Left out?

This post is going to be an opinion piece about the quilting community, but first, here is block 14 of the Jubilee quilt. I've put the center together twice, but now that I've seen this picture, I'm likely going to do it again. there's something wrong that has to have occurred when I put the quarters together into halves, because I have used all my skills to join the halves and the points just won't match. This is going to be another great block, soon as I get that solved. I think I'll work on that before I put it on the Jubilee blog.

So, what am I feeling left out of? I've had two things come up this week that made me think about men who quilt.

First was an email from Christine, the blogger at QuiltersCandy letting me know that she had blogged about me as a part of the male quilting community. I read her post. It was thought provoking.

Next, I received the questions for a magazine article about men who quilt that I've agreed to participate in, and the very first question was about my thoughts on the male quilting community.

Thinking. Thinking


What male quilting community? Have I been left out of my own group?

When I started quilting in 1999, I didn't think to look for a male quilting community I could barely find a quilting community at all. The male quilters I found were John Flynn, whose engineering approach to precision was beyond my skills and understanding at the time and whose contributions to the quilting community took years for me to appreciate; Joe Cunningham, a hand quilter when I wanted to learn to machine quilt; and Ricky Tims, who was developing the cave man style of quilting that was so different than the precision I was learning at the time, but who made great strides to get men's quilts taken seriously and stood up against the social convention that quilting was for women. And, there was me.

At the time, I was still being skipped in the cutting line at JoAnn's because they thought I was just holding fabric for a woman. I generally got asked if I needed any help and treated like I was standing in the way while women were free to shop undisturbed. And, I was told the dimensions of a fat quarter every time I picked one up. Women were the accepted group in fabric stores, and that didn't have anything to do with quilting.

Ruth McDowell, Alex Anderson, Eleanor Burns. Elizabeth Hamby Carlson, Martha Thompson, Sally Collins. My mentor JC. These ladies, and ones just like them, taught me to piece and to sew; taught me color and precision and bindings. And, then there were my aspirations; Jinny Beyer, Harriet Hargrave, Diane Gaudynski. And, after that, Bonnie Hunter, who taught me how to use up what was left over. And, Leah Day, who taught me to think outside of tradition and create originality from what I saw both inside and outside of the quilt world.

Women, each and every one.

About 5 years ago, I went looking for the male quilting community. I hunted and I hunted and I found Manquilters. At the time, it was aspiring to be a male quilting community, but it seemed to diverge into too many topics for me. When I was trying to get involved, it wasn't really what I was looking for. A few guys posted quilt pictures, but nobody talked or created community among the men who joined. There was much diversity of thought and no one to channel that into a cohesive theme. There are a couple of guys I met there whose blogs I still follow and some other guys found my blog or I've found theirs, but pretty much, for me, manquilters did not represent the community I was looking for.

While I was learning the difference between a needle and a seam ripper, I was also nosing my way into the local quilting community. I finally got over my trepidation and let them see me as a quilter and not just a husband holding fabric. They welcomed me with open arms, never once being snide or judgmental. They shared freely and gave me tips and hints that worked hand-in-hand with the basics I had learned from TV. I showed off my work and I got better and better and now?? I'm teaching at that same LQS.

So, what does all that have to do with the male quilting community? I never found it, so I just joined the community that I did find. I never saw it as either male or female; just quilters. I let people see my work and I got help building my skills and I started writing a blog. And, I created what I think of as my online quilting bee; quilters that followed me and quilters that I followed. Male and Female. Black, Asian, White. Citizens of a half dozen countries. We had show and tell and we shared our skills and our challenges and our upcoming projects and we organized group projects and challenges. That blog group was lost due to a lack of technical support and I moved here, where many of my bee had already found new homes. And, I met more and more people. Quilters and appreciators of quilts. Parents. Gardeners. Cooks. And, I made them all part of my community; my bee. Not my male community. Just my community. And, they've held my hand when I was afraid and they've given me advice when I have no idea. They share their ideas and their support and their encouragement.

I'm no beer drinking, odoriferous invader into the world of women. I'm just a person who volunteered to be a parent and enjoys quilting and knitting and cooking and gardening, regardless which gender was taught to enjoy them by social convention. When I speak, I tailor my words to the audience I'd like to attract, which is diverse and inclusive. If I ran into women that resented my intrusion into the world of the womanly domestic arts, I don't really know what I'd say. I don't think it would faze me much. I'd likely just snicker behind my hand at the silliness of resenting something that's happening all around and can't be stopped, like resenting a wave that's crashing onto a beach.

Men are breaking the social barriers that prevented them from being public about their quilting, just like women broke down the social barriers that kept them from working outside the home. We are not the first men who quilt any more than Bella Abzug was the first woman to be independent. But, we may be the first men who expect to be recognized for our contributions to the community, just as Ms Abzug expected to be recognized for her contributions to women's rights.

I've never been one to keep quiet. I am one to challenge social convention. And any guy that recently got taken seriously at the local JoAnn's fabric counter can say "Thanks!"any time they want.

After I thought about it and got past some of the words, I realized Christine's message was right. There is no need for women to be bothered by men in the quilting community. There's no need to split the community into male quilters or female quilters or art quilters or biblical quilters or hand quilters or longarm quilters. We're just quilters. And we may not have anything in common, except our love of quilts

And, how will I answer that question for the magazine editor? I never found the male quilting community, but that didn't stop me from joining the community of quilters that I did find. It's a community with lots of different people in it.

We all contribute to one great, all-inclusive community of people. No devisiveness required. All are welcome. Step into the light.



Becky said...

Wonderful post! So glad we are in this community together!! Love you bunches!!

BlueRidge Boomer said...

Great post...!!
WE have a male quilter on our local guild...he learned to quilt at the age of 80...and has made some of the most amazing quilts....he's always a hit at show-n-tell...

Linda said...

You should tell your magazine editor just what you said here! It's perfect.
You're not alone in sometimes feeling "set apart" as a male quilter. Many of us have had similar experiences. My husband was appalled once when a lecturer at an American Chemical Society meeting told me he was "glad he could present it (his data) in a way that I could understand", as though he had to dumb it down for me! We are all guilty of sometimes prejudging. Those experiences help us know how NOT to treat others.
Hang in there! The quilting community is becoming more diverse every day! I see more prejudice between traditional and "modern" quilters than against men vs. women.

Marla said...

I agree with Linda. I would just hand over the blog article you wrote today to the magazine. It speaks for itself...plain and simple. I've said it before and will say it again...you are an excellent writer.

Coloradolady said...

Perfectly said....submit this.....however....you Lane do stand out and whether you like it or not do set apart from the community in general. YOU HAVE MAD TALENT and a talent many can only dream of having a snip of. That is a FANTASTIC problem to have by the way!!!

I never really noticed men in fabric shops and honestly, if I had, I might have thought the same thing others did about them being with a wife who was the one who sewed. After all....my own husband fits that bill rather well. You may remember me telling about my son and husband going to the quilt shop for fabric while I was at work....they sold them TWICE what I needed and they had no clue at all....shameful! I still have some of that fabric in my stash....anyway....I notice men now more than ever, I pay attention to what they are buying and how they are putting fabrics together....men I have found have very good eyes on design and color and I am always eager to learn a thing or two from the male counterparts in the sewing world!!

I for one am most thankful for finding you...or you finding me!!! That in and of itself is a real treasure!!

Bratling said...


Seraphinalina said...

Fantastic post! It's about the craft and work behind it, not our gender or skin or heritage. It's just finding a community that feels like home.

lw said...

I took a trip over to Quilter's Candy. My take on men quilting is totally different. I'm an engineer, so about 94% of my coworkers are male. I like men, I like being around them. So when they show up at quilting stores, shows and even teaching classes, I like it. It would never occur to me that they shouldn't be welcome-- artists are who they are, the externals don't signify.

Elizabeth said...

Quilters share a common thread.

xo -E

lindaroo said...

Boy, do I appreciate your POV. We relate to each other because we're all in motion, moving toward growth and improvement and learning in the area of quilting. We can come from any background and have commonality in where we're headed and how we're getting there. I've experienced a tiny bit of this regarding ageism. When I went to my first quilt guild meeting, I was amazed by all the gray-haired folks... then I realized I'm one of them! My online quilting community, however, includes all ages and skill levels, all appreciating this diverse art form.

Kate said...

Great thoughts, Lane. I am a professional musician, and there is a parallel in that throughout history, there have been virtually no outstanding female composers. One here and there, often a wife or daughter of a male composer. A few years back there was a big movement to research and perform "music by female composers"... after a few years, it was realized that it was not different or unique because of the gender of the composer - the music simply had to speak for itself... the music was the music - good, bad, mediocre... I predict that the fascination with 'male' quilters will fade, too, and we'll focus, appropriately on the quilting, and the good work we all do as quilters... hope so!!

Florence said...

not sure how i got here but,,,,greatly said,,,,,,,,,,,being a woman in the construction field, it took me forever to get my tilelady status and taken seriously in construction,,,soooooooooo, we have very similar paths we are following and have struggled with,,,,welcome, and hope to c more of you,,,happy quilting, mr quilter, lol,,,,,flo

One Minnesota Quilter said...

Like one of your other commenters said, this post could be your article. You really know how to express yourself.
Many of us women have felt the same way in hardware stores, DIY stores, at the car repair shop, etc. so can identify with the gender bias while shopping.

Carla said...

Well said. I agree with some of the other comments this post could be your answer. I usually jealous of the guys in our guild because they are GOOD. ;o). Quilters are quilters with no boundries on race, creed, color or gender.
You go Lane.

DangAndBlast! said...

I'm with Linda on where I see most of the conflicts these days! (Then again, that's probably because I'm female, so I mainly notice when people get angry that I prefer traditional quilts or say I'm holding back the field if I get concerned about points not matching instead of embracing the wonky... just like I notice when they say I'm holding back all of womankind by taking off work after having a baby. There are a lot of people out there who feel threatened by the mere existence of people who make different choices than they do...or who have different lifestyles, of course...) You know, I love how your opinion posts, even on much more personal matters than this, are always gentle - as an old-fashioned Texan girl, I do appreciate it when someone can be a gentleman, even when discussing all sorts of prejudiced or just mean people!