Before I talk about my second nugget of advice we first have to talk about blankets and quilts.
I have heard many quilters get incensed when someone calls a gifted quilt a "blanket". I remember reading a blog post from a quilter who declared that she would never give a family member another quilt simply because the recipient referred to it as a blanket. Memes with the similar sentiments pop up on Facebook from time to time.
This is the quilt that my Great-Grandmother made for me when I was very young. She made quilts for all of her Grandchildren and Great-Grandchildren.
This quilt was on my bed every day from the time I received it (in the early 1960's) until I went to college. It was my blanket. It is the reason that I remember my Great-Grandmother as a quilter. Even worn and tattered I can't get rid of it. I think of her every time I see it. It's not a masterpiece but it's more special to me than any piece of art I own. I will, someday, think of some way to cut it up and make something from the remaining good parts. My brother continued to use his until it completely wore out. I had to put a new binding on it around 1999 and he finally had to give up on it about 5 years ago and start using a new quilt that Mom made for him.
To me quilts are precious but blankets are love. When I give quilts to people I tell them that my wish is that they use the quilt to death. I want them to need the blanket when they are sick, to nap on it with their pets and kids and I want the kids to drag their blankets around everywhere until their parents are sick of seeing it.
The cool thing about making blankets is that we also don't have to be precious about how we quilt them. Of course they need to be well constructed but they don't need quilt show quality quilting.
Practice on blankets, not practice fabric.
As quilters we are often afraid that we will "ruin" a quilt with our not-so-stellar quilting. Well, I have yet to meet a quilter that didn't have a stack of quilts meant to be gifts. Wouldn't it be better to quilt these and gift them so that some of them might eventually become blankets? It's a lot more fun to quilt a quilt than to practice over and over with muslin. No one is in a hurry to get to the machine to quilt a piece of muslin.
Several years ago I was finally ready to start learning to quilt feathers. A piece of muslin wasn't going to be enough. I needed a LOT of practice and a whole quilt was the best way. I found this one in my stash of tops, picked a blending thread and quilted feathers over the whole surface. The feathers were garbage at the beginning but by the end they looked much better. I didn't need a class, I needed practice.
This quilt is now owned by my youngest brother and it's his sofa blanket. He curls up with it to watch TV and nap in the winter. If you called him today he could not tell you how this quilt was quilted He likes it because of the colors and because it's soft and warm. Get the color right and make it soft and no one will even notice how you quilted it.
Practicing on quilts has 3 big benefits:
8/22/2017 10:36:32 am
Whenever I ship a quilt to someone and the shipping company - UPS or USPS - asks what it is I always call it a blanket. A quilt as the description could be more tempting for someone to swipe than a blanket.
8/22/2017 11:05:29 am
Thank you for sharing, as that used to bother me, but no more. I, too, want my quilts to be loved to death.
Tina in NJ
8/22/2017 12:50:52 pm
My first quilting book was Mary Ellen Hopkins' "It's Okay if You Sit on My Quilt Book." It's much easier to make a quilt to be used rather than entered in a show. And yet, when I gave my nephew is graduation quilt, he called it a blanket and I corrected him. To a certain extent, my own kids take their quilts for granted, but their cousins really appreciate their quilts. Probably because they don't get as many.
8/22/2017 03:57:50 pm
Altho the USPS knows my quilts as blankets, I admit that I prefer to call them quilts. And I want them to be used, not put away for "good." On the other hand, I do feel a bit squeamish when a dog is allowed to "dig" with its heavy claws on my newly finished/gifted quilt. sigh
8/22/2017 10:20:53 pm
Thanks for the reminder. I have a stack of quilts that are "not good enough" to give as gifts. I am thinking of them as a quilter, not as a recipient.
8/23/2017 08:43:52 am
I am very much enjoying this new series of posts! Kudos to you for writing these. Like you, the main goal for me is for a gifted quilt to be loved, used, enjoyed, and loved some more. Like others, I cringe when the family dog nests in a newly-presented quilt - but my solution is to simultaneously gift a gently-worn quilt specifically for the dog, which makes the owner doubly happy and keeps the dog out of trouble. I gave up debating terminology (quilt v blanket) a long time ago unless the new owner asks about and/or wants to know the difference. The "love" factor is more important to me.
8/23/2017 09:12:31 am
Well this might just be the best blog posting I've read yet! Profound, obvious, simple, direct ~ ~ and spot on. None of us are perfect and all of us practice on something. Most of us quilt because we love color and texture and fabric and geometry and thread and color ~ ~ and, I promise you, your children and grandchildren will think you're wonderful and talented and artistic regardless of the stitching. Kudos to you, Vicki!
So true! I tell quilt recipients that I want them 'loved to pieces', and when this one wears out they can have another one. So far, no one has worn one out. I made a baby quilt for a friend's newborn, and she wrapped it in tissue and put it in a drawer because it was 'too nice to use'. I finally told her that my feelings were hurt because she wouldn't use my gift, her response was to hang it on the wall. Sigh. At least it wasn't in a drawer anymore.
8/23/2017 09:53:06 am
I don't mind the term blanket if it is an endearing term. What I object to is when I tell someone I quilt or they see one of my quilts and they say, "Oh, you make blankets" and it is demeaning or less worthwhile term. Kind of like, "Oh, you make sandwiches," instead of "Oh, you are a chef and baker."
8/23/2017 06:45:46 pm
Doesn't matter if you are a long, short or hand quilter, everybody needs to practice, and scraps are fine to check the tension on a machine, but beyond that, I advise everyone to practice on a real quilt sandwich, which will then become useful regardless of what we call it.
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I'm Vicki Welsh and I've been making things as long as I can remember. I used to be a garment maker but transitioned to quilts about 20 years ago. Currently I'm into fabric dyeing, quilting, Zentangle, fabric postcards, fused glass and mosaic. I document my adventures here.