Today is just an ordinary Sunday around the Mosey home. We sleep in a little bit, take turns in the shower, get ready for church, drink way too much coffee, and pass the Detroit Free Press around the breakfast table, arguing about who gets which section when. This morning, an article in the Parade Magazine (April 22, 2018, page 9) really caught my attention. The article is called “Artificial Intelligence Takes Off.” Here are a few quotes from that article, but it would really benefit you to read the entire article if you can. The link is provided above.
“Everybody’s job is going to look different by 2030,” says Susan Lund, partner with MGI and an author of a report by McKinsey Global institute.”
“People fear a lot of jobs will be destroyed, but the reality is jobs will change as people team up with technology, “says Andrew Chamberlain, Ph.D.”
Let’s relate this article to what is currently going on in the world of quilts. Over the past few years, there has been a large quilting shift taking place around the world. Quilting used to mean one or more ladies sitting around a large quilting frame, stitching and talking and talking and stitching… stitching by HAND, that is! But the past several years have seen women AND men* sitting around a quilt frame to sew, or sitting by themselves and stitching by hand… AND sitting or standing by yourself to machine quilt a quilt top which you put together by machine.
More recently, what I have noticed is more and more people who are “QUILTING BY CHECK.” The phrase “quilt by check” started out as a bit of a giggle… people who didn’t have the time to quilt would make their own quilt top, and then PAY a machine quilter to machine quilt the quilt sandwich together.
I’m not saying that paying someone to machine quilt for you is necessarily bad. There are many people who earn their living by machine quilting for others who may not want to quilt for themselves. They may have a full-time job of their own and don’t have the time to quilt a top by themselves. They may not have the confidence to quilt by hand or machine on their own.
A few years ago, I made my granddaughter a quilt for her twin-size bed. I was working full-time, and part-way through making the quilt top I realized that there was no way the quilt would get finished before Christmas, which was when Santa Claus would be delivering her quilt. So I utilized the service of a machine quilter from our quilt guild. I gave her the top, the batting and the backing for the quilt, and she let me know when it would be finished. A few weeks later, I received a call from her: the quilt was ready to be picked up. I prepared myself to cover my expense for “QUILTING BY CHECK,” and drove to her house.
I was shocked to see her studio… she had several long-arm quilt machines in her basement studio. Two of them completely gob-smacked me!!! Not only were they expensive long-arm quilting machines, but they were computer-driven! In other words, the three layers of the quilt (top, batting and backing) were spread out on the machine. The computer was programmed, the thread was fed to the machine, and off she went.,, the machine sewed what the computer told it to sew (a specific pattern/design). When it ran out of thread, the machine alerted the human, and the human fed the machine more thread. When the machine had finished its job, it let the human know, and the human turned off the machine. The binding was stitched and sewn into place by the human, and the quilt was FINISHED! The human was given a check, and off I went with my head spinning.
Let’s get back to the article above on Artificial Intelligence. As quilters, just how far will we let this “quilt by machine” era go? Yes, friends, I am a fairly loyal hand quilter. I enjoy doing handwork. I like to hand quilt, to hand applique, to hand embroider, etc. I love looking at old, traditional quilts, and I could sit hour after hour inspecting the work of those quilters who came years before me. What I’d like to know is this: where is the dividing line between hand quilting and Artificial Intelligence?
Envision this: purchasing a large backing for a quilt top, a collection of fabrics that coordinate fairly well, placing it all into a plastic bag, handing it all over to a machine, selecting some electronic buttons that will supply the design for the quilt, pushing those buttons, and letting that sucker do its thing! Oh, please give me a class of cold water, a chair to sit in and something to slow my heart rate! I just don’t think I could do this! How many jobs will be taken away? Do you have room in your home for R2D2? I believe that time is coming!