Sunday, February 12, 2017

139 years of quilting experience reveal unexpected responses at the panel discussion

My current favorite tool is
the "Hatchet Template" ruler.
I moderated the "Viewpoints and Q-points" panel discussion yesterday at the Chattanooga Modern Quilt Guild meeting. Four experienced quilters graciously accepted my invitation to sit on the panel and they had a lot of good information in their personal experiences and viewpoints to share. Thank you, Carolyn, Theresa, Joan and Jackie for working with me on this presentation. Between the five of us (including myself) we had a combined total of 139 years of quilting experience!

I've presented guild programs before, but this was my first experience moderating a panel (although I have conducted my share of business meetings in the corporate world). The panel discussion required quite a bit of prep—choosing topics/questions, determining subject matter flow, drafting a social media announcement, printing a podium poster and table tents for the panel members—and coordination (be sure to keep your panel members in the loop!), but it was fun at the same time and everyone learned something new. We covered topics from inspiration and mentors, to the nuts and bolts of stitch lengths, binding widths and current "favorites" such as tools and threads.

Take note
A few things that I found interesting and took note of:
  • Today's quilter doesn't necessarily use "only cotton" thread for piecing.
  • Preferred stitch lengths for piecing might be smaller than you think. For those of you that use the setting length your sewing machine "defaults" to when it's first turned on (assuming your machine in computerized), you might want to have a conversation with an experienced long-arm machine quilter—or anyone that machine quilts other people's quilts—about their experiences with weak seams and patchwork coming apart.
  • The vast majority of the people in the audience (ChattMQG members) that quilted their own quilts were using domestic sewing machines. Only 1-2 had a longarm and 2-3 of also said they enjoyed hand quilting.
  • We had a good discussion about pressing seams—to one side vs. open vs. for construction—and how this affected the quilting stage of the process. (Thank you to our accomplished long-armer for sharing her experiences!)
  • Everyone in attendance except two said they DID NOT need to have a project in mind to purchase fabric. This should be music {insert angel choirs singing} to the ears of quilt shops, fabric manufacturers and fabric reps.
How do you attach a binding?
A few surprises 
The biggest eye-opener for me was the discussion about binding. The panel members were pretty consistent with the widths they cut binding strips. Cross-grain was the usual cut unless the bias cut was required for curves or to accentuate a striped fabric. But the great majority of quilters in the room attached bindings in an attach-as-you-go method. They had their length of binding on a spool/tube/ball/pile and machine stitched it to the quilt without any pre-pinning. (Even the self-proclaimed pinner did it this way.) This surprised me. I liken attaching binding to the process of attaching borders and I do pin the binding to the trimmed quilt, folding it at the corners for miters. I also want to make sure any joins in the binding strips don't coincide with the corners, although some cited ideas for avoiding this.

One pleasant surprise was when I asked the panel if there were any quilters whose work they admire or who inspire them. Every panel member told a brief story of someone that spent time with them early in their quiltmaking journey and taught them not just sewing or quilting techniques but meaningful lessons that they remember, reflect on and employ today. The mentors and life-altering influencers they spoke of were not nationally-known quilting teachers, famous authors or award-winning quilters, they were mothers, grandmothers, neighbors and local teachers.

So, if you are a teacher or someone that will spend time teaching something to a beginner, don't underestimate the impact you have on a student—even if they don't tell you or thank you right away. And if there is someone that instilled a love of this craft in you, thank them if you can. And by all means, continue the chain by sharing sewing and quilting with someone else.

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