A few weeks ago I came across a person in forum asking for help on how to quilt. Their post mentioned how they have only ever sewn straight lines across their quilt and now they wanted to make an actual quilt. I was confused at first. Weren’t they already quilting? Straight line quilting is a type quilting design that can be very manageable on a domestic sewing machine. It can also be extremely effective to show movement and flow in a quilt like in my Space Travel quilt. When I told the poster that what they were doing was already quilting, they thanked me, but still didn’t believe it. And that leads me to here, wondering: what makes a quilter, a quilter?
Quilting, per Wikipedia, is defined as the act sewing at least three layers of fabric together. We can see this too, with the rules of the American Quilter Society’s quilt shows. To enter, your project must have three layers. If I may, I’d open a little controversy to say that you only need two layers, especially if you want a lighter weight blanket or pillow cover. For my Sparkle and Shine quilt, I only used an extra thick fleece for the backing (yay Joann clearance!) and it was still a soft, plush quilt (at least by my definition). But the key here is “the act of sewing layers of fabric together”. Whether it’s straight lines, free motion quilting, or even ties, it’s all quilting.
But is that really what you need to do to become a quilter?
The Bigger Picture
While, yes, there are some people who quilt on a plain sheet of fabric or on fabric panels, quilting is and has always been an art that is bigger than ‘the step’ of sewing layers of fabric together. A simple Google search will show you thousands of different patterns that use a multitude of methods dating back to the Colonial times and before. Traditional piecing, English paper piecing, applique… the list goes on. To me, the piecing or applique are what give a quilt life. They’re what you see from far away. The quilting just adds depth and motion that you can see up close.
I think it’s also important to point out that many quilters don’t even do the quilting themselves anymore. A lot of people have a longarmer they send their quilts off too, because quilting can be tough work, especially if you don’t have the equipment or mobility to make it easier. But does this make them any less of a quilter? Does using precuts instead of cutting out all the fabric all yourself make you any less of a quilter? Does only having a small domestic machine you only feel comfortable quilting straight lines on make you any less of a quilter? If you work on a quilt with a group, does that make you any less of a quilter?
No–it’s as simple as that.
You are a quilter if you’ve played a part in the making of a quilted object.
Quilting is supposed to be a fun and expressive hobby. Don’t let semantics get you down. Whether you make the quilt from cutting to binding or even just help make a quilt block, you are a quilter. If you want to learn new skills and advanced techniques, you are a quilter. If you want to stick with the same simple techniques you always have, you are a quilter.
You are a quilter. Don’t forget that.