know about the problem? NOPE, so, once again, I can only find fault with myself. If there is an actual 'problem' with the quilting, how can a quilter fix it if she is not aware of it? So I'm right back where I started...in complete agreement. Besides, who wants a truly "Perfect" quilt? The little inconsistencies are what makes each one special to me. That is the nature of handmade projects. Thanks for a great post on a very important topic.

Sew Unique Creations said...

Amen sister. In the past I've heard so many people commenting on other peoples quilting and piecing, it's just dis-heartening. It just irritates me when others critique another's work - I always want to comment myself and say "If you can do better, let's see it!"

I love that my quilts are not perfect. I'm not perfect and neither is anyone else and I don't strive to be perfect, I enjoy quilting and the entire process and worry less about pleasing others! Great post!

Anonymous said...

Amen to all of that! One can't expect absolute perfection from we humans because there are none of us who are perfect! If there are would they please let us know because I would like to meet them!
Thanks again Mrs Red Quilt, you get an "A"+ for this great blog! The anonomous quilter.

Shontelle said...

I'm with you Shelley. Done is better than perfect!

Sherri said...

So much great "food for thought" in this post...I completely agree with you! Great topic!

Julie in the Barn said...

Great post! I didn't read all the replies but you can put me in the category of people who are just pleased to get a quilt finished and usable. I've never had someone quilt my quilts for me. I just prefer to have my creations be my own completely, flaws and all. I'm never going to win any prizes for my quilting but then for me it's not a contest so I don't care about being perfect. If I paid someone to quilt for me I probably would expect decent workmanship but perfection??? No way.

James-Linda said...

LOVE THIS!
AS QUILTERS WE MUST REMEMBER THAT ONLY JESUS IS PERFECT AND WE ARE NOT. OUR QUILTS ARE TO BE DONE THE BEST THAT WE CAN AND THAT'S ALL!
THANK YOU FOR SHARING! -MACHINE+HAND QUILTING AWAY IN MONTANA,LOVE,LINDA

jldouglas@wwispwest.net

Sheila said...

Thank you....I was just about to sit down and struggle thru some machine quilting....I am very insecue about it....I appreciate your post. :)

Winona said...

Shelley, great post. I am a hand quilter for the most part. It takes a long time to get a quilt done. So I am just happy when the last binding stitch is in. (grin) I used to think my hand quilting wasn't good enough, but I do this for fun. If I have to stress over it, I lose the fun. Then what is the point? Now I do the best I can and am satisfied when a quilt is done. Winona

Quilt Hollow said...

Well done....well said....great post!!

Nancy Sue said...

I had to read this post twice Shelley. I like it a lot. Being a new quilter, it's a bit daunting. The "what if's" can be a bit stifling. "Are my stitches good enough for swaps, co-workers eyes, fellow church stitchers, and fellow quild members". Thank goodness I've met very generous quilters and bloggers who have put me at ease and encourage my newbie-ness with their kind words and nonjudgemental eye sight :) I'm saving your post and rereading it when I feel the need for a reality check. Thank you for the post!!
nsue21702 at gmail dot com

StitchinByTheLake said...

I am so loving this post! I have had to do some serious talking to myself about this very issue. Not about criticizing someone else's quilting but about criticizing my own! I am not a great piecer or quilter either one but I love the process and need to constantly remind myself that it's the process that's important to me. I saw a blog post recently too that was very critical about 2 tiny spots and I was sad that she needed that much perfection from someone else. blessings, marlene

Nanci said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for such a great post!
I have a friend who mainly hand quilted...25 yrs of it, belonged to guilds, perfection was the motto. Then I started quilting one year by mistakingly finding a quilting blog when looking for a knitting pattern.
I looked, I bought a 9 X 12 mat, a rotary cutter, two sheets from goodwill and made a single size triangle quilt....thought I'd died and gone to heaven...didn't even realize that there was such a thing as a large matt as that's the only one I saw in the store.
Now, after three years, I still have so much fun doing my quilts, my friend who has some arthritis in her hands has taught me so much and her saying to me is "You're not showing it at Paduccah...but you could!"
A great blog, and I'm now a follower.

Barb said...

I'm so with you
After 20 years of quilting, I'm all about enjoying it and yes, I get tired with the "perfection" expectation!

Sharon said...

Well said. If you want perfection, take your quilt to a quilter with a computer and stand over top of her while every stitch is going into your quilt. Really now..... I machine quilt for customers but I tell them, I do not SHOW QUILT. I have had an issue with one customer who thought my stitch in ditch "wasn't up to par". I told her she was being way too picky, she finally agreed, she was having a bad day. What's worse than "not perfect" quilting is all the unquilted tops hanging in peoples closets. No one can enjoy them. What a shame. p.s. I LOVE hand quilting even though I machine for others, it's so soothing and relaxing and I do it for me, no one else.

Jenn said...

you go, girl! glad you got all that off your chest! LOL! I agree wholeheartedly with you! Luckily I don't have any quilting friends outside of blogland so I don't have a lot of folks critiqueing my work outright, although I have taken my quillows to craft shows and the little old ladies come up and you can hear them quietly discussing that 'that's not REAL quilting' and other such things...It made me mad, but I've learned to live with folks and their peculiar picky ways! Glad you feel the way you do!

Regina said...

This is the exact reason why I prefer to quilt/sew for children. :)

The Quilted Finish ph 02 63310084 said...

Interesting post. I'm a machine quilter for hire and I know I take special care on my customer quilts. Another observation someone recently made after seeing a quilt show was how so many machine quilted quilts were quilted to death. This lady felt that machine quilting has gone mad in many cases overpowering the quilt design. I would have to say I have come across the same thing at the last 2 shows I went too. Any quilting should ENHANCE the quilt. Is this always the case?