“Copycat Quilting”

It was an innocent remark. I am sure they were trying to compliment me. It just struck me wrong and I couldn’t decide if I wanted to get my feelings hurt or not. Basically, it goes like this, I was asked how I recreate patterns that I see elsewhere. I showed a few pictures and explained how I do it. I gave examples from my own binders in the process. One person mentioned starting a group to share and teach others how I do things. It was said I should call it, “Copycat Quilting.” It gave me pause. I stared at the comment, read it over and over again. I finally asked Mark if I should be offended or not. He said, “I think she came across wrong is all. I don’t believe it was intended as an insult.” I told him I wanted to write a post and defend myself. He said, “I wouldn’t defend yourself. Just say who you are, what you do and why you do it. Don’t be defensive.”

Well, here is my *non-defensive* explanation. Maybe it is defensive. It’s my blog and I want to explain myself so y’all understand.

I am a self-taught quilter. I make constant mistakes on the things I create. Most the time, after it is quilted, the mistakes are barely noticeable. My points are almost always off in some fashion, no matter how hard I work and try. I keep working at it, trying to get better, but I’m not going to get my feelings hurt over it. I’ve had someone tell me I had no right to try and teach others when I make mistakes myself. I never went back to her store again. I’ve been through too much in this life to worry about what one shop owner thinks and I’m not interested in listening to vipers, self-described “Christian” or not.

I think that’s wrong. I should teach others because I have an analytical mind that allows me to convert the difficult to the easy and I share it. I will continue to take what I find and how I do things and share them with others. If it is not wanted or y’all don’t care to read it, then don’t. Right?

Ok, so non-defensive. When my family went on Spring Break vacation to the Oregon coast in the spring of 2012, I was the recipient of a gift of several boxes of old Quilter’s Newsletter magazines. I was visiting the Lattimer Quilt Museum in Tillamook, Oregon. In these boxes were hundreds of these magazines. Going back to the year I was born!

It took a few years before I was comfortable enough to start using what was in the magazines. Unfortunately, a lot of the older patterns were written to be used as templates. I wasn’t interested in using templates – too easy to mess up for me. I had started drawing blocks on graph paper and thought I was getting the hang of it when I opened up the magazines. I decided I wanted to share what I was learning and so I started using this blog. An easy way to share with many, without upsetting someone else’s space.

The more I drew on graph paper, the more I learned. The more I learned, the better I got at writing up patterns. Y’all saw the fiasco with the first mystery quilt, Marigold Garden. I learned so much while doing that! I had so much fun, at the same time. The second full quilt that I did was the Wild Irish Rose. Oh, that was a blast and so fast and easy! The third one begins in a week and I am very excited about it. It is of a patriotic theme and I can’t wait to start and finish it!

Towards June, I will start a Mystery Quilt that can be used for a fall/Christmas quilt. This one, I completely wrote the entire pattern from a picture. No size was given for the quilt, the blocks, none of it. The Quilter’s Newsletter, at the time, said you could send a SASE to them for the pattern. Obviously, 20-30 years later, I can’t get the pattern from them, so I rewrote it for myself.

Mark gets the cutest smile on his face when I figure out something new with the pattern recreation that I do from these old magazines. Y’all know what I’m talking about – when your significant other gives you that smile of pride for your accomplishments. It makes all the struggles and learning curves worth it – doesn’t it? It makes my heart swell when I see that smile on his face.

Recently, I was teaching Jen how I recreate a pattern from these old magazines. At first, she threw a fit – “I suck at math. I can’t do this. It’s hard!” After an hour of sitting with her and explaining, she got it and now she can do the math just like I can. Do you realize how awesome a feeling that was? Teaching someone else how to do something for themselves? It was kinda awesome. Now, she might remember that, she might not. I’m hoping she does. When I am long gone, she’ll have something she can do for herself. Especially if she inherits my binders. She’ll understand how I did it and do her own.

Let’s shift gears to another thing close to my heart. A lot of what I do is old-fashioned. I take pieces of the past and live them in my life today. I collect old books and enjoy reading them. My home is a collection of old but not old-redone-to-look-cool. I’m talking old and left that way. I mostly cook with a cast-iron pot and pan. I take what I like and bring it to my life today. I moved to this small town I am in so my children could experience the fun of being kids with bikes in such a small town.

Take the love that of the old and apply it to my quilting. No, I am not going to start hand quilting and hand sewing my blocks together. First, I’m awful at it. I can do a little bit of decorative stitching but nothing that holds together and lasts. But, what I do do is share. Think of the quilting bees and quilting circles of old. They sat around, gossiping, talking about family, praying over the stitches, sharing of love and life.

Sharing – recipes, quilting patterns and pieces, fabrics and all things related to being a woman of old. When they all got together, they didn’t just speak quilting and not talk about anything else. Couples with marital problems were prayed over, mothers-to-be had hands all over her belly while whispered prayers went to God’s ears, recipes failed were given advice on how to succeed, large families struggling were discussed and plans were made to help by way of food, quilts, clothes. Pastors were prayed for, the dying were visited, the grieving comforted by food, quilts and love.

In keeping with what I love of the old ways, I share my works. I share a bit of life now and again. I don’t charge. I don’t ask you to pay me. I learn and I show what I learn – and I ask that you share with me. I don’t get any comments on my blog but I do get quite a few comments on the Facebook group that I am a part of. That works.

My final words are about the copyright. I don’t claim works as my own unless it is. I show, to my best ability, who and where I found a pattern or idea. Most of what I do is not those who sell their patterns. I don’t search out who is selling an awesome pattern and recreate it so I don’t have to pay for it. No. What I do is the old patterns/blocks. The random bits and bobs I see on Facebook that I like.

So, I can’t decide if I am upset at the random comment about copycat quilting or not. I do know that I would love nothing more than to share what I know and do with others. I will continue to do so, right here. And, because the conversation came up, maybe I’ll do a series of posts – from start to finish – of a pattern that I see, recreate and then make. Perhaps you’ll be able to start doing your own, as well – if you don’t already. I know I’m not the only one who uses graph paper for my quilts.

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Categories: Quilting | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on ““Copycat Quilting”

  1. I’m not familiar enough with what you do to pass judgment on whether it’s ‘copycat’ or not. What I really like and admire is your commitment to sharing what you learn in an effort to teach and encourage others, without expecting any reward – thank you, and well done!

  2. From my limited understanding of copyright (not copycat) laws, what you are doing is legal, in terms of using the design and creating your own patterns of them. And if you are also paying ethical respect by including information to the extent you can on the origin of the design, then you are also doing the right thing.

    I especially appreciate that you said you’re not find neato current patterns (designs) and recreating them so you don’t need to pay for them. While I would have thought that okay in years past, I see now that it’s not. You must be way ahead of me on that. 🙂

    As to the copycat comment … I don’t mean this disrespectfully… I think you should let it go. I think we all use words carelessly and thoughtlessly, and I think that is what happened here. If it is YOUR group, based on YOUR work, YOU get to decide what it is called. If you like it called “Copycat Quilting,” go for it. If not, name it yourself.

    Oh… by the way, there is a great story by Mary Lou Weidman about how her class group got the nickname of “Mary Lounies” like “loonie” or crazy. Her feelings were hurt at first, and then she decided to embrace it.

    • What a great point of view. Thank you very much for sharing it! I will have to adjust my own thoughts. 😉

  3. First and foremost, no teacher is perfect and any teacher who says they are, or tries to make others believe that they are, should be ignored. The best teachers are the ones who have sometimes struggled to overcome difficulties themselves because that helps them to understand what their pupils are going through and they are best placed to help others. You are passing on a valuable skill that others appreciate. That’s what counts, whatever the skill. I’ll leave the copyright thing up to you as there is so much guidance out there and I’m sure you will be aware of that. Maybe you could use a name like “Making it Modern” or “Modern Makes” but check in case anyone else is using these names first (obviously).

    • Thank you very much. I appreciate the kind words! You’re right, I could use a name like that. Hmm…. Thoughts to ponder! 🙂

  4. Karin

    Well, in the pioneer days ladies quilted and yes, they copied from each other. I do not think they accused each other of copying. It was a way of life.
    I think it is awesome what you are doing and achieving. Keep up the great work. I love it and my list is getting awful long.
    Miz Karin

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