Engaging Your Family in Quilting

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Sharing the love of quilting has a long and lasting impact in society. Passing down an understanding and appreciation for quilt making lends itself to deeper connections within the family dynamic. We explore how quilting has played a role in the family dynamics of several Modern Quilt Guild members.  

For mom, Marie Glasby, and daughter, Becky Glasby, quilting has become a way to stay connected as life has moved them in opposite directions around the country. However, quilting wasn’t an activity that was passed down in a linear fashion for them. Becky learned about quilting and made a quilted pillow while visiting her aunt one summer as a teenager. After returning home, she wanted to learn more, so Becky and Marie invested time together learning about quilting through videos and books.

Becky’s first quilted project was a pillow. She learned about quilting and made this project as a teenager while visiting her aunt. Photo credit: Becky Glasby

 

Now, 20 years later, that investment has evolved to include Marie’s husband and Becky’s brother. They contribute by choosing fabrics and patterns and helping with quilt photography. Marie and Becky even taught them foundation paper piecing to assist in making a quilt for family friends.

Marie’s husband and son (Becky’s dad and brother) are involved in the quilting process. Marie and Becky taught them foundation paper piecing and they contributed by making a few blocks for a quilt they gifted to family friends. Photo credit: Becky Glasby

 

For Brett Lewis, quilting has wound its way from his mother-in-law, who encouraged him to take his first quilting class, to his young son, Damien, who loves to reorganize dad’s fabric stash. Brett loves sharing his passion and knowledge of quilting with Damien as he feels it broadens his understanding of art at such a young age. Damien clearly understands his dad’s love and mastery of quilting as he refers to Brett as “Quilter Dad” to his friends.

Brett and his son, Damien, work on a project together. Photo credit: Brett Lewis

 

It’s not just the independent practice of quilting that deepens a relationship; it’s also in the collaboration. Utilizing each person’s strengths and listening to a new point of view expands a person’s understanding of their counterpart. Marie and Becky brainstorm new ideas and challenge each other on projects. “Bouncing ideas back and forth helps us figure out what we’re looking for and it’s always a fast, energetic discussion that allows us to share tips and generate new ideas,” Becky said. Brett also collaborates with his son by asking him for his opinion on projects or top choices of fabric combinations. They spend time together at quilt stores and in Brett’s sewing studio. Damien is also Brett’s go-to photographer. “He has gotten quite decent for a preschooler on an iPhone,” Brett said.

Brett poses while his son, Damien, takes a picture with an iPhone. Photo Credit: Damien

 

As with any endeavor that requires as much planning, creativity and effort, quilting inevitably becomes a core part of how a family functions. Its impact is long lasting. “Quilting connects people. From children to adults, you can see that spark of recognition that quilts are special, whether it’s owning a family heirloom, being a recipient of a quilt, memories of a relative that quilted, learning to sew from a family member, or making a quilt yourself to give to someone,” Becky said. Brett added, “I think these heirloom traditions of crafting are making a big comeback with younger generations. I am hopeful that my son will want to spend time creating a hands-on piece of art, as opposed to playing on a tablet.”

All agree that it’s important to advocate for sharing quilting knowledge with future generations, providing key reminders of the importance all quilters play in passing on a beloved tradition. “I think it is the togetherness of quilting, from sharing ideas, choosing patterns and fabrics, and finishing that makes an impact,” Marie said.

With Becky’s job and hobby revolving around quilting, it’s a topic she’s constantly talking about. “Giving people, especially kids, that personal experience of art and a tangible way to creatively express themselves is so inspiring,” she said.

If you’d like to include your family members and friends in your love of quilting, use these tips to get started.

  1. Label your quilts. The easiest way for someone to discover that you’re a quilter is to identify your work. If a family member or friend is gifted a quilt you made, they may reach out to you and want to learn more about quilting. “I always label my quilts, which is important for keeping a record of the quilt and maker’s history,” Brett said.
  2. Build quilting into other family traditions. Make a holiday-themed quilt or wall-hanging. This can build excitement for when that piece is brought out for that special time of the year. Quilts are always a great way to mark a special occasion, like birthdays and weddings. “I think that’s influenced the joy I have in making quilts for friends and family to mark those special occasions,” Becky said.
  3. Involve family members where you can align their strengths to your quilt project. In addition to offering support and encouragement, Brett’s husband gets involved by assisting with quilt pattern design and doing “quilty math” for Brett. They also have an agreement that they won’t keep track of what Brett spends on fabric, which keeps quilting a happy tradition in their home.
  4. Teach the basics. If a family member has an interest in quilting, take them to a quilt store and talk about fabrics, notions, and projects to inspire them to start. Build on their interests from there and see how you can work together. Marie and Becky take classes together, go fabric shopping, work on charity quilt projects and enter quilt shows. They’ve also hosted a mom/daughter swap on Instagram and ran a quilt retreat together for nine years. Brett has built excitement for Damien for each part of the process – from helping with a fabric pull to cuddling under a quilt to watch Paw Patrol while Brett hand binds a quilt.
  5. Attend a quilt show. It helps to have a lot of visual examples when explaining quilting. By attending a show, family and friends will see that quilting is as visually expressive as painting a picture. They’ll see the breadth and depth of design that quilting has to offer.
  6. Find opportunities to share your quilting knowledge. Marie has taught Girl Scout members to quilt, has volunteered at the National Quilt Museum and has always been willing to teach friends how to quilt. Brett also shares his passion with younger generations. “I love talking to younger family members about quilting, always adding the caveat, ‘Never go buy fabric; I have more than enough in my fabric stash if you want to try quilting.’ I wish I had discovered quilting and sewing at a younger age, so I definitely think there is value in sharing the art of quilting with future generations.”

 

Marie Glasby is a Portland Modern Quilt Guild member. She has been quilting for 20 years. She was the facilitator of a modern quilt bee for six years and also works part-time in a new modern quilt shop. She likes making quilts that have a modern aesthetic with a twist on traditional, with bright colors and the full look of free motion quilting.

Becky Glasby is an individual member of the MQG. She has been quilting for 20 years. She is the Director of Education at the National Quilt Museum where she teaches quilting classes. She likes making quilts that have a fresh look with a modern twist. You’ll find bright colors and scrappy-coordination in her work.

Brett Lewis is an individual member of the MQG. He has been quilting for three years. By day, Brett works full-time in agriculture for the federal government; by night, he quilts, teaches foundation paper piecing and fussy cutting classes and designs fabric. His first fabric line is launching this fall and was influenced by the flora and fauna that he loved as a child growing up in Summerland, British Columbia. He likes making quilts that are bright, bold, eclectic, and contemporary, while mixing modern fabrics with classic patterns.

We want to know how you involve your family and good friends in your quilting adventures. Post a picture on Instagram and use #mqgfamilyquilting. Share your tips on how you've gotten family to take part in quilting.

 

Jessica Plunkett is a quilt pattern designer and lecturer from Des Moines, Iowa. After a middle school home economics teacher told her that her embroidery project looked weird and that it wasn’t really an activity for her to pursue, Jessica’s creative outlets took the form of writing and running for 20 years. Inspired by her late great-grandmother, Jessica finally took up quilting in her early 30s, as a way to express herself creatively in a visual format.

Jessica is drawn to solid color fabrics and has a particular fondness of black and pink quilts. She enjoys creating designs using simple blocks. She shares her work on Instagram (@maeberrysquare) and on her blog (www.maeberrysquare.com). 

Jessica’s greatest quilting joys have come from making quilts for all of her family, including special projects for her husband, daughter and for her grandmother, who was dying from ALS at the time the quilt was gifted. When she’s not in her studio, you can find Jessica running around after her daughter or running in races. She has completed 19 half marathons.