My Struggles and Insecurities With Quilting
Last time I posted here on my blog, I mentioned all the sewing and craft projects I worked on in September. Last month, I also began to try my hand at sewing myself a quilt. The problem is I hate quilting. Except English paper piecing. But other than that, I hate quilting.
I had a love/hate relationship with quilting. I love quilts. I love the way they look and the workmanship that goes into it. I also love using them regularly on my bed. The problem is I can’t sew them. I picked quilting up, or tried picking quilting up, over ten years ago. I’m very proud of my first quilt, but it was imperfect. Seams didn’t line up. The binding didn’t look good. It had problems with the stitches coming apart. Despite this, I was so proud of myself, how I made it myself without any help from anyone, and how it doesn’t look super bad for a first try.
Even though I loved my quilt, I had a problem. My mother was an extremely good and experienced quilter who never taught me how to quilt. She didn’t guide me through my first quilt and I had to teach myself how to quilt based off memories of watching her make her quilts as well as quilting shows. Although I asked her to teach me how to quilt, she never did. So, when I was in my late teens and had my own money to buy everything I needed to make myself a quilt, I did and proceeded without her.
Doing this hurt me very badly. I knew she didn’t want to teach me quilting, but I didn’t realize until I made my first quilt she didn’t teach me other things as well. It was painful to know that people, especially fellow quilters she mingled with, would praise her for teaching me how to quilt, criticize me for not following her instructions on how to make my quilt pieces match, and, when I would correct them on who actually taught me how to quilt, they would chastise me for making my mother look bad to other people.
The saddest part of this story is that I never learned how to fix my mistakes from my first quilt. To this day I can still see the mistakes from my first quilt in each an every other quilt I made since. My mother, whom I had a rapidly deteriorating relationship with for reasons besides not teaching me how to quilt, soon lost her quilt friends because of her treatment of them and some began to sympathize with me and the way she treated me. They never asked me for forgiveness or even considered I would still like to learn how to quilt. The whole entire experience gave me a sour taste in my mouth about the quilting community, which is a completely unfair view of quilters and the quilting community. Still, for this group of quilters, I made a point to stay away from them and avoid them and the places they shopped at at all cost.
For years I didn’t quilt. Sure I enjoyed quilting, but I also hated it. Remembering how arrogant and narrow minded my mother’s quilting friends and my mother’s desire to exclude me from a hobby that she loved and I wanted to enjoy with her made quilting impossible. I would by some fabric, and it would sit in an unwashed pile for years because I couldn’t bring myself to start quilting again. I would bring back old, painful memories and would make me wish I never had the drive to pick up quilting in the first place. I also knew my quilts wouldn’t be very good because of the fact nobody taught me. So, like one of my mother’s quilting friends told me after seeing my first quilt, I was just wasting perfectly good fabric.
I avoided quilting until last year, when I picked it up again to make a relative a stand-in quilt for his bed. I had to make it in a hurry, so I knew it would never be perfect, but I hoped in it’s imperfections it would still look good. After I finished it, I realized it did look good. Sure, it looked sloppy and the border was extremely crude, but hey. It held together. And it wasn’t a bad job for less than two week’s worth of work. And, like what happened ten years prior, my relative hated it. It wasn’t perfect enough to make him happy and he wanted the quilts my mother used to make but never taught me how to do. So I took it home and used it myself.
But that whole entire experience made me realize something. Quilting, like all other crafts and art, comes from the heart. To receive a rejection of your hand crafted item that you not only paid lots of money for supplies for, but also paid for it’s creation in time out of your life is painful. And to know that there was someone who could teach you how to create something beautifully but won’t because of reasons unknown is even more painful. But that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world.
I stashed my first quilt way for memory’s sake and I use my most recent quilt because it’s a full functional quilt. I plan on undoing the binding one day because I know I can do better. As for my relative, he cannot ask my mother to make him a quilt because she passed away a few years ago, taking her sewing and quilting knowledge with her. I did not give up on quilting. My group of friends loves to quilt and we talk all the time about quilting, problems with it, what fabric looks good with what designs, and so much more. They’re open to talking about their quilts and sharing their knowledge with anyone, no matter if it is someone who had a mother that knew had to quilt but never learned or a random stranger in the fabric department at Walmart.
They taught me that not all quilters are arrogant or elitist in their skills or everyday life. Some are extremely kind, helpful, and just use it as a hobby to unwind after a long work week. They may enter quilt competitions, but if loose it’s not the end of the world. And it’s ok to make mistakes. It’s a part of learning.
Spending time with my new friends gave me the confidence to start quilting again, but this time a different type of quilting that I can do very well. After a lot of research, I learned about English paper piecing and gave it a try. Much to my surprise, I not only could do it, I did it well. So well it became the dominant quilting style I do. Unfortunately, after years of not making a quilt (I was too busy to work on anything!) I’m out of practice, but I’m trying to get back into the swing of it!
Last month, while preparing old scraps of fabric to become a part of a new English paper piecing quilt, I remembered all my fears starting quilts because of the flashbacks of the way my mother and her friends treated me. That was when I also remembered how I now have a group of sewing friends that love to spend time with me and are extremely curious about English paper piecing. They borrow my books and are trying to learn how to create their first project using it. And, inspired by their traditional style of quilting, I’m experimenting with transitioning my knowledge and skill of English paper piecing into their style of quilting.
The difference between my group of quilting friends and my mother’s are like night and day to me. I try to not be like my mother in holding back knowledge others want to learn but instead share it with others if they want it. (This is also why I started my blog and YouTube channel!) I don’t mind making mistakes, but I do mind misleading others by telling them something is a fact when in truth it is not and I didn’t know it. So, it’s hard for me to talk about sewing, especially quilting.
But I plan on talking more openly about English paper piecing and my experiments with it. I also plan on talking more about my quilts and what mistakes I made and how I plan on fixing them. (If I know how to fix them at all!) I may still feel insecure about quilting and my skill level, but that doesn’t mean I still feel uncomfortable talking about them. Plus, I’ve got a great support group of quilters that are willing to look at my quilts and say “Um, I think you did something wrong” and then explain how to fix them.
Well, that’s all for now! Thank you for reading!