Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Few Words about Collecting and Positive Reinforcement

As I mentioned in my first post, my focus (obsession?) on novelty fabrics and I Spy quilts grew out of that first quilt made for my son back in 2001.  I spent several weeks scouring the local fabric stores, purchasing little 1/4 cuts of various fabrics that I thought would work.  I hunted for fabrics with a variety of pictures so I could get more than one from a fabric.  I also swapped with an individual at the quilt forum (wish I could remember her name, I'd like to thank her again).  Once I had enough variety I constructed the quilt.  I put away the remnants, thinking that was that.

But after it was done, I kept seeing other fabrics and wishing I had found them earlier to put them in my son's quilt.  I saw other Attic Window quilts, made using different construction methods.  I saw other quilt patterns which were easier to sew that I thought might work with the novelty fabrics.  Other patterns that I wanted to try but didn't want to make a large quilt.  About that time, a couple of friends from work were given a double baby shower and I thought, hey I can use up some of the scraps left from my son's quilt.  Previously my typical baby shower gift was a couple of flannel receiving blankets and a favorite baby book.  That was about to change and big time.

The resulting quilts were made using an extremely simple pattern of strips with sashing and a contrasting border.  They had to be simple since I waited until the last minute to decide to do this.  I learned later the pattern is called Chinese Coins, but at the time I was just using up pieces left from fussy cutting all those squares for the previous quilt.  I want to mention here you see some common quilter traits:  keeping even the smallest left over pieces, then the pressure to figure out how to use them and waiting until the last minute and sewing in a panic.

Chinese Coins
The two mom's were thrilled and my coworkers were impressed that I had actually made two quilts.  My friends didn't know they really didn't take very long to make and the only additional fabric I purchased was the stripped border and the flannel backing.  Hmmm, I made a couple of gifts that people thought took me forever, but they were fun, quick, and inexpensive (ok, relatively inexpensive - the $$ had previously been spent).  Wins on so many levels.  Can you see the positive reinforcement?
Over the next couple of years there were four more baby showers at work, the result of working with a bunch of women of a certain age, plus two at church and my cousin had twins.  Wow, babies everywhere, they just kept popping up.  Funny how that happens.  I kept making baby quilts with novelty fabrics, trying out different patterns.  Some worked better than others but I was learning much about contrast, color, design (more on that later - I'm trying to stay on topic here but it's not easy).
Somewhere in this period I started collecting.  Patterns and fabrics.  Especially fabrics.  The bug of the fabric collector had bit me.  There were all sorts of justifications - we quilters are great at justifications.  I was getting bored using the same fabrics over and over.  I wanted more variety and there was so much variety.  Oh look, fire trucks.  And monsters.  And airplanes.  And puppies, what cute puppies!  I didn't have to buy large quantities.  I only needed 1/4 yard, at most a half.  A stack of 4 or 5 fabrics and I had only bought 2 yards.  And such fun fabrics, bright and happy and never boring.  Obviously I was going to keep making these quilts for baby gifts so I would definitely use the fabric.  Look at all those justifications!  Were the fabric purchases the justification for the gifts or were the gifts the justification for the fabric purchases?  Chicken and the egg, what does it matter?
Over the years I've gotten such sweet thank you notes from the mothers.  I've never had a mom seem bored by my quilts or unappreciative, though I did have one dad say "we sure got a lot of blankets".  Blanket?!  Never mind, the mom loved it and asked sweetly for another quilt later.  One mom sent me an email when her son was a toddler about how she had gone to pick up her son at daycare during nap time.  She was tickled to be able to pick him out in the darkened room by the brightness of his quilt.   She told me about how much they both loved the quilt, her son insisting he take it to daycare instead of leaving it at home.   Wow, how many people get that kind of feedback on a baby shower gift!  And yes, the quilt was VERY bright.
from Carol Doak's 40 Bright & Bold Paper-Pieced Blocks
Another cool story about this quilt.  I posted on the quilt forum the email from the mom, commenting how wonderful it was to have a quilt gift be so appreciated.  Carol Doak, the designer of the pattern I used, saw my post and replied.  Wow, a personal response from a quilting celebrity!  Some time later, she spoke at a local quilt guild.  I went to the presentation and got her to autograph a copy of the original email and her response.  She even remembered the conversation.  What a great memory for my quilting scrapbook, both the mom's appreciation and Ms Doak's reply.  And more positive reinforcement.
People will often ask me why I Spy quilts.  Don't I get bored making so many baby quilts?  Well, these aren't the only quilts I've made over the years, I have made lots of others.  But they are certainly the majority.  At last count I was  nearing the 100 mark.  I Spy quilts are like candy,  small and bright and fun.  They don't take a lot of fabric or time.  There are always new patterns to try - I haven't run out of ideas yet.  There are always new fun fabrics to collect.  They make the recipients so happy.  And they make me happy while I'm making them.  How can I not keep making them?  Nope, not bored yet.


  1. And don't forget, "Like candy, but non-fattening". :-)

    1. non-fattening. at least to my waist-line. but my fabric stash does seem to keep growing.