Free Motion Friday — Art Vs. The Rest of the World



Happy Friday Peeps. Those of you who read my Sappy QuiltCon Post.. thanks for sticking with me and coming back today… things are still a little sappy, but getting back to normal.

Speaking of getting back to normal… we aren’t quite there yet. Getting back to work after a week away, plus general exhaustion has meant we aren’t quite back to normal on the blog today… I didn’t do any drawings for you, but we should be back to that next week.

THIS WEEK I have been thinking a lot about a conversation I had at QuiltCon. About whether insisting that anyone can quilt (and by quilt I mean free motion or whatever type of quilting you do on your patchwork top) takes away from the artistry that is really good quilting, particularly in modern quilting.

The argument is that great quilting can really put a quilt over the top and look great. However, at QuiltCon, there were really only a few quilts with skilled free motion. (There were plenty of awesome straight line & matchstick quilted quilts, which look crazy awesome, but aren’t quite what I’m talking about here). There were some crazy awesome ones, but (and please don’t hate me for saying this) in general I was disappointed by the quilting. My favourite part of quilt shows is looking at the quilting and getting new ideas and being inspired, which just didn’t happen for me at quilt con. In fact, I found the quilting on many quilts, including some of the category winning quilts to take away from the quilt and not add to it.

So, our discussion was that perhaps the reason for this was that the mantra of “finished is better than perfect” along with many instructors insistence that anyone can quilt, and you should just try, and practice, and the skills will come, diminishes the skills of those who actually do great quilting. That if everyone thinks they can quilt, than no one thinks its special.

And I’m not going to lie– this may all be true. I love free motion quilting, and was disappointed I didn’t see more of it at QuiltCon, and maybe this is the reason.

But, I just don’t care. I still think that anyone can quilt, and that finished is better than perfect. Which, maybe as a longarm quilter who really would like people to pay to have her quilt their quilts I shouldn’t think, but I do.

Perhaps I’m a bit jaded by the fact that for me, quilting has always been a business. I grew up in a quilt store, I have a business degree, and now I work in a quilt store, and so for me, quilting has always been about getting more people to quilt. And getting more people to quilt means making quilting more accessible. Which means that I have to believe that anyone can quilt — otherwise I’d never sell any fabric, sewing machines, thread… Plus, I started Free Motion Quilting when I was 14… so if I could do it at 14 (terribly mind you, stitches big enough not just to fit one finger under, but two full fingers) anyone can do it as an adult.

So I might be kind of a jerk, walking around the QuiltCon show floor looking at quilts and thinking “really, that one got in and the beautiful one I quilted didn’t? I quilted better than that at 16″… I still think that is no reason for anyone not to try. Free motion is so fun, so go for it. While I’d love to see more high-quality quilting at QuiltCon, there are plenty of shows that have great quilting, so I’ll get over it. I feel like a lot of my blog, especially my Free Motion Friday posts,  are about making quilting accessible, while still maintaining artistry. Anyone can quilt, and I just like to help you along with how to make it look as great as your quilt top deserves.

So that’s my rant for the day. Perhaps back to normal next week.

Until then, later days,


14 responses to “Free Motion Friday — Art Vs. The Rest of the World

  1. I agree with your rant, Kathleen! I just haven’t been quite as open about saying so because I didn’t want to appear petty for not winning any ribbons myself. However, I completely agree that it seems the judges were looking for “dumbed down” quilting, and that anyone who quilted elaborately was penalized. I’m doing my own blog post about this, and linking back to yours. I hope that’s okay! Also, have you noticed how many quilts in the show used mostly solids? I hadn’t noticed until comments came up on IG. All those collections of gorgeous prints, and how many were seen in quilts displayed at QuiltCon?! Just some more things to ponder… and perhaps rant about. I hear ya, girlfriend!

  2. I get the impression that a lot of people think that modern=simple. And while that certainly can be true, it isn’t always. What it comes down to is that it’s a juried show and judges are people who pick based on what they think and what they like. I’d really love to see a modern wholecloth with really interesting quilting win a ribbon next year.

  3. I love the mantra of finished is better than perfect, and I love teachers who help make longarm quilting accessible to everyone. However, there is a difference between everyone doing it and finishing their own quilts and then quilting that is ribbon-worthy status. Anyone CAN quilt and will get better with practice, but that doesn’t mean everyone is going to have the natural talent and put in the time and dedication to become ribbon worthy. There are so many amazing modern longarm quilters out there, and it saddens me that you (being one of them) and others feel that quilts with heavy/intricate quilting were penalized or not appreciated.

    It’s also interesting to note that the Modern Quilt Guild when first created – their mission statement or about us verbiage specifically referred to quilting/finishing your own quilts on your domestic machine. They have since removed that, but I think that is the direction they are coming from and maybe this is a carry over of that perspective.

  4. Amazing quilting Wasn’t valued in this instance because not everyone can do it. In actual fact I think it’s a small amount of natural talent and a lot of practice. I think this is the same reason that excessive/amazing quilting isn’t considered by many to be part of modern quilting. I’m trying to keep my potty mouth in check here, but it’s very frustrating.

  5. I wasn’t at Quilt Con but I totally agree with the idea of what you are saying! Quilt trends seem to come and go, which is why I’ve never been interested in competition quilting, and the current trend is not FMQ but just simple lines and crap, which, don’t get me wrong, look fine on many quilts. I am no preofessional, but I quilt well enough to quilt my own quilts for friends and family and that’s good enough for me. I ovne designs that enhance a quilt and I love the straight lines as well (though I HATE doing them!).

  6. I agree! I was actually chatting with another friend about this, and she mentioned that most of the winning quilts were straight-line quilted. (I didn’t keep track, so I’ll take her word for it.)
    I love straight lines, I really do. And matchstick quilting, WOW. But I would have liked to have seen more free motion as well. I think that some people believe that straight lines are the only way to quilt “modern”. I’m not saying those are the judges’ thoughts, but I’ve heard it from others (including my own sister, who doesn’t quilt, but is damn picky about anything I make for her!).
    Straight line quilting has its place, but in some cases I think it makes the piecing look too flat.
    As for my friend’s comment about the winning quilts being mostly straight line, I have a bit of a theory. 😉 I saw a few really fun quilts that were long armed by the amazing Angela. I can spot her quilting so easily, but maybe that’s because I love her work so much. Anyway, I wonder if the judges spotted it too (yes, labels are covered, but her work is so distinct), and subconsciously (or consciously?) tried to award others?
    Or perhaps the judges put a lot more emphasis on workmanship this year, and straight lines are the easiest way quilt “well”? Or the quilters felt that they wanted to show their best skills, and they weren’t confident in their free motion for a show?
    I think we’ll see the winning quilts in the modern shows evolve as time goes on. 2 years ago I felt that design was weighed far more heavily than workmanship; this time around I felt there was a better balance. I guess we can’t compare the QuiltCon show to something like Festival, because Festival is full of pros. But I’m excited to see the modern world continue to evolve!
    I love quilting for others, but I also think anyone *can* quilt. As someone said above, it’s a bit of talent and a lot of practice. I like seeing work in a show done by the “average” quilter (as opposed to the pros). There are several free motion/long arm quilters who have come out with really inspiring books lately, so maybe more people will take the leap to free motion! (And the rest can hire us to do it. HA!)
    And now I’m done rambling. 😉

    • My mom and I were talking today, and she thinks the biggest prize is the Viewers choice award is the best, and most important prize, because that’s what all the people in the show liked best, not just the three people judging. And you quilted that thing crazy amazing, so the general public must like quilts with more than just straight lines, so it’s interesting that few of the winning quilts had this.

  7. Because so many modern quilts are linear and use solid fabrics, straight line quilting (although boring) does compliment them. That doesn’t mean freehand quilting isn’t appropriate, only that you do have to think a bit more about the total design using freehand designs. If you haven’t done a lot of quilting, it’s probably easier to use what you know will work. I agree that the majority of modern quilts are pretty boring when it comes to quilting. Time and practice can change that. As the modern quilt movement progresses, you will probably see more creativity in the quilting designs.

  8. Pingback: Art Vs. The Rest of the World Follow Up | Kathleen Quilts·

  9. I agree with both anyone can quilt and finished is better than done. I don’t consider myself a modern quilter. In fact I just like the label “quilter” if I have to have one. I make what appeals to me, or sometimes for charities, I make from what I’m given. I had a longarm business for 10 years, and some of my quilting won prizes for the people who sent them to me, and some didn’t. I think the quilting is just like the making of the tops. Anyone can, and anyone can do it skillfully, with practice and good techniques. There’s still something that separates someone like Marilyn Badger from someone like me, and me from someone who does every quilt the same way. We can call it art or call it talent or call it inspiration, or call it a lot of other things. The fact is, we aren’t all equally proficient or talented, even though we are all capable of good quilting.

    I know in looking at your quilting, I think, “I could never do that,” but I also found my fingers itching for a longarm again to try something that yours created in my mind that wouldn’t look at all like what you did. =) You keep telling people that anyone can, because that’s the truth!

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