So I’ve been thinking about some quilterly things. And I realized I never really told you about how I learned to quilt. Sure if you’ve heard my lecture or have read my other blog for any period of time you’ve read part of the journey or watched it unfold. However if you’re new to my blog, haven’t had me yet come to your guild or know me in person it’s highly unlikely that you’d know.
First you need to know that probably until the last few years I have a tendency to be a fairly tightly wound, follow the rules kind of gal. Rules are good. They are meant to be followed and when you follow them all is right in the world. When I was coming into the Church (as a revert) a way back when, the guy walking us through the process told me I was so uptight. He was right. It would take me another 20 years to loosen up a bit. I’ve always wanted to be footloose and care free.
Truth be told, I still like rules. They’re kind of comforting. They give guidance and direction. Sometimes, however, they are restricting in a way that is not good. That, rather than giving us a positive structure to work in they confine, and stunt our growth.
Okay, so. Short story: love to hand quilt; think it’s the only way a quilt can be a quilt start to hand quilt one for my husband and me. We have a big move, no real quilting for about a year or so, and want this several year quilt on my bed. Go to local shop for some guidance and direction. God it. The quilting is pretty awful and I’m happy to point it out to all the new quilters in the room when I teach or speak. Quilt is finished.
I join a guild, I begin to see new, machine quilted things and am inspired. Between the quilts and guild member sharing what she was learning in a class at a quilt shop a bit further away, I started quilting. It was pretty awful. But I was learning. Part of this experience includes pedal to the metal stitching, getting hit in the head with the thread uptake on more than one occasion, were tension problems, thread breaks, lint in the machine, not enough oil, needles knocking because the tips were bent. Using cheap, icky thread.
After I took a class something changed. I understood the machine better, what needles to use and thread and something occurred to me after class about how to practice. It was a combo really of some amazing border prints (Jinny Beyer) and Linda M Pooles Color Fixes. Oh did my brain go into creative overdrive. I practiced whenever I had a chance. I’d cut fat quarters or 10/12″ squares and stitch. Fat quarters are particularly cool because tote bags and back packs. I made a lot of them, I still make them. Except now I make them out of suede.
I put hours in at the machine, I watched episodes of The Quilt Show featuring machine quilting tips. I read blogs and participated in message boards. The coolest thing is being able to explain tension, something that eluded me for years, and have the quilters understand what I’m getting across. Recognizing that not all tension problems are problems with the tension of the machine. Sometimes looks are deceiving.
I say all of this to let you know that this journey, my journey, getting here in my quilting wasn’t easy. I say this to let you know that I Still Practice machine quilting. I don’t take for granted that I know what I’m doing. There is still so much to learn! There are new machines and new stitching motifs and new threads and colors to play with. Just for the sake of teaching I want to learn how to use a longarm.
Sometimes when you ask God for insight when it happens there’s a moment when, “I could have had a V8!”, facepalm happens. Quite frankly where the insight came from was not unexpected. I’ve shared on more than one occasion that I’ve been reading the Ragamuffin Gospel. Brennan speaks honestly and of mercy and grace and peace. In the latest chapter he speaks of freedom. And I nearly started crying, there was a lot going on that day. I was tired and frustrated. But that moment reading, you know those moments when God speaks and you’re available to listen and things change.
I got to thinking about quilting and freedom. I got to thinking about the rules of quilting. I got to thinking about how those rules should be applied and when. I got to thinking about how we can get so wrapped up in following the rules that quilting loses its great creative pleasure. I got to thinking about how I teach and why, particularly in the more advanced classes people freak out and how I need to change what I’m doing to give more freedom in a framework so that there is a level of comfort and room to explore on your own. I thought about the one thing I want to convey, and need to find a different way to it: find joy in quilting making, feel free to explore quilting in a way that gives you great joy. For me it is free-motion machine quilting. I can not tell you what great joy it gives me to just sit at my machine and quilt. I love to practice machine quilting. I love to teach machine quilting. There is no greater joy in my quilting life than to watch a students face when they “get it” or more to the point, get into free motion so that they forget what’s going on around them and just quilt without fear or reservation. They forget the “rules” and just quilt.
The rules in machine quilting have to do with the mechanics: machine, tension, needles, thread, fabric…that stuff. (Quilt shows are another story for another day) Beyond that there is a whole world to explore. I love the long term relationships that I have with some of my students watching them grow and give over to being free.
In a life lived in Christ there is great freedom. Freedom to become who we are meant to be in God, as a well loved child. We are free to experience great joy and delight in life. We are free to be a quilter or accountant, a sales person or the person who takes care of the facilities or a housewife and mom or, or, or. In quilting we’re free to pursue the things that we love with reckless abandon. And one day, this quilter will figure out how to teach that well.
To all of my American friends, may this Independence Day remind us of our God-given Freedoms.