I belong to two quilt guilds, a modern guild and a traditional one. They each offer different things. Recently the traditional guild asked me to speak about my quilting. There are so many accomplished quilters in the guild that I wondered why I was asked and program chair said something about how social media has had an impact on my practice. So, I turned my talk into a blog post. Here goes….
As a kid I learned to sew from my mom. She was a fabulous seamstress… not just dresses for us, but think of coats and evening gowns. Although she could knit and crochet, she didn’t much. I guess living in South Texas didn’t lend itself to knitting in wool. But she had this little Coats and Clark pamphlet with great drawings and I taught myself to knit and crochet and that launched my knitting career with my first sweater being a fisherman knit.
One summer while home from college, mucking around the basement with my mom we came upon an old quilt of hers that her mom had made. It was a Sunbonnet Sue and the top was separated from the wool batting that needed to be carded before it was sandwiched again and requilted.
I made a pattern from the block and that started my first quilt with the Sue fabrics coming from scraps from garments and curtains that had been made by my mom, sister and I. This quilt took its time being born as it was appliqued when I was in college, the blocks pieced together sometime in grad school and then hand quilted and bound during my first and second teaching positions. All fabric either cut with scissors or ripped on grain. Do you remember pulling a thread so that you could rip or cut straight on grain?
Fast forward 20 years or so. Life changed, I was working full time, became a mother and I made the occasional baby quilt, but not much more until I moved back to MoCo. This baby quilt was for a special someone. Can you tell it was 80s colors?
And then Capital Quilts opened near me.
They had a Saturday Sampler program, once a month, pay a buck or two, sit for an hour hearing about block construction, and you got the fabric and pattern to make the block and bring it back next month. I learned a lot from them… about pressing seams, precision in cutting and sewing. Next thing I knew, I wanted more… to have sewing buddies…
So I promised myself that once my daughter went off to college I would join a guild. I was working full time and so I couldn’t join Needlechasers or Nimble Fingers. I found Friendship Star and went to one meeting, but it was at night and too late and too many people. And that is when I found it…the internet! Of course I knew about the internet before, but I found the quilters, on blogs.
School wanted teachers to learn about this new resource and what better way to teach about blogs than to guide us through setting up and running our own blog and that is how this blog was born. Tink is knit backwards and since I was known for unknitting, that’s how I came up with the name. And I found the modern quilters, solids and bright colors, monochromatic prints! And the most amazing thing was that people would design quilts and then offer up their patterns for free and do a sew-along! Around this time I found a group of modern quilters that occasionally met in DC, and on a weekend, perfect for me! And this thing called flickr, a photo sharing site. Between blogs and flickr a whole new world opened up.
My first Quiltalong was the paint box quilt, made in 2010, the pattern by Elizabeth Hartman at Oh Fransonn! You might know of Elizabeth Hartman from her current pieced animal quilts, but this is how she began. This started my fondness of solids. This quilt was made primarily from a jelly roll of Kaffe Fasset prints and a Kona solids jelly roll and was probably the first time that I had ordered fabrics online.
I followed her instructions for the back of the quilt also. It was very clever how bits from the front were used for the back. Once this quilt was submitted for a show and they wanted to display the back, not the front!
It also was the first time that I thought of the back of a quilt as an opportunity rather than a necessity.
My second quilt along, the Supernova in 2011, was with Lee Heinrich of Freshly Pieced.
On flickr I was intrigued by bees. You make blocks for other people and they make blocks for you. Simple, right?
My first bee was the red and aqua bee. I wasn’t so sure that I loved red and aqua, but it turns out I do.
The Piece Bee with You Bee in 2012 was probably the smoothest bee that I have been in and the one that I learned the most from. There were 12 of us and each month one person got to ask for a paper pieced block of a certain theme. Geographically we ranged from mainland US, Hawaii, Australia and the UK. Here are some of my favorite blocks that I made for it. One person asked for something of mid-century modern design. That made me think of things from when I grew up and my mom had this big coffee urn that is classic mid-century design. Yes, I know it is a bit wonky. This is before there were so many paper pieced patterns available online. My ability to design a paper pieced block did get better.
One of my fav blocks from this be when someone wanted to make a comfort quilt for when one of her kids was sick. I asked my daughter what she would want and she said the remote, so there’s that.
And I asked for sea creatures. Here is my Under the Sea quilt which is waiting to be quilted.
Many bees are for a few months or up to a year, but the Quilt Around the World II bee was almost two years long. There were 24 of us, spread out in a circuit around the globe. You make your initial block and make your request of theme or colors and then send your block to the next person, who makes a block for you following your “rules” and then sends both blocks on to the next person. And so on. And so on.
I started with this block with the Tula Pink frog.
From my house it traveled up the east coast, flew over the Atlantic to the UK, stopped in Europe, jumped over to a few stops in Australia, over the Pacific to the west coast of the US and a few more hops on its way back to me. Here are the blocks that I received to coordinate with my frog block.
Some block requests were design and color palette dependent such as HSTs in golds. Others were about landmarks in your neighborhood and or state or national flower. I learned a bit about chooseing a good block or theme for bees as some work better than others.
Bees can be another formats. In the 3 by 6 Bee members were divided into groups of 6 and within 3 months you make the same block but one each in the preferred colors of each of the members. I made my Serious block.
And, bees can be within a guild. For my red X plus quilt I sent out the red fabric for the center of the block.
Or it can be a charity bee. do.Good.Stitches is a set of charity bees world wide. It works like a regular bee but each circle makes quilts for a different cause. I am the leader of Serenity Circle and we make quilts that go to hospice patients and then to their families.
A note about skill level. My skills definitely improved over time. And people online in general are very helpful with tips and tricks, even opinions on color and what to do if, or pointing to resources. I think we raise each other up. The quality of some of the work out there is amazing.
Flickr was good for photo sharing, but when smart phones with good cameras were available, all of a sudden many of the quilters migrated over to Instagram. You could take a snap and ask a question and within minutes have comments. I resisted for a while, but finally joined in2014.
Also online were swaps. Back in 2010 I participated in my first swap – the Pretty Little Pouch Swap. This was probably before Noodlehead came out with the open wide pouch, and I was pretty much winging it.
And this is what I received. I still love this pouch and I am still in touch with Nicki who made it for me.
Many swaps are blind swaps – I make for someone and a totally separate person makes for me. In this case, Jennie in the UK made me one of my favorite things, this fab sewing machine cover…
For the same swap I made this pillow cover for someone in Australia. This pillow cover had a lot of firsts for me… curved piecing, big stitch quilting, embroidery and inserting a zip in a pillow cover.
Did you know that sometimes even guilds swap? DC Modern organized a swap with Ottawa modern. This was a person to person swap. I made for Leslie and she made for me. Leslie was very involved with Canada’s 150th anniversary celebration and the logo for that celebration was a variation of the maple leaf.
What I received in return was so very personal… a mini quilt about a run that I wrote about on my blog. An early morning run on the Mall downtown.
Why join bees and swaps? It is fun – you have surprises – you make new friends – it makes you try something new and make something that you might not have made for yourself. Are there pitfalls? Of course. There are times that other people don’t follow through, called flaking or ghosting. Sometimes you are disappointed with what you receive. Overall, however I have gotten more good/great stuff than not. Some groups are better organized than others. Some are organized by skill level and the organizer needs to look at your feed before accepted. And some moderators keep a naughty list… you can guess what that is.
There are some things that I have given away that I really wished that I could keep, this woodpecker for instance that I made for the QuiltCon swap in 2019.
Do I swap as often nowadays, no, but I do like to be inspired by people and I do love challenge.
I like to push myself a bit, so I also test patterns for designers. You check for typos etc but also for clarity of instructions and other details. If I find fault with a pattern, I always wonder if it had been sufficiently tested by other sewists.
For this paper-pieced light bulb I suggested that the designer increased the amount of fabric suggested. I even showed her all of the little bits that I had left after starting with the suggested amount.
For the Chevin quilt I commented on how the instructions were written about makoing the curves. I like that it gave me an opportunity to use some of my large scale prints.
What started me testing was when I tested a technique for Sherri Lynn Wood when she was writing her book on improv quiting. The quilt that I made did not make it into her book, but it did make it into the Modern Quilt Guild exhibit at the Texas Quilt Museum. That was in 2016. Here is a pic from the Museum’s blog post. I bet you can tell which quilt is mine, as the other one is pretty clearly Maria Shell’s. Hey, my quilt was in very good company. If you don’t know Maria’s work, mine is the one on the bottom.
Ready for a new challenge, in 2018 I joined the Mighty Lucky Quilt Club run by Lucky Spool. It was a year long mystery quilt program in which 6 prominent quilters guided you through the quilt. You started by selecting a color palette. I used this Design Seeds photo for my color inspiration.
The quilt was blocked in different sections and I needed to decide which colors would be dominant in each section. I got out the colored pencils and tried a few variations, ultimately deciding to use the combo on the lower right.
And here is the final quilt top, waiting for me to be confident enough in my free motion quilting skills to not mess it up!
Last year Alison Glass ran a six month program centered on different types of hand stitching. Each month was based on a type of stitching and you received a beautiful digital journal about it and sample projects. I liked being able to see on Instagram the projects that others were making and draw inspiration from them. Here are. my six projects.
And finally… having that quilt in the TX Quilt Museum show made me think, maybe I could actually exhibit some of my quilts. So I entered some quilts in QuiltCon.
In 2019 MCM – I was playing really, but just in two colors
In 2020 Farewell to Fox Island. These are batiks were part of a fabric challenge.
In 2021 – T E N To commemorate DCMQG’s tenth anniversary we had a challenge around the theme of 10. I played with the letters and originally was going to work with the concept of transparency, but as I worked/played, I recalled experimenting with overlapping colors of light and went in that direction.
So, why sew with other people and interact online? Because it is fun, you meet new people who aren’t just like yourself, you are exposed to new ideas, and improve your skills. Because you can.