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Passing Along the Love of Sewing

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Jodie Davis Posted: Sun, Nov 8 2009 7:41 PM

Here's my letter to QCA members from the newsletter the week of 11/09. Please let 'er rip with your thoughts!

Dear Quilters,

I’ve got something on my mind…

Can you imagine having never learned to sew and quilt? I can’t.

Sewing is better medicine than “Take me away Calgon.” Sitting down to sew, I find myself in a whole ‘nother world. Yes, steaming in hot water is nice, but the hum of the sewing machine, watching as cut-up fabric becomes strips, becomes squares, becomes quilt top… ah the process of creating something. And then there are the instant quilting friends, and buying fabric, and retreats, and sewing machine lust, and…

I was chatting with a big mucky-muck in the sewing world recently. His piercing question during our time together was, “How do we get more people sewing?” He’s looking for a game changer, some big name to make sewing the thing to do. That’d be great but, another slightly lesser mucky-muck (Prince as opposed to Lord I suppose) told me the response to videos by celebrities endorsing their product versus those showing ordinary quilters talking about their experience with their product has been significantly different. Regular people respond to regular people. Make that real people, which quilters surely are.

So my brain has been stuck on this question of how to pass along the love of sewing. You dear QCA members carry the passion for sewing in your hearts. With schools no longer teaching home ec, how can we expose more people to sewing? Should we get them young as in grade school, or are the twenty- or thirty-somethings our target? And at what age can we really expect people to become sewing junkies?

Since the industry is all over this, I thought I’d go right to the source and ask QCA members their thoughts on this subject. I have started a thread in the forums for this. Hop on over and add your two cents. Then next time I can better answer when Mr. Big Honcho asks me the question. Oh, I mean prince Honcho. (He’ll find that funny.)

Happy quilting,

 Jodie

 

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Nana replied on Sun, Nov 8 2009 7:50 PM

Jodie

The quilters that I watch are the ones that come across as your everyday person.  Now I realize that Fons and Porter and Alex Anderson and Eleanor Burns aren't exactly everyday people but when it comes to their quilting programs that is how they come across. 

I also think that the grandmothers that are quilters have an excellent opportunity to expose their grandchildren to this fabulous art.  When someone sees the passion in a quilter they want to know what it is about quilting that causes this passion.  Show your grandchildren and children your passion and possibly it will be contagious.

Nana

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Thea replied on Sun, Nov 8 2009 7:51 PM

Jodie - I partially think it is our own fault that sewing is not more popular then it is - we (my generation) did not teach our children to sew - i was taught almost before i could walk how to sew/cook/clean - all the things a good wife would do - but society changed - we found women's lib - we found that we were allowed out of the house - so store bought became easier.

So to answer your question - we need to entice the 20 / 30 year olds in the stores - make it simpler and more loving - make "home made" the word of the year and make is sound as good as a 3 layer chocolate cake. 

Then entice the Grandmother's to teach the grand children and not just the girls - my son loves to sew - my daughter doesn't. 

Somehow it has to be made affordable - when you can buy a store bought quilt for $40 but you can't make a quilt for less then $100 we have a problem... somehow we have to again have quality fabrics that are reasonable in price.  Since I have been quilting the price of cloth has gone from less then $1 a yard to over $10 a yard for good quality fabric.

The women I know in their 20s and 30s don't have enough time to sew they say - with working and children it is very difficult so somehow it has to be made easy... more lessons on DVDs - more programs that actually teach it from step one - even though sometimes this is boring but stepping through all the steps and showing all the steps.

 

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Gosh you two are quick on the draw!

This is great; exactly the kind of conversation I wanted to get going!

~Jodie

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Nana replied on Sun, Nov 8 2009 7:57 PM

That's us Jodie.  Althea and I are the Quick Draw McGraw of the sewing world.  However I probably just dated myself badly...LOL

Nana

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Nana replied on Sun, Nov 8 2009 10:44 PM

BTT

Nana

Vinton, Virginia

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Jeanine replied on Sun, Nov 8 2009 11:07 PM

Nana:
Now I realize that Fons and Porter and Alex Anderson and Eleanor Burns aren't exactly everyday people

I have met Liz Porter and Eleanor Burns and they are exactly like every day people.  That is what so impressed me about them.  Liz helped me pick out fabric for a kids quilt in her shop one day (I was thrilled!) and I sat and talked with Eleanor in a booth she had at a quilt show in KC after attending one of her seminars.  I was amazed at her personality and how she talked with me quite easily and without any attitude. 

I was brought up with needle crafts from a very young age (maybe 4).  I don't think it is ever too early to start exposing them to it.  (We had a two week old at our last quilt retreat.)  My niece was knitting at 3 and started quilting with me about that same time.  she's 13 now and can quilt anything she sets her mind to. 

I think the best way to introduce quilting is through a service project of some kind.  Girl Scouts, Boy Scounts, school, churches and 4-H are all good organizations that do service or ministry projects such as making fleece blankets or quilts to donate to groups like Project Linus.  This helps them understand the charitable aspects of helping others and are introduced to sewing/quilting that they may not see at home.  This plants a seed.  You never know where it might lead. They feel good about doing something themselves and giving it to someone in need.

I would avoid the upper teens to start something like this (my personal experience) but definitely in the 20's I think there is some facination with actually making something yourself.  Making a wall hanging or quilt for your bed of your new apartment/house.  A quilt for a new baby.  A gift for a grandparent.  Or just coming back to what you had learned at an earlier age.

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Jeanine replied on Sun, Nov 8 2009 11:19 PM

Althea :
we (my generation) did not teach our children to sew

It does have to start at home.  My kids have all been exposed to sewing and my boys are proud of the items they have made even if no one else may appreciate their creations.  They tended to like to enhance their clothing with creative touches.  Anyway, they are comfortable with a sewing machine even if they don't quilt.  My daughter picked it up watching me.  I didn't push her but always gave her what she needed to make her doll clothes or doll quilts and later quilts for herself. 

I think cost is a factor.  My daughter would not buy near as much as she has on her own.  She's taken my cast offs and hand-me-downs.  And this generation is very "green" so she loves to recycle instead of buy new.

Another factor is that a lot of quilt shops just scream "old" and "grandmother".  However, I have been in other quilt shops that are fun and bright and appealing to younger quilters.  there needs to be a balance between classic and contemporary in the quilt world if we want to bring in young quilters.

This is a real passion of mine.  My quilt ministry encourages all ages to come and the beauty of the group is that we have young kids starting at 5 up to 70+ in the same room quilting together.  It is awesome.

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Diana replied on Mon, Nov 9 2009 4:38 AM

Hi Jodie,

    I'm trying to do my part in getting more quilters.  I taught a few ladies at the Sr. Center in our town (I'm also a member of the center).  Some of the attitude of the older quilters that only hand pieced and hand quilted are considered a quilt.  I've had those exact words said to me because I tie my quilts.  I love to piece and am told I make beautiful tops, but can't hand quilt (arthritis) and can't afford LAQ (retired and on fixed income).  I've never seen tying a quilt shown on any program I've watched and I've been watching a very long time.  I've never even seen it mentioned in passing on any program.  I feel that it is a viable alternative when the fabrics are so expensive and time is limited for making quilts.  Even quilt shows don't have categories for tied quilts.  If it's not hand or machine quilted, I guess it's not worth looking at the construction of the top, color selection, theme, etc.

Hope my thoughts are of some use,

Diana in East Tn.

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Hi Jodie,

Wonderful suggestions so far. In my experience working in the small college town of Ave Maria, I have noted that the 20 to 30 age group are really struggling just to make ends meet and a lot of them coming from very affluent families are in crisis with the economy and are having to take jobs as well as go to college because even thier well educated parents with high paying jobs have been laid off, as well as young twenty to thirty year old women with kids having to work two jobs or working full time and trying to take classes to further their education because their husbands have been laid off for almost two years. Hobbies are not an option for these. I feel like the suggestion for younger age is the best option. Perhaps a new mag. targeted for kids with a title such as "Look what I made" with easy projects that could be made in a day and a website link with videos. I like the idea of promoting through churches and girl scouts, 4-H and even could do guest spots on shows that kids like. "I Carly" comes to mind.

I too learned to sew at a very young age and pretty much had to put it away when I was in my twenties to thirties while working full time and raising my son. But, because of that childhood experience it was always a fond memory and made me want to pick it up again.

The prices need to come down, if Connecting Threads can offer quality fabrics made in the USA at the prices they do, why can't other fabric manufacturers that have theirs made in foriegn countries do the same. We all need to take one for the "team" for a while if we want to be able to carry on our traditions.    

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Jodie--

This was part of my introductory post to QCA back in May.  I truly believe that sharing our passion for quilting with the youngest generation is the surest way to promote this wonderful craft.  I was recently asked if I might be interested in offering an after school quilting class for the students at my old school and am seriously considering doing it.  Even after being retired and gone for almost 5 years, some of the younger siblings and the parents of my last students still recognize me and talk with me about the quilts we made.

My most fulfilling quilting experience was introducing the craft to my first and second grade students in my career as an elementary school teacher.  As part of our weekly curriculum, we hand pieced quilt blocks, completing a block a month on a particular theme.  The kids were so eager to work on their blocks that it was hard to restrict them to just two sessions a week.  At the end of the school year, with the help of parent volunteers, we introduced sewing by machine to connect the blocks, sandwich, and turn the quilts.  Then held a quilt show to display the students' individual quilts to their schoolmates.  At a class picnic on the last day of school before summer vacation  the kids showed off their quilts to their parents.  In all the years of doing this activity, there was never a reluctant student or an unfinished quilt and the students' pride in their work was absolutely contagious!  That connection is one of the things I miss since retiring.

 

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Happy replied on Tue, Nov 10 2009 8:07 AM

We should be thinking about this that is way when my son Philip who is 14 ask if he can help I let him he will help with pressing and he has help by sewing over seams one time we were camping he work the petal when I was michanie applique on a quilt so all ways ask and never say no my other kids would never help maybe he wiil be a quilter some day

Happy

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Angel replied on Tue, Nov 10 2009 3:19 PM

Very interesting thread.

I can hit  on a few items here.

First..most you you replying seem to be targeting my generation. I am in my 30s. And a lot of good points were made. I had a tailor for a mother....yet i couldn't make clothes to save my life. Around here there are girls who like to sew, not so much quilts, But I know a lot of my daughters friends watch an internet show called Threadbangers. (SEARCH FOR IT IN YOU TUBE). They are interested in  altering ready made tee-shirts, etc. Threadbangers has featured quilting before too.

In PA , to get quality fabrics ( quilt shop quality) you pay 8.00 - 11.00 a yard.

 

this is the cheapest way

. lower end Brother sewing machine..( which I started with and still love dearly) 168.00

 Rotary cutter/mat - if on sale.. 40.00

6 1/2 x 24 ruler -15.00

thread 2 spools - coats and clark 5.50

Batting- warm and natural twin size - 17.00

5 or 6 yards fabric 55.00 aprox

$301. 50

Omy Im glad I have all this..I know I am forgetting something in here that is necessary to begin quilting.

I have been fortunate. No student loans and a good job.( knock on wood)

hmmm a 30 something....do I buy stuff for a quilt or do  we eat for the week and pay the utility bill

prices are crazy. other then a utilitarian quilt made from clothes ect.....i would never buy cheap fabric again, all the hard work for nothing. It will fall apart or something bad happens to it.

Jodi watch Thread bangers and see what the younger generations are up to

 

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Nana replied on Tue, Nov 10 2009 5:33 PM

I very much agree that quilting and sewing is a very expensive hobby.  When my children were young I could make their clothes much more cheaply than I could buy them.  That is not true anymore.  The price of decent quality sewing supplies have really gotten out of reach of many.

Nana

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Edith replied on Tue, Nov 10 2009 7:37 PM

Hi Jodie

I am Edith from Canada

Firstly--tell your Mucky Muck friend that you don't Get People Sewing.

Sewing, fabric, QUILTING ESPECIALLY IS A UNIVERSAL LAUNGUAGE OF SORTS and it only needs to be seen, touched, shared with others and they too will get the affliction (OTHERWISE KNOWN AS LOVE OF SEWING QUILTING

Now true you must be subjected to this disease by ones relatives or friends or acquaintances.

Perhaps all of us die hard quilters should vow to show our passion to at least one other close non-quilting /sewing friend and that would be enough. I know I have a close neighbor who has always wanted to come over and make something but either she is too busy or I am too busy so I quess we should just make the time and fulfil this committment to one another.

GOOD IDEA!!!!!!

Also your idea about Grade School was a wonderful idea. Recently ( a couple of years ago) I was involved with our Plowing Match which by the way is not small organization.

One thing we did was to educate and inform  children about  quilting. I was one member of our committee(quilting) who went to the schools and helped them to make a pillow which had to be made in the designated materials and would encourage remembrance of this agricultural function and how community oriented it was.

The public school that I helped- chose the school house block. I embroidered the date and name of the school on this pillow and each child wrote their name with a fabric pen on a piece of fabric and this was placed inside the pillow.  Sort of like a time capsule. Currently it is on display in the school.

 Their enthusiasim was remarkable. Certainly this would be a very worthwhile subject to be introduced into the school curiculum. Perhaps in the arts category.

I know this is far afield but it would be amazing. Annnnnnnnnd what a way to get more people involved in the art of quilting /sewing.

Well Jodie that is my 2 cents.

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