Are you a designing women (or man)?

My etsy post resulted not only in many kind comments, but an interesting email correspondence with a quilter whose work I included in the post. As we've chatted back and forth, we've realized we have much in common: we both love asiatic/oriental rugs, we both work in academia, we both love Kaffe Fasset's designs, and we both adore fabric (that last one might be a given with ANY quilter).

One of the interesting things we've talked about is designing one's own quilts vs. sewing the designs of others and how some people come down hard on one side of that line or the other.

People often complain that they feel uncomfortable in traditional quilt guilds because of the "quilt police": those who bristle at quilts if the points of stars disappear under an adjoining seam, if a binding doesn't lie completely flat, or if squares don't line up perfectly. Those kinds of judgements go a long way toward taking the joy out of creation for me. And yet, those "keepers of the quilting flame" also help ensure that there is a standard for quality craftsmanship, and that, too, is important.

I'm a sewer who most often uses the patterns of others. I've designed very few quilts—the one on this page is one of them. I admit that I'm probably most proud of those I designed myself, but I certainly take pleasure in sewing quilts designed by others and feel that I make them mine by my choice of color, fabric, and the occasional design tweak. (I also learn a lot each time I use someone else's instructions. I'm always delighted by the number of ways there are to create a block and some designers are exceptionally talented at simplifying a complicated design.)

I believe there is a place for both kinds of quilting, as well as sewing things aren't quilts. There's real satisfaction that comes from whipping up a bag or even a pillow case when you need a quick project (I love a lot of the Quilts and More projects for this reason.) I also feel great when I finish a simple quilt for a baby gift, as well as a larger, more complicated one. And when I have the time to design a quilt, that's fabulous, too. But I hate to feel constricted in what I sew, feeling guilty because I'm using someone else's pattern, and certainly hate to feel judged for doing so.

The pleasures of having my hands on all those fabulous fabrics and threads and combining colors soothes and stimulates me. The process of sewing itself can put me in the zone and seeing the completion of something tangible, in a world where so much work is seemingly never done, brings deep satisfaction. Sewing the patterns of others confers a respect on those pattern-designers who do it well: there's a real art to designing something beautiful and then putting together accurate and clear instructions. (I know, because I've felt the frustration of sewing poorly described and/or inaccurate patterns.) I'd love to live in a world where quilters respected the many ways to achieve those feelings: traditional quilting, modern quilting, hand quilting, machine piecing and quilting.

Certainly anyone using patterns from another designer should make sure the designer doesn't prohibit the sale of such items, and give credit to the designer. And the creators of items that are one-off or custom-designed should be compensated accordingly. But when it comes to making gifts for loved ones or just sewing for fun, to paraphrase Rodney King, "Can't we all just get along?"

How about you? Where do you stand? What do you enjoy sewing?