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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Getting Back to Basics

Hi Boys and Girls!

We are in the age of aquarius...uh-oh...I am showing my age! Really, we hear a lot about "going green," "getting back to basics," "living a green lifesyle," "quality of life rather than quantity," and on and on. What does all this mean? Well, from my viewpoint, we as humans are seeking a simple life filled with all that is good and things that truly make us happy. Look at the revolution of cooking meals together? Hasn't that really made a resurgence? You know in your own life it has. Turning the TV off during dinner and playing a board game after dinner keeps the family interacting. Well, we do see a change in our world...Speaking of world...how about the quilting world?

My world was rocked last weekend! I attended a 2 1/2 day machine quilting seminar with the Mother of Machine Quilting, Harriet Hargrave http://www.harriethargrave.com/. She is the guru of quilting and I am in awe of her work. Harriet is sort of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Cady_Stanton of the quilting world. That may seem like comparing apples to oranges to many of you but just think about it. Thirty year's ago machine quilted quilts were not accepted for judging at the Houston International Quilt Festival http://www.quilts.com/. All of you young'ns out there may not realize it, but machine quilting is relatively new. Elizabeth Cady Stanton initiated the first women's rights movement in 1848. Where would we women be today without women's suffrage? She was a daring woman!

Harriet Hargrave is the first woman to have a quilt accepted for judging at the Houston Quilt Festival that was machine quilted! That was a big thing and caused quite a stir in the quilting world! Trail Blazer...that is what Harriet was and still is. She was a brave woman!

Well, this machine quilting seminar was sponsored by Common Threads in Waxahachie, Texas. http://www.commonthreadsquilting.com/ Not only is this a fantastic quilt shop, it is in the cutest, old town you would ever want to visit! http://waxahachietxcoc.weblinkconnect.com/cwt/External/WCPages/
This is really a cool town! Just look at this beautiful courthouse. This is an old, historic town.

 I am getting off track, right? And you are saying, "What does this have to do with getting back to basics?"
Well, I will tell you. Harriet Hargrave is old school. She believes if you are going to do something, do it right. My dad ALWAYS said that! Harriet has been sewing all her life and learned from her mother. Where they differed is in the quilting world, Harriet's mom was a hand-quilter and Harriet wanted to use her sewing machine. And so it goes...brilliant minds with different ideas. But they both had a common ethical thread or value of quilting...do your own work and do it well. And so evolved the mission of Harriet Hargrave: to teach the love of quilting using a sewing machine. Here is the dedication in her book Heirloom Machine Quilting: As always, this book is dedicated to my mother for the love of quilting and sewing that she shared with me throughout my life, and to the many thousands of students who have shared their time with me these past 25 years of teaching. Together we have brought machine quilting to standards of skill that we couldn't have imagined in the beginning. This sounds like a dedicated person to me. You can find this book on Amazon. Be sure to purchase the 4th edition. You can experience the workshop like I did but without Harriet. She actually taught the book.

The retreat center where the workshop was held was actually in Milford, about 20 minutes south of Common Threads. It is a lovely house with lots of beautiful rooms, a full kitchen (off limits to us in attendance), dining area, massage room and a huge work area.

Each room had a theme. This picture is the Thirties Theme. There was also the Civil War theme, Thimbleberries theme, Batik theme and a lot more. Each bed had a homemade quilt. The bathrooms were spacious and shared by 4 roomies. All the food was homemade and served to us in the dining room. We did not even have to take our plates to the kitchen! Boy, it did not take us long to start loving that!

The work area was huge. This picture only shows 1/3 of the space. Work chairs were provided so we did not have to bring our own from home. This is very important especially for machine quilting. Often we sit for hours at our machines and lose track of time. Harriet suggested we stop, look up and out the window for a few seconds and then get back to work.

Each day started with breakfast at 8 am. Then Harriet started her
lesson at 9 am. We stopped for lunch and dinner. The evening lesson stopped at 9 pm. But one night it went on until 9:30 pm. The first half day was mainly lecture. I took 10 pages of notes! Harriet started with the basics which is constructing the quilt properly. Accurate 1/4" seam allowances are crucial. See my earlier blog lesson on this.
Harriet discussed how we as quilters are pushed too fast to get a project done and start on another one. This is business. Quilting is a billion dollar industry. But in the pressure to finish one project and start another project many quilters leave out an important step...the quilting! So what do we do? We pile up quilt top after quilt top until we finally give them to a long-arm quilter to finish for us. Are we really quilters if we do this? Technically, the answer is no. We have become piecers. Nothing wrong with this except that we lost something along the way. We lost the reason we went into quilting in the first place.

If you love fabric, sewing, quilting whether it be with machine or by hand, you know the relationship between your hands and fabric. It is almost spiritual. You become "one with the cloth." In our rush to finish a project so we can start another one, we have lost this lovely relationship with the skill of quilting.

Quilting gives a quilt life. The soul of quilting is quilting yourself.
A lot of my quilting friends say they hate binding their quilt. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buCKs-Fgvb4

This video on YouTube will show you how to bind a quilt. Well, some people hate this part of the construction. I love it. To me it is the final stage and my way of saying good-bye to this quilt that has been my friend for months. Yes, I have cried during this stage!

It is hard to describe what an enlightening weekend I had with Harriet Hargrave. She not only taught me the basics of machine quilting but also gave the real story behind batting, threads, needles and the fabric world that we all love.
 No, I will not be quilting my own quilts right away. Some of us made a commitment not to start another project for 6 months! Yes, you heard correctly....This does not mean no shopping! Of course, we can continue to work on our current projects. But the theory is this: if you start another project machine quilting will be pushed back a bit more. Each day it is pushed back makes that pile of unfinished quilts a little higher. So, I made that commitment. I want to own my quilt that I started. I want to say "I created this work of art from the beginning to the end."
Thank you Harriet Hargrave!

So go out there and do what you love doing! Make it yours...if it is worth doing, it is worth doing right.
Until next time...call your mother, give something away that you really love, stop and smell a flower,
feed the squirrels, take your kids to the park, love yourself!


  1. You have been trult inspired, Mary. Right now, I would love to be inspiered. Sue Ann

  2. Mary - What a great time you had! I had thought of going to that seminar but just never signed up. But I have been to Our House in Milford with three Jo Morton retreats and have always enjoyed it very much. so - when do we see your new talents in machine quilting?

  3. I am trying very hard to keep my commitment
    and practice for 6 mos! However, I am itching
    to quilt a table runner that has been ready for a