Quilt School

(Lessons Learned)




My life these past few years has been a never-ending series of classes in the art of quilting. I did not intend to go back to school, but back to school I went. My Darling Wife Joan had become a quilter. As she learned how to quilt, I learned some of life's most important lessons which led me to understand quilting and how to survive as a quilter's husband. What have I learned? Ah, the well-known and the little-known. The obvious and the secret. I learned the simple and the profound. And today, right now, at this moment, I am finishing one of my exams, for there are always exams in school, quizzes and tests and final examinations. So, here a few "facts" about quilting.

There are several kinds of quilts: postage stamp quilts; lap quilts, quilts to hang on a wall, wearable quilts, bed quilts, and expensive quilts. Extra credit: There really aren't any cheap quilts in our house. We just like to believe all the fabric was bought at a bargain, that needles last forever, that rotary cutter blades never wear out, that you can use any rags you find in the house or even in the trash for batting, that if you are patient enough you can unravel thread from old clothes to use again in a quilt.

Quilters help the environment by recycling perfectly good fabric that has been transformed from large pieces into small pieces then back again into larger pieces.

You can stuff turkeys, sausage, pasta, and a sandwich made up of a quilt top and a quilt bottom. The stuffing for quilts is called batting. Do not try to eat this. It doesn't taste as good as stuffed olives.

If you can not readily distinguish colors, you can still make a quilt, though people might not appreciate a blue polar bear, a green chicken, or a striped whale. On the other hand, some people might find them beautiful.

If you have never made a certain type of quilt before, and you make it, it may turn out good or bad. If it is bad, tell people it was an experiment. You can tell people who frown at any quilt you make that it was an experiment.

Every quilter has unfinished quilts. People who have these UFOs or WIPs or other incomplete quilts are called quitters. Telling members of your quilting guild that you will get back to it eventually will assure your receiving understanding from some of your close friends--or counseling if there is a therapist in the room.

Don't say "Tsk, tsk, tsk," when someone asks you what you think of her quilt. Be kind. Say, "Is it finished?" If that someone is a male quilter, don't say, "Have you ever thought of carpentry?" Instead, say, "There are lots of male quilters."

It used to be believed that in the summer a woman wore white gloves and in the winter, black. If you see a number of women wearing white gloves at a quilt show in the winter, don't tell them they're out of fashion. In fact, don't say anything.

Practice does make perfect, but not always.

To be a successful quilter, you should buy the best fabrics you can afford. Even if you can't afford the best, buy it. Your children would rather inherit quilts than money anyway.

A log cabin quilt doesn't look like a log cabin.

To satisfactorily appliqué anything to anything, don't use staples.

Properly applied, fusible batting can adhere to quilt tops, quilt bottoms, and every hair on the human body.

A walking foot doesn't have anything to do with strolling down the street. It has to do with quilting. I don't know why.

It is easier to thread a camel through the eye of a needle than it is to push a queen size quilt under the arm of a sewing machine.

Many quilters, following an Amish custom, deliberately leave a flaw in their quilt to show humility. Sometimes, it's best to cover one's ears when one's spouse is more humble than she ever planned to be.

If a quilt shop has a "Half Off" sale on any one item in the store, it's not wise to ask if that applies to the store itself.

Someone should invent body armor for quilters going to a quilt sale. An ambulance on hand wouldn't be a bad idea either.

Some colors complement each other. Some colors do not. Knowing the difference can save a quilt and a marriage.

When someone does redwork and uses green throughout the quilt, it might just be another experiment.

Everything that has to with quilting is called a quilt. That is why people can quilt bed quilts, lap quilts, wall hangings, wearable clothing, tablecloths, pot holders, wash rags, teapot cozies, drapes, bed sheets, underwear, and other items that may containing quilting. Therefore, when you tell someone you made a quilt, be sure to be exact and simple. For example, say, "I made a foundation-pieced crib size quilt using pre-washed solid-color fabric in the Amish style with added snowballs and flying geese with puce batik borders all held together by close stippling over appliqués of hummingbirds with hand-embroidered French knots for eyes and hand-sewn binding. Don't overdo your description with details.

If a person does ask you what kind of quilt you are quilting, large, medium or small, admit that you won't know until it's finished even if you think you know. You might get carried away.

Regardless of what plans you have for a quilt, it's worthwhile to expect it to come out differently.

Only an beginning quilter can believe that patterns never have mistakes in them. If a pattern does have a mistake in it, expect to find it only after you have finished the part with the mistake.

Every quilter has a soul and free will. An iron has a sole made of Teflon or stainless steel.

If you make a mistake and ruin a quilt, put it under your pillow at night before you go to sleep. When you wake up it will still be there, mistake and all. Quilters don't believe in the quilt fairy.

If you start a lot of quilts but only finish the tops, tell people that you specialize only in tops, that you are still looking for the right batting, or that you can't decide between stitch-in-the ditch, stippling, or meandering stitching for the finished quilt.

If a quilt pattern calls for three yards of fabric, you will only have two yards and sixty-three sixty-fourths of a yard in your stash. When you go to order more, you will find out the fabric had been discontinued two years before and there is no more of that fabric anywhere on earth.

There are many lessons left to learn no doubt, but so far quilt school has improved the quality of my life. Without these lessons, I would never have been able to understand how hanging quilts on all the walls in the house, including the walls inside the closets, strengthens my character; nor would I have known how giving quilts as gifts is no more expensive than buying a new car for a friend or relative or charitable organization. I would not have known that it's perfectly normal to have bolts of fabric in the closet instead of clothes or food. If not for quilt school, how would I have learned not to put my underwear in the same wash as new fabric and wind up with pink shorts.

Homework for tomorrow: Learn the difference between patchwork and quilting and describe how either relates to a patchwork quilt. They do, don't they?


Copyright 2004 by A.B. Silver


Back to Home Page  *  Top of Page

E-mail Popser if you'd like.