Thursday, February 23, 2012

To Kit or Not to Kit: That is the Question

Quilt kit from Blue Bamboo
Over the last few years I've talked to a lot of quilt shop owners. It started in 2006, when I had the good fortune to write copy for 20 shops in Best of Quilt Sampler. Since then, I've talked with shop owners from Phoenix, North Carolina, Colorado, and Virginia for Quilt Sampler profiles. They're a passionate bunch, these shop owners, and without fail they tell me how lucky they are to do what they do for a living, and how much they enjoy their customers.

During our conversations we talk about what's popular in their shops and the subject of quilt kits always comes up. Most shop owners spend hours preparing kits for grateful customers and say that kits are big sellers. Shop owners attribute their popularity to quilters' fears of choosing fabrics and colors. Others say quilters are busy people and that ready-made kits speed the process along.

From Blue Bamboo
I'll admit I've felt a little "above" quilt kits. A lot of the fun of quilting for me is combining fabrics to create something uniquely mine. I've felt the same dismissiveness when it comes to pre-cuts and making quilts from a single line of fabric. I love to mix the unexpected and I'm a big fan of scrappy looks, too. But there are days when time is short, or when my mind is too frazzled to design but I still want to sew, and that's when I've appreciated precuts. This baby quilt and this lap quilt were both made with pre-cuts and single lines of fabric and their simplicity provided a soothing break—the hours of almost meditative stitching and ironing, the pleasure of watching something grow. While there's nothing like the energy that comes from stitching something of my own design, there are times when life is already providing me with plenty of intensity and I just need to chill. That's when I'm grateful for kits and pre-cuts.

I believe there's a time and place for all kinds of quilting—the "I'm on fire with creativity" days when ideas and color combinations can't be contained, the days and weeks when I'm hot to try new techniques and willing to spend hours on a difficult pattern. But there are plenty of days when I'm just as happy to have an hour to strip piece and simply appreciate the feel of fabric slipping beneath my fingers. There's room in quilting for all kinds of effort, for the masterpieces and the quick-and-dirties. I'm learning that when it comes to quilting, there are no absolutes. I should never say never.

How about you use kits and pre-cuts? Why or why not?


Katie Renee said...

Nah... feels like cheating somehow! I love to mix and match and come up with unexpected and non-traditional results!

Lizzie said...

I have only done a very little quilting - and I am working hard not to get sucked in, as I already have too many "hobbies"!! Would like to try it, but perhaps I had better not (just now)...

However, I did do a lot of counted cross-stitch embroideries. These also have ready-made kits, with a pattern provided, the fabric and all the threads you need - sometimes they are even cut into lengths and attached to a "project card" with colour/symbol coding relating to the pattern. I used quite a few of these over the years - for the same reasons that you sometimes have used quilt kits; it is just nice not to have to sit down and design my own embroidery, then to draw it all out onto a chart (pre computer design packages), work out all the threads required, check I had them, buy what I needed, get the right fabric.... A lot of work, before I can even sit down and relax over my stitching project. Sometimes, it is lovely to let someone else do the hard work at the beginning, so you have more time to enjoy the fun part!

Love the quilts you display on your blog. One day I really will make some of my own; just not yet!