Quilt Police: Show Me Your Badges

The concept of the existence of “QUILT POLICE” has been around for many years now. As I remember, we spoke of quilt police when I was an beginning quilter in the mid to late 1970’s, and their presence would appear to still be in force ​today.

One would think that a card-carrying member of this police force would have qualifications to back up their professionalism, but sadly, this is not always true. In an excellent online article,
“Experts May Have Influence, But What Makes An Expert?” Daniel Newman asks, “is there some sort of advanced criteria that you can (should) run someone against to determine whether or not they are really credible in a particular area and moreover if they are an expert?”

​​Daniel adds that “In the old days​,​ you could go into their office and look at the degrees on the wall like with a doctor or attorney, by which you could deem expertise.” “There is just no real set criteria in the vast majority of fields as to what makes an expert.​ ​​​​In many fields an expert may be someone who has done it for a long time. For instance​,​ if you have a favorite mechanic to work on foreign or classic cars, there is a chance that person studied how to be a mechanic, but there is a better chance they learned by spending a lot of time under the hood.​”​

​As a quilter, no matter how long you have​ been at it, it’s important to remember that quilting is a craft; an art form, a hobby. A quilted item that you make may have a prdetermined purpose (as in gifting it to someone or creating an item to hang on a wall in a particular place). But by its nature, quilting is supposed to be a relaxing way to unwind and enjoy a time of peace and beauty. That’s not to say that you don’t care about the finished quality of the item! I don’t know any quilter who sets out to make something that is shoddy, ugly or disgusting!, do you?

As a beginning or intermediate quilter, who do you turn to for help when you really want to learn what you consider to be the proper way to do something quilt-related? I usually will turn to someone I consider to be an “Expert.” Determining who that person is is not always an easy task. I look for someone who has years of practice behind them; someone who has been recognized for having talent in that area; someone with a good reputation in the field. I would think that an individual who has only made one crib quilt might not be my best go-to person for quilt advice. If I wanted to learn how to machine quilt something, I would not go to a hand quilter, and vice versa. If I wanted to become proficient in hand dying fabric, I would probably not go to someone who uses Ritz Dye purchased at the grocery store. I would want someone who knows how to mix Procion MX dyes to create their own color pallet.

While there really are no quilt police, there ARE some basic guidelines about quilting that a competent quilter should know. Quarter inch seam allowances, pre-washing fabric, methods of marking quilt lines, different methods of stain removal, how to select the proper batting to get the look you want, and more. If you are a novice quilter, you owe it to yourself to take a good beginning quilting class from someone who has experience.

Find someone who…

  • Has made many quilts in a variety of styles and methods
  • Has received some kind of recognition by others in the field
  • Can explain the how’s and why’s of quilting in a way that you can understand
  • Has, perhaps, earned ribbons at quilt shows
  • Makes quilts that take your breath away

After you take a good beginning quilting course, seek out other quilt instructors and continue to take lessons. With each course you will learn more tips, tricks and good, sound methods. In time, you will develop your own tips, find out what works for you, and be ready to go into the world and be a mentor for new quilters yourself.