Modern Quilt Studio QuiltCon Homework #8

QuiltCon Homework #8
QuiltCon Homework #8

Weeks writes: “Give and receive. Learn how to give and receive constructive criticism for those who seek it. Find four positive things to say about someone else’s quilt and look for one thing that you think they could improve”

I have been to many quilt shows. I have also stood in front of many quilts where I often have heard people talking openly about what they disliked about a quilt. At first, I was so green I did not notice these words, being completely in awe of the quilts hanging, the work involved and the time taken for creating all parts of the works. As I gained experience and some understanding of construction, color, fabric and design in relation to quilts, I began to take notice of the words spoken around me. I did not realize at the time that I had gained quite a lot of experience and only listened to these words thinking how much these women, for they were mostly women, must know about quilts to say such things about them. I turned away from a lot of quilts, thinking they were bad because these women thought so. I lost confidence and thought that I must know nothing about quiltmaking if I could stand in front of such awful quilts finding good in them.

At a dark time in my life, I had escaped to a quilt show for a few hours and was standing in front of a quilt that I really liked. It wasn’t a quilt I would make, but I found it to be  cheerful.  The fabrics were bright and there was a lot to look at. As I stood there, people swirled around me and two women stopped to look at the quilt. They were slightly behind me, so I couldn’t see them, but I could hear them. They proceeded to point out all the mistakes and, in their opinion, poor choices the maker had made. All the things I liked about the quilt were not good enough for them. In fact, they made these qualities seem so terrible that if I had been listening a few years further, I would have thought that cheerful quilts and bright colors were the spawn of the devil.

I thought of the unknown person who made the quilt and how hurt s/he would be if the words of the women had reached his/her ears. Unable to help myself, I turned to stare, openly stare at the women, not opened mouth, but glaring at them. They didn’t say anything, but saw my look and moved away. Not in embarrassment, but in indignation, as if my rebuke was unwarranted.

While I may have had no business acting the way I did, I learned a lesson that day. I didn’t know the lesson at the time, but it is clear to me know. I try very hard to find something good about every quilt I see. If someone has taken the time to make a quilt, and we all know that it takes significant time, there must be some good in that quilt.

I am not such a great person that I like ALL quilts, don’t get me wrong. I have a hard time with Civil War fabrics, but often the block designs can be quite interesting. I find many of the big block quilts not quite as interesting as they could be, but the vast space for fabrics often shows off the most magnificent fabric designs. The point is that I try and find something good about each quilt – a nice fabric, a bit of excellent quilting, the obvious knowledge of the maker’s machine.

I get nothing out of bashing someone’s quilt. In fact, I might hurt the maker if s/he is standing within earshot. I do get good exercise in ‘seeing’ when I look for something good in a quilt. This exercise can enrich my future quiltmaking and doesn’t hurt anyone.

In my teaching, I try very hard to boost confidence and steer the students towards good construction and good design. In the course of this effort, I remind them that quiltmaking is a process, that it takes practice and they will get better. I want more people to make quilts, not fewer. I want to encourage not discourage.

There are ways of suggesting improvements to a quilt or design:

  • “what would happen if you turned this block this way?”
  • “What would happen if you used a bit more blue here or lightened this up over here?”
  • Ask the person what they are trying to achieve. Keep in mind that the maker may not know. We don’t always know why we are making something when the urge simply to create is very strong. Be gentle. coax don’t pound.

There are a lot of other things to say depending on the quilt’s design; just find four things to compliment another quiltmaker about. Be nice.


Image courtesy of The Modern Quilt Studio