Please join me in welcoming today’s guest blogger, Beth Helfter, as she shares with us her quilting journey. Leave a comment below for a chance to win a kit of Beth’s Funky Tree Farm pattern too.
Sixteen years ago next month, I became a quilter. Logic might then lead you to guess that my age is somewhere between 60 and 80 and that I have a full head of gray hair. In both cases, logic would be wrong, although in the second case this is mostly due to the fabulous invention we call L’Oreal Excellence Crème hair color. In reality, I’m a brunette-turned-redhead of 41, and have proudly called myself a serious quilter since the ripe old age of 25.
While I am no longer the infantile quilter that I once was, I still refuse to put myself in the mid-range of quilters, and will resist doing so until I am at least 93 if possible. Young is an attitude, after all, and I have plenty of that. And thanks to most sources I found when I used the very professional research tool "Google", which puts the average age of quilters at between 55 and 62, I have a long way to go before I am average – as if I ever could be. Even though my campaign to keep me the youngest member of my guild via blocking all new members under 40 is destined to fail miserably, I’m apparently still on the younger end of all quilters everywhere, and I’ll keep it that way as long as possible.
Those of us who discover quilting at younger ages get to have many more decades to enjoy our art than those who take it up later in life, but sometimes we have to work just a little bit harder to be taken seriously. A friend of mine, Robin Koehler of "Nestlings by Robin", told me that she walked into a guild meeting for the first time as a thirty-something and was immediately taken aside by one of the members and taught all sorts of basic quilting stuff. Little did the member know she was already a published designer.
Another member of my EPQD facebook community, Lisa Dragan of "Equulibrim Studios", told me people tell her all the time she doesn’t "look like a quilter" because she sports tattoos and sometimes quilts directly from the horse barn in riding breeches and boots. And I’ll truly never forget the time I asked for a quarter yard cut of fabric at a quilt shop when I was about 30 and was asked if I wanted a fat quarter or a regular quarter yard. When I replied that it didn’t matter to me, the sweet lady behind the counter put on a caring face and asked "Honey, you do know they are different shapes, don’t you?"
Now, many of you are likely asking "WHY did she only ask for a quarter yard of fabric? That is barely enough to make a pincushion!" The answer would be two-fold: 1. I was buying other fabrics as well, so never fear, I am a real quilter (even though I never prewash, but that’s a blog for another day). And 2. Sometimes we quilters with young families need to be cheap so as to pay for the numerous dance recital costumes, swimming lessons, drama lessons because we don’t get enough of that for free from our kids, and 35 pairs of shoes each season. Having to share my resources, which could be used for fabric, with my family is a burden, but one that I shoulder happily. I figure eventually everyone will be out of the house and out of my wallet, and then I can buy as much fabric, in all shapes and forms, as I like. Until then, it’s another price to pay for being a youngish quilter.
I attended a webinar with Maria Peagler recently, and she gave a statistic that was upsetting to me – there are fewer quilters in America now than there were a few years ago, and the segment that has dropped off the most are quilters under 45. Ladies, (and a few gents I am sure), where are you going and GET BACK HERE! But on the other hand, I do get it to a certain degree. For those quilters in the throes of raising families, quilting is just one more thing to add to the day’s "to do" list, and in our quest to make everyone in our lives happy except ourselves, something that gives us pleasure is the first thing to go. But it shouldn’t be. I am a firm believer both in "a happy mom means a happy family" and in my own personal 20 Minutes a Day rule.
See that quilt? That’s one that I use in my trunk show to demonstrate that 20 minutes a day can really add up. Sure, that was a lot of 20 minute increments of my life over the course of two and a half years, but those 20 minute increments may have been all that kept me sane and feeling like I was accomplishing something just for me during the first two and a half years of my twins’ lives. And there is a lot to be said for remembering what makes YOU happy while you are trying to keep everyone else in your family happy. I am not sure how to reach all the former quilters who have given up due to a perceived lack of time, but I sort of want to make it a personal quest now to get them back. Because for one thing, the more under 45 quilters we have, the longer I can stay well under the average age. Do it for you. Do it for me.
There is one huge bonus I can think of to having a young family and being a quilter or quilt designer – you have cute models for your photos who will work for Goldfish crackers. Take this photo of my eight year old daughters, Eva and Paige, that I use on the inside cover of my "Diamond Dazzle" pattern. Cute, huh?
My friend Jen Eskridge, the thirty-something force behind "ReannaLily Designs" used this cute photo on the cover of her book. Who can resist those little feet?
It’s sometimes amazing to me that I have been doing this for as long as I have, and when I give my trunk show lecture to guilds I can only hope they enjoy comparing where I have come from to where I am now as much as I do. Every time I start at the beginning of my journey 16 years ago, I am amazed by how my style has changed so drastically. But that’s another fun part about being a quilter with decades ahead of you – you can experiment at will and find your bliss in your own style at whatever pace suits you, and can keep growing as a quilter for a little longer.
I’ve always liked the look of appliqué, but it took me years to develop my machine appliqué style of using lots of tone on tones for backgrounds and lots of funky shapes and fun embellishments to dress it up.
Although most of my designs tend to use some sort of machine applique and embellishment, I do now and then create something pieced as well, but like my applique, my pieced designs have evolved from traditonal to more artsy. Some might even say "wacked out".Which I would take as a compliment.
I want to thank Michele for allowing me to muse this week about the joys of discovering quilting at a youngish age. I hope no matter how many years you have been quilting and no matter what age you were when you discovered it, that you always have nothing but joy for this art that gets under your skin like no other! I also hope you will visit my blog, Quilting Hottie Haven, now and then to find out what new things I am up to or musing about!
For now, I’d love to hear your comments and am offering a kit to make my "Funky Tree Farm" pattern pictured above to a lucky winner who has something lovely to share about his/her quilting experience.
To enter the give-away: Leave a comment below sharing a brief quilting story of your own. One random winner will be selected next Wednesday to win one of Beth’s "Funky Tree Farm" quilt kits.
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