Make it your quilt

quilt by the silly boo dilly via flickr

There’s a saying around craft circles: If you’re a quilter quilt.

Sounds pretty obvious, right? It’s meant to stir up questions about what the creative process includes. In the medium of clothing for example: Can it start with a blank t-shirt made a world away or does it start with a bolt of fabric?

The blank was someone else’s vision. Someone else’s design. Sure, you can treat it like a canvas and print a rocking design on it. But can you be called a clothing designer when the clothing was designed by someone else?

ceramic espresso cups by fatstudio

The saying is about owning your process. From start to finish. No shortcuts.

Is it more labor intensive? Sure. But being a maker is not a 9 to 5 job anyway. It’s better. It’s more flexible. You have to work hard for it and you’ll be rewarded by your triumphs.

Think about it like this. If we were talking about literature instead of craft, and you started with someone else’s form and added your embellishments or pieced it together, it would be considered plagiarism.

Do I think you should plant and harvest cotton? Or raise sheep for the wool? Or dig your own clay? I think its a great idea but no I don’t expect that. But you should know where your materials come from.

And if you are digging your own clay like 85+ year old Mary Ellen Yearick from Shamokin Dam, PA, you’re my new hero. You should be screaming it from the hilltops. It’s a great story to share.

Making things from start to finish makes them yours. It’s your creative vision, don’t let someone else’s design dictate your creativity’s destiny. It’s your quilt.

18 thoughts on “Make it your quilt

  1. Oh can you imagine if all the quilters started growing their own cotton and keeping sheep?
    Umm, that would make us farmers then, right?
    Soooo, then would we be farmers who quilt? or quilters who farm?
    Chickens or eggs????

    Don’t worry, I understand exactly what you are saying, I’m just winding you up! But another thing I think we need to consider as crafters, and its only come to me the last 6 months or so, is this: are our craft supplies damaging the environment or causing people harm? Like cotton, for instance if we don’t buy organic or use re-cycled. That’s what I’m working on in my mind at present.

    1. hey heckety!

      first off, lol. second, i think you’re in good company in considering the sources of your supplies. and that goes beyond crafting to manufacturing – if we’re looking for labels! whether being a smart crafter, smart manufacturer, or smart consumer – we all need to be conscious of the impact of the items we purchase.

      thanks for stopping by today!

  2. love that thread! i think about this a lot, every time i start something new, more or less.. i always try to find the balance, go back as much as i think it’s right.. i’d really love to have a sheep, though :-)
    it’s the same with cooking: always find a balance between “raw” foods and pre-processed ones. or even homegrown? think about soysauce: quite complicated to prepare your own.
    what about reusing old material for a new purpose? isn’t it your “own” then, if you gave the material a new destiny?

    1. absolutely, if you make the old materials your own! It would be the same idea as transforming purchased items. make it your own and you’re golden. depends on how far you want to take it.

  3. Can I hear an Amen? I totally am behind you here. My learning to dye fabric was the beginning of my journey towards my now – an art quilter with an recognizable style that is uniquely mine!

    Does this mean that all quilters need to dye/paint their own fabric? Of course not. But for me, I NEED to be able to have that control, it’s an ego rush for folks to walk into my booth at an art/craft fair and say “everything in here was white before my hands touched it”. This is my journey, and how I define myself.

    I draw the line at growing the cotton and weaving the fabric though, but I know several folks who does just this (well, at least grow sheep, spin the yarn…) and have the utmost respect for them.

    Although we all have to draw our own lines, I totally support your thesis that we all need to own our process before we start exhibiting, selling, etc… I’ve run far away from main stream quilt shows where the entrants are not required to identify when a purchased pattern was used. Actually, I’m too busy supporting my art right now to enter shows at all, but part of why I’m doing today is in response to my reactions at these shows!

    Great topic, great ideas, thanks for bringing them up!

    1. hey candy! i really like the point you make about “control.” it would be easy to interpret nick’s point as being that something is not “craft” unless you are creating from scratch. but i think it goes beyond that to how much you want to control the process and be conscious of the start to finish.

      thanks for stopping by, as always :)

      1. tara’s right. i’m not saying you have to make and design from start to finish to be considered ‘craft’. the post is about process and mainly about thinking through your steps.

        if you’re using purchased items, make sure you’re using them in a transforming way. alter them and make it yours. you want your work to be distinctive. i also believe once you try to define what craft is there’s someone going to prove you wrong.

  4. That’s so true only you can take it and run with it either way make it your own. There is nothing like designing and creating something it’s so personal and you put your heart and soul into it. You make it with lots of love and care. I love the beautiful quilt and those wonderful cups.

  5. I read your post about an hour ago and can’t stop thinking about it. Part of me is taking what you said to a level that is too personal and part of me is totally inspired by what you are saying. Let me explain.

    When my daughter was first born I would often buy second hand clothing and apply cute details to the clothing with applique, ribbon, buttons and embroidery. I felt good about this for three reasons: I was saving money, reusing for environmental reasons, and adding a touch of love to her clothing. Yes, ideally I would love to make everything she wears, but working a 3/4 time day job and part time home job and caring for a baby just doesn’t allow for that. People starting complementing my idea and so I thought I would try to sell some of these pieces. Your post now has me feeling a bit ashamed of this. Part of me thinks reusing is a great idea, it’s very green. But then part of me doesn’t like that I’m putting my name on someone else’s work. Hmmm.

    But at heart, deep down, I couldn’t agree more with what you are saying. I do want to make the fabric and the clothing and the embellishments that are added to the outfit. But is that feasible? Is that practical. I feel both inspired, ambitious, and overwhelmed all at the same time.

    This is good… I’ve just started some ambitious adventures about a month ago and my husband and I are learning as we go. We actually had plans to change our Etsy shop already and each day I think I want to work towards higher quality, totally authentic and “all me” products, my own fabric and all. One day. Baby steps I guess.

    1. Angela, this is not a one-size-fits-all statement. The premise is about how far you make the purchased work yours. Is it distinctly transformed? Is there a way to set it apart from the original?

      You’ll need to be the one who arrives with the answers. That allows you to decide the creative side about what you want the work to be. Every maker has a distinct path.

      1. Absolutely Nick. I actually agree very much with you and Tara. Sometimes the best advise hurts a little. Does that make sense? And this discussion has helped me to evaluate some of the work I’ve done in the past and reconsider it, learn from it, be intentional about it, etc.

        This has all been very helpful for me. This conversation and Tara’s post has been eye-opening in a way and has helped me to clarify what direction I want to go. I’ve been pondering for a while now and this morning things like a little more clear. Thank you.

  6. what a great article and great comments. For myself I am trying to be very conscious of all the choices I make when I’m crafting things. I re-love all my textiles and I only stuff with clean new wool, I try to keep everything as local as possible and give preference to predator-friendly ranches when sourcing my wool. I agree that it’s important to take this conscientiousness through to all the things we do…eating, travelling, shipping, buying, selling, making, teaching…it’s a big change to make, but every step forward counts. I have found with each new choice I make that I go on to the next level of decision making…

  7. i think/feel the biggest challenge for many is to accept the idea that they are creative. So many come into my booth at shows and say how they admire how creative i am and that they are not creative.
    i ask if they have decorated a house or dressed themselves and point out that these are all creative decisions and they simply have to take the chance and play with ideas.
    i also think we forget our own learning curves through school and when we tackle a new project, expect perfection right off. when the project may not turn out as we had projected, we can become disillusioned and frustrated.

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  9. Hmmm…I have to disagree with your comparison to literature:

    “Think about it like this. If we were talking about literature instead of craft, and you started with someone else’s form and added your embellishments or pieced it together, it would be considered plagiarism.”

    Hmm…I think the comparison doesn’t work. To me, when someone prints their artwork on a t-shirt, that’s like when an author publishes their manuscript. That they don’t bind and print the book themselves doesn’t take away from their craft…because their craft isn’t bookbinding, it’s writing.

    Likewise, when I have my work printed on t-shirts and ornaments and such I don’t feel like that takes away from my craft because I’m not a seamstress or an ornament maker. I’m a graphic designer and an artist. And that’s what I would call the artist who puts their rocking design on a t-shirt. They’re not a clothing designer, they’re a graphic designer. Why should they have to sew anything to be that?

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