My Adventures in Quilting
A question was raised at my last guild meeting that lingered in my head. Am I a process quilter or a product quilter? I believe that this question is difficult to answer. We, as quilters, make quilts. This requires the process to result in a product. So, I debated in my head. *WARNING* What you are about to read is mostly a streaming conscious thought. Proceed with caution.
We all have UFO’s (unfinished objects) piled somewhere and even if you are in the middle of a project, it is by definition a UFO. We all have a stash which is fabric we have either bought for some purpose yet to be determined, leftover from a previous project, or gathered for a specific purpose we just haven’t gotten to yet. Even just purchasing/gathering fabric is part of the process of quilting. If we don’t enjoy the process, why would we do it. You could just go to a store or online and buy a quilt if all you wanted was to have the finished product. You can even get a quilt custom made to your specific colorways or designs. The process of quilting is everything that goes into the making a quilt up until the moment we put it out for use. My Aunt who got me in to quilting confessed that she has very few finished quilts because she just loves making the tops. But then, if the intent was just to make a top, is that the finished product? (Getting way too existential; back to what I was talking about.) Designing, prewashing fabric (if that’s what you’re into), cutting, piecing, basting, quilting (stitching the layers together), binding, washing it again, pressing… It is all part of the process.
There may be certain parts of the process we don’t like or lack the required skills and/or resources, which is why we have options to send tops out to be quilted. Although there have been several projects which I have considered having long-armed, I have not yet made the leap to it. The only reason is money Although I believe you can find a reasonable priced long-arm quilter, this is already an expensive hobby and I just can’t forbear the extra expense. If a quilter does not like to match fabric and cut it up, you can purchase precuts or kits. They are expertly matched and there are tons of designs out there that are “jelly roll friendly” or call for charm packs and layer cakes (don’t you just love the names these are given…yummy).
I rarely have only one project going at at time. Usually, I have 2 or 3. I might be working on a quilt and get an idea for a throw pillow. I might be planning on going to dinner with my husband and decide I need a new bag to go with it. I have gone to quilt shops to pick up fabric for one quilt and come home with fabric for 2 more. If you were to look at my design wall right now, you would see part of a quilted wall hanging, the front of a throw pillow, and the result of an experiment with some scraps. I have a dry erase board with sketches and measurements for a bag. On a bench, I have 2 boxes. One holding my WIP Wednesday project and one with a slow moving art quilt I am dreading working on (lots and lots of curves). So apparently, I am a process quilter…
As for product quilting, “trying to finish” something is a phrase I hear uttered often in my quilting circles. Getting the binding done on a quilt can be no small task. For those of us that just want to make something to get it done, there are small projects. Small projects allow for instant gratification. You can make a bag or place mats and go through the entire process rather quickly with a finished product at the end. I consider a small project to be something that can be made in an afternoon.
But what about the finished product? Once a quilt is bound, it is done. No longer a UFO. It is a product. I believe that this is the intent for most quilters, to have a product when all is said and done. Without a picture in our head of what the product will be, most if not all of the steps in the process become exponentially more difficult. The product is the end game. It’s the destination. I enjoy making quilts the most, but I also enjoy making smaller items like bags, table runners, pillows, and place mats because I do love that instant gratification that comes with starting something and having it finished in a few hours. It’s hard to limit myself to just quilts.
I love giving away quilts as gifts. I rarely keep finished quilts for myself, I mean, how many do I need, really. But I love seeing peoples faces when they receive one. Somewhere around last Halloween, I posted on Facebook that I was working on a new quilt as a Christmas gift for someone in the family, but I wouldn’t reveal who. The responses were basically “I hope it’s for me”.
That feeling that someone is excited to get something that I made with my own hands and out of my own head, that is why I do this. Whenever I finish the binding and fold the quilt up, I can hardly wait until I can see the recipient and give them this thing that I worked so diligently on. It is their happiness that keeps me going through the seam ripping, the mis-measuring, the running out of fabric, the needle breaking, oh, and sometimes the hand sewing (kidding, I don’t hand sew). The reason I started sewing when I was 6 was to give custom made gifts. So, apparently I am a product quilter…
So, now a decision must be made. Am I a process or product quilter. I hate leaving things unfinished, but even as I am working on one project, I am already anticipating my next. How I will piece it. How I will quilt it. Will I add a flange or a zipper. What will I do with it once it is finished. I feel incomplete when I don’t have a project in the works. I enjoy the process most of all. All of the process. Each and every step, including finishing the product and giving it away or showing it off. I like to take my finished table runner and photograph it in my dining room. I like the looks on the faces of the people as they unwrap their specially made gift. I like cuddling on my sofa with my dog under a quilt. I like all of these things. So now we have reached the end of our journey. Well, Denise, which is it?? The answer is both and neither. Why must we distinguish ourselves as one or the other? The fact is, we are who we want to be and we must enjoy what we do. I enjoy all of it. I love making. I love taking a bunch of stuff and making a thing. I love cutting, sewing, pressing, ripping (maybe not so much that part), basting, quilting, binding, pressing again, wrapping, gifting… I love it all. I am a quilter. And I love it.