Quilters are nice people, but we can be snobs.
When Liz Porter and I discovered patchwork in the mid-1970s, machine quilting existed, but self-respecting quilters eschewed it, pointing to ugly, puffy hotel bedspreads. We quilted our tops by hand.
In the 1980s, along came the rotary cutter, followed by quick piecing techniques, which meant everyone was soon turning out tops way faster than we could hand quilt them. Enterprising sewists figured out how to achieve quality machine quilting on their domestic machines. Longarm manufacturers perfected their products, and no one who knows anything about quilts looks down on machine quilting any more.
In September, I had the privilege of assisting with a Quilts of Valor award ceremony in Killeen, TX. The recipients were survivors of “Black Sunday,” an ambush and battle in Afghanistan in 2004 that left eight US soldiers dead and 60 wounded. The event was coordinated by Laura Winckel, and each red, white, and blue quilt unfolded was gorgeous. At the ceremony, the twenty-three recipients and their friends and family members far outnumbered the quilters in the room.
The quilts that elicited audible gasps of approval were the “panel quilts,” those with a patriotic message—and sometimes an eagle—at the center. Back home in Winterset the following week, I pulled a Northcott Fabrics patriotic panel from my stash and began making blocks to surround it, my panel snobbery a thing of the past. (Amazing, how fast it went together!)