I admit, I’m often oblivious to gossip. I follow as many blogs as I possible can. I tweet and do Facebook. Yet sometimes I miss things that are kind of obvious. I saw a firestorm of debate in the quilting community, but it wasn’t until recently that I traced the controversy to a mid-March blog post and realized that Sew,Mama,Sew! ignited the spark. Yowza!

New Fangled Technology
My first job in social media.

I don’t want to go into it too much and try to address all the arguments and points of view (I can’t even begin to understand them all.) I don’t think that people should have to be nice and supportive and kind all the time and I do think there should be room for debate in the sewing community. But feelings have been hurt, some people are angry and I’m sure more than a few people feel gun-shy about what to say, what to share and what to post on their blogs. Because what we said started this debate, I feel a responsibility to chime in with my two cents. I thought I’d try to explain three principles in which I strongly believe.

Zombie Quilt
One of my early quilts.

Principle 1: Sewing should be fun!

This ain’t Little House on the Prairie and none of us are Laura Ingalls. We don’t have to sew if we don’t want to. We can sew whatever we want as many times as we want in whatever fabric we want and we should be able to write about it, photograph it and talk about it without getting any flack. And if there are parts of sewing that aren’t fun, we don’t have to do it. Some people like piecing a quilt but hate the actual quilting so they send it off to someone else. Some people love  sewing, but are perfectly happy to let someone else pick out the fabric so they buy a kit. Some people don’t want to do any math or cutting, so they buy precuts. I think you should do whatever floats your boat. Me, I’m never tracing another pattern again. I do solemnly swear I will never judge you for NOT doing the parts of sewing that aren’t fun to you. (Go ahead, raise your hand and pledge with me.)

Taking an Oath
Taking the Sew-What-You-Want pledge while Mel Brooks looks on.

Principle 2: Learning requires a certain level of discomfort.

This is something one of my graduate school professors used to say and as a mother I think about it all the time. Learning to ride a bike is scary. Learning a new language is embarrassing and exhausting. Learning  guitar hurts! Learning Calculus makes you want to bang your head on a desk (OK, maybe that was just me.) As an educator I had to keep this in mind every day. When people are learning, they’re often not happy about it because they’re uncomfortable, but a tolerance for discomfort is required if you want to learn or master anything. (Which doesn’t in any way mean that it can’t also be fun.) The wonderful thing is that when you challenge yourself it leads to growth and mastery, which most people find deeply satisfying, which is why we keep doing it.

My Happy Student
My first group of happy students.

The idea that learning and growth can be uncomfortable at times is where some of the recently frustrated and outspoken quilting bloggers and I can come together. One of the more positive and underlying messages of many of the controversial quilting posts is this:

STRETCH!

Stretch your skills.

Stretch your repertoire.

Stretch your definition of beautiful.

Leave your comfort zone and see where it takes you.

One thing I’ve been thinking a lot about lately (even before all of this started) is how Sew,Mama,Sew! needs to grow with our readers. We have always tried our best to make sewing fun and approachable to as many people as possible. I think we’ve done a pretty good job of encouraging and inspiring and involving people in the craft of sewing. But lately I’ve decided that we don’t really do enough to help people develop their skills. To stretch, grow and learn. We’re making it fun, but we’re not really making it challenging, so we’re going to try to do better. If (heavy emphasis on IF, because we still strongly believe in Priciple 1) you want to take your sewing skills to the next level, we’re going to do our best to offer you ideas, advice, inspiration and resources.

SHY
My sewing circle, aka The Sweet Hot Yams.

Principle 3: Sometimes people deserve a do-over.

I try to remember to practice this with my family as much as possible. People feel passionate about things and they get riled up. They say things that maybe they would phrase differently if they’d given themselves a little more time to work it out.  Or maybe they hadn’t anticipated the effect their words would have on others. Sometimes people deserve a chance to say what they mean in a different way.

And so, today I’m very happy to bring you an excellent post by Sandi Walton of Piecemeal Quilts. (We’ll call it the first in a series of Stretch Your Skills posts.) Sandi is an accomplished and passionate quilter. Sandi believes in STRETCH so she and her friend Jeanne of Grey Cat Quilts put their convictions into action and developed a collection of blog posts called the Skill Builder Series. So far they’ve covered 1/4″ seams, quilting tools, half square triangles and more. If you’re a beginning or intermediate quilter and you’re interested in improving your skills, I encourage you to check them out. Today Sandi taks about the importance of quilting in her life and offers some advice on learning foundational skills for piecing traditional blocks.

(OK, those photos aren’t really me. Images are in the public domain via The Library of Congress.)