28 April, 2011

Quilt Snob?

Am I a snob?

Okay, don't answer that right away.

There has been a lot of talk and entertaining posts lately about a lot of quilt arena issues - modern versus traditional, rants about designers, plain old rants, beginners feeling shamed, quilters being snobby, and more. I'm not going to repeat them all here, and I doubt I've even seen them all. But if you want some really interesting posts read them here, and make sure you read all the comments too. Note: I've included different opinions here, only this post is my own.

It is actually the comments I'm reading that are pushing me to write this post. Many folks are upset with "quilt snobs". Unfortunately, it isn't always clear to me what defines a snob.

The way I define a snob is someone who intentionally works to make someone else feel bad for the way they act, dress, define themselves, propping themself up higher on their already high horse in doing so. When it comes to quilting snobs, what does this mean?

... Disdain for one style of quilting over another?
... Talking smack about a fabric line you aren't a fan of, and by extension, the designers?
... Shooting down bloggers who maybe don't have a fancy camera or can only take their pictures late at night when they have a spare moment to work?
... Judging people who are trying to make a living at quilting?
... Being openly critical of bee participants?
... Just another name for the quilt police marking down missed points and skipped stitches?
... Big Name Bloggers refusing to comment on other blogs?
... Groups of friends that are collaborating/chatting and defined as cliques?

I've been critical of charm packs/pre-cuts and the reliance on them. I struggle with group projects where the simple quality of the workmanship is lacking (ie. no 1/4 seams, lack of pressing, and no squaring up of blocks). I'll admit that I'm tired of plain patchwork quilts. And stippling. (I've done more than my fair share of both)

All this, however, doesn't make me a snob. Anytime I think these things I keep my mouth shut (until today, obviously). If I visit a blog I like and see a quilt I don't then I move on to the next one in my Reader. I like to challenge myself so that's why you don't see me do many things twice, but that's me. I have no interest whatsoever in making someone feel bad or trying to make myself feel better with an off-putting or off-colour comment.

I will never condemn you for your pattern choice. I will never judge your fabric choice, but I will share my considered opinion if you ask. I will never shoot someone down in a public forum for their own creativity, work, family, or anything quilty related.

Rather, I want more people quilting. I want blogs to inspire. I want new or hopeful quilters to come to blogs and think "I can do that!" Or, if they are intimidated by the work (and not the quilter) think, "I can't wait until I can do that!" I don't think I'm alone with this goal. I want people to feel motivated to finish their quilts however they like, with the emphasis on finishing.

In pursuit of this goal I will continue to share my own inspiration, my work - both easy and difficult - tips and tutorials and yes, challenge the conventions. I will always encourage people to break free from patterns, charm packs, and single line quilts. I will always, always stress care in construction. I will always answer questions you send my way. I will push for people to be open with their process

This doesn't make me a snob.

Or does it? Be honest, I've got skin as thick as an elephant. But remember, my Dad just died.

(That was a joke.)

What makes a quilt snob? Have you had any run-ins? What's your strategy for dealing with the quilt snobs you encounter?

25 April, 2011


When my father-in-law died seven years ago and we used a lot of humor to cope with our grief we would joke that we could say, "My Dad just died," and get what we wanted in any negotiation or to get out of something we didn't want to do. My girls are already picking up on this and when they cry because I won't let them have another Mini Egg they scream, "I'm just sad because Dido died." I can't help but laugh, then still refuse to give them another chocolate. I need to accept their own process of grieving and settling back home, but that includes losing the bad diet of our time away. Besides, Mama needs those Mini Eggs.

My Dad died and we buried him last week. After nearly 2 months of not being at home, of daily trips to the hospital, of more candy that I thought possible, of captured meals, of the chaos of 6 little cousins getting together more than they ever have before, of the comfort of cookie it is time to get back to a routine.

There is a lot to be said for routine and kids.

To be honest, though, I used to scoff at the parenting advice that practically shouted out the value of ROUTINE! for kids. Most kids are resilient and adaptable. Not all, but most. And I certainly didn't want to become a slave to my kids routine. Wake. Eat. Play. Sleep. Repeat.

Right now, though, we're craving routine.

We watch PBS Kids while we eat our bread with butter and honey, as we do every single morning. (Okay, so they did this at my parents' place every morning too.) Now we can stay in our pajamas longer. We can soak in the sun streaming through the windows. We can pet our dogs. We can peek out the front window and spy on the neighbours. We are home.

So long as there is bread, butter, and honey we can eat. We can be boring and routine.

A Pillow

There is no clever way to say this. My Dad died.

On April 12 the cancer finally took him. It was very rough there at the end, with struggles to breathe and maintain dignity, with exhaustion and pain.

We buried him a week ago.

My girls, ever the concrete and literal thinkers, obsess over exactly how one exactly gets buried or why those men are singing songs they can't understand in fancy, embroidered capes or what the spear thing is their cousin is carrying or why the bells have smoke or why they can't pull down Dido's baseball cap collection if he is dead now and doesn't need it.

My family struggles with the conflicting emotions of grief and relief.

There are photos I took of the process of dying and moments in the hospitalization that struck me, but they aren't mine to share yet. It's funny, but I think I've crossed the line into some kind of photographer (albeit very amateur) because there were photos I wanted to make, even at the funeral. Making photos is now an outlet for me.

These two photos are of my Baba's embroidery and what we did with it. While we picked the most simple coffin we could, at my father's request, it still had a bit of a ruffly pillow. So we crafted our own. We took some of my Baba's embroidery and appliqued it to a case we made for the coffin pillow. It might seem morbid to share it here, but I know you will all understand. I needed to share the beauty of my Baba's work, and our desire to bury Dad with the work of two generations.

I stood at the prayer and funeral services and delivered the eulogy. It was a challenge, as my relationship with my father was certainly not perfect and actually far from good at times. But he asked me and I couldn't say no. So I stood and told the story of my father and how his story is also mine, is also the story of everyone who knew him. And now it is yours.

I spoke of the need to get down on the floor and play with the little ones even when the dishes need doing or one more seam needs to be sewn. I spoke of never leaving things let unsaid. I spoke of the need to live your life, to make it through the day taking the time to share your story, to create your story with the people around you.

04 April, 2011

In Use

That's my Dad's quilt there. It rests on the cot and hospital pillows in my Dad's room. That room is in the Palliative unit at the hospital. He would sleep under it himself, as he did when he first entered the hospital, but the cancer makes him hot (and hungry). He makes us use the quilt as we take our turns spending the night with him. Comfort all around in the darkest of moments.

03 April, 2011

Death Row Dinners

My Dad is dying. Over 50 years of smoking will indeed catch up with you.

He's now as comfortable as one can be in his condition in a Palliative unit. We've all but moved in with my mom to support her and the rest of the family as we deal with hospital visits, nighttime vigils, loss of appetite and the inevitable stress and pain that comes with all of this. While I've been surviving on Mini Eggs and beer, my Dad has a renewed appetite. Thank goodness for steroids!

On the days when he isn't wolfing down a bag of jellybeans for breakfast or eating chocolate bars when he can't sleep at 4 am, he is planning his next home cooked meal. After months and months of no appetite and a weight loss that will see him buried in his wedding suit from 45 years ago he is nothing short of starving at all times. Unfortunately, all he's doing is feeding the cancer at this point. The doctors have pointed out that he is only eating for pleasure, and not nourishment at this point.

So pleasure it will be.

We get the opportunity to gather for family meals when Dad is released on a day pass. The first time he submitted his meal request days in advance. Chicken, ribs, shrimp, and onion pie. He didn't much care what we served for vegetables. This past weekend he asked for roast beef, real chicken noodle soup, ham, kasha, and raisin pie. Again, he wasn't picky about the vegetables. I guess when you are eating for pleasure things like salad don't matter much.

The meal requests almost feel like he's a death row inmate asking for his last supper. Many of us have been asked what we would want for our last meal, but when faced with the real prospect of such a meal it is the visceral pleasures that win, as do the memories of taste.

There we sit, 8 adults and 6 kids, wolfing down the meal as if it is the last, or the first, for all of us. In a strange twist the kids end up at the dining room table while we adults crowd, with the food, in the kitchen. The meals come together with the efforts of everyone. Someone makes the pie, another makes the kasha, a few of us throw the soup together. My sister makes a roast beef, complete with carrots and potatoes. The salt and pepper shakers that have accompanied us for over 30 years are still there, as is my parent's wedding flatware. The comfort of the familiar in looks and tastes is there for all of us.

We fill our plates, then eat seconds, picking with our fingers from the serving dishes. Carrots, heavy with the pan juices from the roast. Beef dipped in Dad's homemade horseradish cream. Family dinner.

My Dad, with his appetite, wolfs it all down. His inherent grumpiness is not gone, complaining about the noise the kids are making or the roast that the rest of us love. Then, while we sit in the living room, chatting and looking through Dad's high school yearbooks, he periodically wanders back into the kitchen to pick at the meat. Taking in every last ounce of his family and his favourite foods.

Beyond a reflection on these death row dinners, this post is also an entry for the Canadian Beef contest to win a scholarship to Eat, Write, Retreat.