I hastily put some thoughts down on paper on the airplane ride home from QuiltCon in Austin. While I won’t be able to get them in perfect order, it’s important to me that I share them here before I get caught back up in the world of small children and some new freelance research/writing projects. Blogging about quilts projects is often just recording objective information – where I found a pattern or what fabric I used. I’d like to try to sum up my QuiltCon experience and synthesizing information requires a bit more brainspace than I often have. Right now, I have exactly one hour to take my scribbles to the screen.

So, here’s my little debrief on QuiltCon 2015. I’d like to focus on four main ideas: how am I changed? what did I learn? what will I do differently now? and will I go back?

Afton @Quilting Mod, Me, Yvonne @Quilting Jet Girl, Anne @Hudson Valley Quilts, Kitty @Night Quilter in Front of Best in Show “i Quilt” by Kathy York. (Picture from Yvonne @Quilting Jet Girl)

How am I changed?

Well, I now know – more than ever before – there’s somebody out there. My blog is as much a receptacle of the things I’ve made as it is a table where people – me and you – can sit and chat about the things we both find interesting. After a few years with young children and frequent moments of feeling isolated from the world, I am renewed and comforted by the realization that there are people on the other side of the screen. And that you’re all pretty darn cool. Whether you were at QuiltCon or not, I now have a more intimate sense of this quilting community that I’ve been lucky enough to find myself in.

What did I learn?

I attended an embroidery workshop, a binding workshop, and several lectures. My workshops were great for skill-building, but I found that I appreciated how the lectures inspired me to consider some of the larger issues related to quilting. Surprisingly, unrelated lectures often referenced similar themes. Three main ideas that resonated with me were learn your quilt history, just make the next quilt, and be ready for opportunity.

Embroidery

Embroidery sampler project from Alison Glass’ Intro to Embroidery

In Rossie Hutchinson’s Copyright War lecture, she mentioned that those of us looking considering copyright and publishing should “learn your quilt history.” This idea had come up earlier in the panel on how to get published. Both of the publishing panelists suggested quilters who want to get published need to be aware of what has come before in order to identify how we might be unique from others. During the Maker to Making a Living panel, Mary Fons referenced her interest in the history of quiltmaking and the textile industry and some of the things she’s learned from her studies.  I realized then that even if I’m not actively trying to feed and clothe my children by making and selling quilts, I can enjoy a much richer quilting experience by learning more about general quilt history. And since I choose to put my quiltmaking online and share my voice in this community, I want to be good student of this art/craft.

Alissa Haight Carlton moderated the panel on Getting Published, and she shared that she didn’t go to art school and never felt like an “artist” when she started quilting. She simply made a quilt, then made the next quilt, and the next quilt, and the next… Her advice to those of us considering how we can find our voice wasn’t to analyze what else is out there or how we’re different, it’s simply to do what we do, again and again, and eventually our unique voice will emerge. There’s a lot of hard work in that suggestion, but the heart of the advice sounds easy to me – just make your next quilt. I love the simplicity of that.

The last idea that kept popping up in lectures was, “Like an itch, when opportunity comes along, scratch it.” The Women of Gee’s Bend referenced it (in their own, awesome, storytelling way). During the Maker to Making a Living panel, Denyse specifically said she felt she had met opportunity with just enough luck and instinct to be successful. It was clear that if you have any inkling of taking this craft beyond a hobby in any way, you just have to work hard, be yourself, and stay ready for opportunity (or those moments when you can create your own opportunity). Isn’t that great advice for any endeavor?

What am I inspired to do now?

I think I’d like to blog more thoughts. Now that I feel more comfortable with “whom” I’m speaking to, I want to engage in more conversations. I’m not sure how long this will last. This blog has always been more of a portfolio than a thought board, but I’m considering new formats that will allow you all to tune into whatever you find inspiring – whether that’s my thoughts or projects. You won’t be bombarded too often with wordy posts if you’d rather just see pictures of quilty things.

Will I go back to QuiltCon?

Probably. I’m always a student of something. I’m always looking to understand things more deeply. Or do things more efficiently. Or better. Right now, I’m home with my children during the day, and making quilts as a hobby is something I’ve selfishly carved out for me – and I choose to be a student in the quilting world.

QuiltCon gives me an opportunity to connect with other people who share a passion for this hobby, but it also gives me a chance to develop skills in workshops and think about bigger issues in the lectures – all in one trip. I realize it’s an expensive trip to make, but given what I get from the experience, it’s a deal.

So as long as I’m in this mindset, I’ll be back. And I hope to see you there next time!

 

Daisy and baby at QuiltCon 2015 in Austin, Texas

16 Comments

  1. Ruth

    Oh lots of food for thought there! Lifelong learning is a joy that I too can’t do without and engaging deeper with quilt history is a really good idea and something I’d be interested in too!

  2. Yvonne @ Quilting Jetgirl

    I really liked the lectures so much more than I anticipated! I did not participate in any lectures when I attended QuiltCon in 2013, and I think that I will carve out even more time for them in the future. Alyssa’s comments on hard work and keeping on with the craft to help find and develop our voices really resonated deeply with me. I have only been blogging for just over a year, and life and evolution and growth take time! While I have been quilting for much longer than a year, most of my makes used to be gifts, and now most are commissioned work. I hope to carve out time for *me* quilting so that I can start to develop a sense of what my voice in quilting is, beyond needing to crank out the next project to help pay our insurance bills (which is my goal for the year, by the way: earn enough to pay for our various insurance policies!). Personally, I have been feeling a tug to know more about civil war quilts… perhaps all of this points to the fact I should scratch that itch! I look forward to many more conversations with you, and I really do feel like this is only the beginning. Of what? Who knows, but it will be fun to see where we go from here.

  3. Rachel at Stitched in Color

    Thanks SO much for sharing what you learned. I found those themes so interesting. I’m about to go off and cook dinner and will marinate in them during that time =) Meanwhile, wanted to say that I plan to go to the Savannah QuiltCon in 2017, since I can drive there. Maybe we can finally meet in person then!

  4. Melanie

    I am so happy for the tiny bit of face time that we had! I too felt like I had much to learn about quilt history. I look forward to more conversations. 

  5. Kate Yates

    Thanks for sharing! I especially like your thoughts regarding ‘just making the next quilt.’ I often feel the same way–like I have to figure out my style, or what makes my quilts different/special/unique, but it’s good to remember that I don’t have to worry about that. I’ve been finding more an more, that my own voice and style is emerging in its own way–I just need to make what I want to make. I would also love to learn more about the history of quilting, and have enjoyed exploring that lately. Sounds like a very inspiring weekend! I can’t wait until Quiltcon comes to the southeast US!

  6. erin

    I am so happy that our paths crossed…twice! I agree that there was a lot of amazing content in the lectures. The part about doing the work…that is what it is all about.

  7. Kelsey

    Thanks for your takeaways! I’m living vicariously through those of you who attended, and this was such a lovely reflection. I like the idea of just making your next quilt. I often find myself trying to make sure I’m doing what’s unique to me, but maybe by repetition and following my gut, I will just get there on a more organic path rather than a forged one.

    In terms of scratching the itch of opportunity, I’ve been thinking about this as well this past weekend. A college acquaintance of mine was interviewed about her artist career and said that she followed the invaluable advice to “say yes to everything,” but I’ve also heard the very opposite of that. Maybe we have to recognize what is an opportunity to scratch and what is a distraction that could also be scratched. I’m just thinking out loud here now. Thank you for QuiltCon meditations.

  8. Kitty Wilkin

    I am in awe of your ability to express your QuiltCon highlights in such a clear and succinct way! I’m finishing up my first of (at least three, maybe more) posts about QuiltCon and I just find that I’m so overwhelmed with gratitude and amazement and inspiration that I can’t stop talking!! (talk about those wordy posts… get ready for one over at Night Quilter!)  I also love this: “Her advice to those of us considering how we can find our voice wasn’t to analyze what else is out there or how we’re different, it’s simply to do what we do, again and again, and eventually our unique voice will emerge.” LOVE LOVE LOVE. As one who absolutely loves creating, and who also hopes to eventually help my family’s bottom line by doing what I love, this is as affirming a statement as I ever heard. Thank you!

    I am SO glad that I got to meet you and talk with you some in Austin!! As you’ll see if I ever finish my in-progress blog post, meeting my fellow quilty bloggers in person had an enormous impact on me. Maybe it’s my pregnancy hormones, but I’m getting all teary-eyed just thinking about it! I hope you do attend future QuiltCons so that I can get to know you even more, and I’m looking forward to future reflective blog posts! I’m with you on the time-is-my-limiting factor part, as a full time mom myself, but I am hoping to carve out some time for blog reading and commenting so that I can be more consistent in that department. 

  9. Tamie

    So nice to meet you in Austin and hopefully we can meet again in Savannah- much closer to home. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  10. Pingback: QuiltCon 2015: Wrap-up and Giveaway! | Quilting Jetgirl

  11. Claire

    I like your image of talking around a table to describe blogs! And your four questions approach to reporting QuiltCon will lead me to processing it yet more and still differently. I also am enjoying processing the apparent contradiction in “know how you are different” and “just make the next quilt.”  For now I’m a thinkin’ it has to do with timing: each has a place.

  12. Kali

    hi! I met you at Quiltcon and truly have enjoyed your summary! It was definitely a great experience, and it’s interesting to see what themes others saw or heard in their time there.

  13. Pingback: History of Quilting: Civil War Era | Quilting Jetgirl

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