I have a friend who keeps telling me that she thinks quilting is declining. But when you go to quilt shows, and particularly to the Houston International Quilt Show, I find that hard to believe.
There are times you can’t even move down the hallways where the vendors are, and in the area where all the quilts are displayed, you find groups of people viewing all the works of the quilters from here and around the world.
This same friend says that if we don’t teach our children to quilt, the craft will die out altogether. I agree with her on this point.
During the past years, members of our quilt guild have gone into elementary schools to teach classroom children about quilting. Sometimes it was just a lecture or demonstration. Other times they actually taught children to do some hands-on cutting and sewing.
I’ve also heard of various classes during weekend workshops for children, private lessons in a quilter’s home and summer classes at the local quilt shop.
The Crossroads to Texas Quilt Show hosted busloads of elementary school children through our show for many years. One year we had over 900 children who attended our event.
My personal feeling is that it’s nice to expose children to the craft of quilting, but they need to be old enough to be able to cut fabric and thread a needle in order for the interest to bud into an actual quilt. If they’re big enough to reach the sewing machine power pedal on the floor — all the better.
We’ve also hosted some high school Home Economics students who did not show any interest in our event at all. For many years, we conducted a quilt-related scavenger hunt for all children who wanted to participate. This consisted of a sheet of paper with question like “What quilt had a turtle on it?” and the child would insert the quilt number for an answer.
Some questions pertained to several quilts, and it was interesting to see if they found more than one quilt with a turtle. This activity also allowed their mothers to spend time looking at quilts because their children were engrossed in finding the clues and not bored. A bored child is no fun at a quilt show.
So the question is: How do we reach out to children and instill an interest in quilting? Guild members are always exploring answers to this question.
Do we reach out to home economics teachers? Do we try harder to market quilting lessons at local quilt stores? Do we find Scout and 4-H leaders who might be interested in getting their youth engrossed in quilting? Do we reach out to daughters, granddaughters, nieces and nephews?
Yes, boys quilt! Some men are making a good living in the quilt world. We can’t force a child to want to quilt. We can only expose them to our world and hope they catch “quilt pox.”
We try to have a Youth Division in our quilt show to encourage young quilters to exhibit their work. Several years ago we had three entries in our youth division. None of these young quilters chose to have their quilts judged. Our judges were very disappointed because they thought the quilts were ribbon worthy.
The only solution I can think of is that as quilters, we try to spread our knowledge of the quilting craft as far and as wide as we can and hope interest continues to create the wonderful works of art we all know quilts can be.
Nancy C. JUDD is a Herald correspondent.