Lessons from Quilts


Quilting develops an internal ruler—I know an inch, or six inches, or 36 inches when I see it.

I don’t think enough about borders.

I am good at machine-sewn bindings—as a matter of survival.  Hand-sewn requires up to three movies and makes my fingers sore.

I have definite likes and dislikes, and each of you does, too.

I recognize the expense, work and love that go into a quilt. 

Some quilt designs move and some are static.  Pineapple blocks are the most kinetic.  

I have much better tools and fabric choices than my mother and grandmother had.

I love my sewing machine’s needle threader and thread cutter.

I hate it when they don’t work.

I love fabric.  Most fabric, not all fabric.

Something can always be made from fabric I don’t like.

I love magnetic pincushions.  Anything else is just cute.

I bought Quilt-Pro software and never opened it.

Immersion in quilting is soothing to me. 

I have to remember to exercise other muscles.

I will spend a fortune on quilting, but I will agonize about the cost of other things.

It’s amazing what I can accomplish in three hours, in the company of a friend. 

I would have to find another hobby if I didn’t have a rotary cutter.

I would have to find another hobby if I didn’t have a friend with a quilting service.

People who don’t quilt think I am a genius.  Quilters know the truth.  

Jill Carpenter

What is the significance of this work to you? What is the significance of the form you chose for this work? What was your process for creating this work?

The Material Girls, my small quilting guild in Winchester, Tennessee, had a "getting to know you" feature, so when it was my turn I was compelled to bring along some old projects and show them. In looking through my old (and often unfinished and embarrassing) pieces, I realized I had learned a lot in the years-long process, and my work had improved as a result of doing. So I decided to generate a list of some things I could see that I had learned. Practice doesn't necessarily lead to perfection, but it leads to improvement. This is true in any task we undertake, and some tasks are much more difficult than others. Everyone's genius is different. Be kind to yourself.

The list resonated with the members, because I could hear them tittering.

Continuing to learn is medicine for many maladies.

Jill Carpenter has a degree in journalism from the University of Arizona. After 30 years in the South she has moved back to Tucson. 

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