Do quilt police still exist?

Twenty odd years ago, I told myself I wasn’t good at appliqué. Turns out the standard technique wasn’t for me but the quilt police in my head said I wasn’t good at it.


This is something I have been wondering for several years.  I know there will always be one quilter who will throw out a duff comment for all to hear but as a whole, is there anyone who doesn’t believe in more than their way of doing things in this day and age?

My only run in with the quilt police was in the mid 90s.  Since that early lesson, I have been extremely mindful of what I say to quilters.  I find something positive to say about any quilt I’m asked for help on.  At the time, everything I learnt was from Quilter’s Newsletter.  There were several techniques and articles on people doing things their way.  I tried the techniques to see if I liked them.  When I started teaching, I said to the students, “This is what works for me, there are several ways to do this, (I explained them) and it is up to you which way you do it.  Go with what works for you and your machine.”

Now teachers are going to say you can’t teach every technique in the class as chaos may ensue.  True. I ask the students to try my way in class or tweak it slightly and try the other ways at home but they were left with the confidence to explore any technique they wish.  On the other hand, it’s funny when you get a student that pipes up and confidently announces that in so-and-so’s class, I was told not to do it that way!  In my head I’m saying, “Try it and see if it works for you.  Lightning isn’t going to strike you down for trying something different.”  Smile…breathe…rephrase last thought…

I believe the Internet has broken down a lot of the quilt police offenders’ opinions.  Everyone has a tutorial or video on their technique.  Can quilters really afford to be ignorant about other ways of achieving the same result?  I don’t think so.   How many techniques wouldn’t exist today if we listened to the quilt police?  In fact, how many things wouldn’t be invented if people believed the naysayers?

I had a leap in confidence about five years ago when I decided to get rid of my stigma that I wasn’t good at appliqué. I’ve avoided it because I didn’t master it as a beginner.  I formulated a plan…  I was going to research new techniques and pick some to try.  I wasn’t going to judge my results but just see what worked for me—heck—I’d been preaching that for years.  Praise be to Alex Anderson and her technique.  Wow, my results were great!  Stigma be gone.  In the future, I will be making my own unique appliqué quilts and build on Alex’s technique. It’s opened up the way for me to grow as a quilter and I realised I had been my own quilt police for all of those years. I don’t think it was a case of not being good at appliqué, it was a case of only knowing one technique and it wasn’t the right one for me.

I found in my quilting classes that fathers have told their daughters that art was a waste of time and discouraged them from it by saying they were no good at it anyway.  This hurt me and I’ve had to convince several ladies in their 50s and 60s that art is fun and to explore their creative sides. The biggest reward in those classes is seeing that weight lift from their shoulders and a glint of freedom in their eyes as they start to draw quilting designs on their paper.

So my question still stands to all of you who are involved in guilds, shows and quilt shops:  Do quilt police still exist or do you have one in your head telling you what’s wrong with your work?  I’d love to know how attitudes are changing and if you’re stepping out of your comfort zone.

Happy quilting,




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