I’m home after three days at the Georgia National Fair where I shared my work as one of their Artists in Residence.
Though I’ve long recognized quilts as an art form, I’m still surprised to see the word artist after my name. This experience was affirming and fulfilling for me, and I hope it was informative and inspirational to others.
The photo shows my booth where I shared my quilting stories and demonstrated techniques. I had several quilts entered in the fair, and three of them were easily visible from my booth. Whether by design or coincidence, the fair organizers added opportunities for me to share more stories of making bed-sized quilts on a home sewing machine, improvisational piecing in the style of Gee’s Bend quilts, and Government Bird Goin’ for a Ride.
Jim and I enjoyed the opportunity to visit with former students, their parents, and now husbands, wives, and children. We saw former work colleagues and friends, made connections with other artists in textiles, photography, woodworking, drawing, painting, and sculpting. We made many new friends as people stopped to talk about quilts, my ragged lamp, and my Featherweight sewing machine.
I took the Featherweight because it is my traveling sewing friend. I take it to classes and work sessions at our local guild, I have taken it on a photo trip when Jim was taking a course and I would have time alone in a motel room. It is compact, light weight, and a work horse. Maybe everyone knows that. But everyone doesn’t know that it can be used for free-motion quilting.
One of the goals of my days at the fair was to share the technique of hand-guided, free-motion quilting. I chose the Featherweight because it is a simple straight stitch machine. That’s all you need. I wanted to erase the notion that you can’t quilt without a big, expensive, computerized machine. The Featherweight conveyed that message well.
Children were fascinated with the Featherweight. Maybe because it is so small and sweet it looks manageable. It’s certainly not threatening in any way. I stitched names into quilt sandwiches for Marin, Christopher, Alexis, Catherine, Mark, and more. Fragments of cloth, batting, and a bit of thread can bring smiles to faces of children of all ages.
I talked to men and women whose mothers or grandmothers quilted and they wish they had learned from them while they could. (I’ll be your substitute Grandma. I didn’t listen to mine like I should have either, but other quilters and I will be glad to step in and fill in the gaps. Send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with a question and I’ll link you to a tutorial online or try to answer you in some way.)
I talked with women who made one quilt, or started one, then became frustrated with a skill they didn’t have, and put it away. I talked with those who work full time and can’t work it in their schedule. My answers: “Relax, it’s supposed to be fun.” “Join a guild. Someone there will offer advice and assistance,” “Start with something portable, like English Paper Piecing.”
I talked with young families wherein the husband/dad wants to explore quilting. One asked if he could start learning with a $100 machine from a bargain store. My advice was to find a reliable used older machine. I fear that a new one made with plastic parts will be less sturdy and operate less smoothly than an old one. “I’m afraid if you have frustrations with tension or mechanics as you are learning, you might think you don’t like sewing; but what you don’t like is a cheap machine.”
I have almost all my baskets unpacked and things back in place in my sewing room. My brain is bursting with ideas generated by conversations over the past few days. Fun times stitching ahead!