Sunday, 15 October 2006

types and competition

A group of us got together last night and went to a ceilidh that a local social group organises once a year as a fundraiser. In between dances I got chatting with a friend's sister-in-law who (whom?) I hadn't met before. It turned out that she was also a librarian who quilts (no knitting though - more on that in a minute). She suspected I was librarian before that actually came out in the conversation because I happened to quantify my fabric stash by the number of archive boxes it took up. Damned by my own vocabulary!
I found my conversation with her remarkable for two reasons.

Reason 1. She asked me a question that I'm coming to realise is one which most quilters seem to ask of another. "What sort of quilts do you make?" I find this question as impossible to answer as "What sort of man do you go for?" I make quilts for so many different reasons, purposes, people and occasions. So the designs and styles vary. I don't make the same types of quilts all the time. I'm always finding new ideas from magazines and books. The inspirations are all different and I don't know that I could narrow them down to a type. Perhaps it would be easier to define them by what they're not. Generally I'm not drawn to "naive" or "country" style quilts. I find them a bit too twee for my tastes. I don't do "art" quilts. I find a lot of these quilts spectacular, but my artistic abilities (or lack thereof - I'm really crap at drawing) don't lend themselves to this sort of work.
Perhaps my style boils down to this. When I make quilts for other people, I find a design that I think they will like and will be satisfying for me to make. This may then involve the special purchase of fabric and possibly using up bits of the stash left over from other projects. When I make things for myself, or as "experiments", I tend to draw mostly on the stash for fabric supplies. [Although like the Yarn Harlot (I'm reading her Secret Life of a Knitter at the moment) with yarn, there are bits of fabric in the stash that are just too good to go in an experimental quilt. What if the quilt turns out crap and I've wasted that gorgeous (or expensive) fabric on a crap quilt?]
I'm a little puzzled though. Do most other quilters only make one sort of quilt? Am I a quilt "slut" because I don't stick to just one type and sew around?

Reason 2. She told me her theory that in any family there can only be one person who does an activity. For instance, she's the only quilter and cross-stitcher, her mum is the only knitter and gardener. The reason for this? So that there is no rivalry or conflict over technique or proficiency or whose work is better than the other. This struck me as a bit weird at the time but I didn't say anything as I thought it probably said more about her relationship with her mother than it did about supposed crafting competitiveness. Then I was thinking about it this morning and remembered a few years ago when Mum was telling me how my Aunty M was going to patchwork classes and was worried that I might think that she was trying to "steal my thunder" as the patchworker in the family. Mum told her not to worry as she was sure that I would be delighted if someone else in the family took up the craft. I thought it was strange that such an idea would even occur to my aunt (who I adore) as I see it as an opportunity for someone else to understand my quilterly side and an opportunity for mutual patting on the back for projects completed.

Put me in front of a game of Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit and I'm as competitive as all hell. But I've never viewed knitting and quilting that way. They're just things that I love to do, and if the people around me love to do them too, then that makes me really happy. End of story.


Donni said...

Interesting thoughts Miss P - think that it is important to try different things and to challenge yourself to learn new styles and techniques.....but understand the concept of the 1 knitter per family. My Mum has only just started to compliment my knitting recently - being that she was always "The Knitter" in our family. (PS - we do love each other and have a great relationship - it's just that that was HER thing)

Genevieve said...

hum... well, my mom is the one who taught me & my sisters to knit. She's always v. helpful with all my projects. She's also going to teach my cousin to knit.