corners and cables

It is perhaps hard to make the case for place mats and oven mits as exciting projects, but I experienced their mild excitement this weekend. Having acquired Denyse Schmidt Quilts largely on the grounds of Ashley’s gorgeous scarves I decided it was time to attempt something small-scale involving piecing and binding. First I made a couple of these:


I refer to the mat, not the delicious plumb cake (which I did not make but helped consume). Check out the mitred corners! Cue mild excitement! I have to say that Schmidt’s instructions for binding in this way were very clear, and, indeed, better than Amy Karol’s….but this is because, frankly, part of my brain appears to be missing when reading sewing instructions. Karol did not point out that one cuts the threads and removes the thing from the machine before turning, folding and continuing to sew. Yes, I *know* I should have realised. Snicker not, o ye experienced sempstress.

Here are a couple of mats, one waiting for its binding to be finished, plus the oven mit:


Not even mildly exciting, are they? Nonetheless, they are pleasing and functional and taught me to machine quilt, albeit in a very basic fashion, as well as apply binding in two different ways.

I am certainly a fan of the Schmidt aesthetic, though perhaps rather less so of Schmidt herself. I listened to her CraftSanity interview and was somewhat perturbed by her attitude to the Amish women whose labour – and, indeed cultural reputation as crafters of exceptional skill – enable her to produce and market her “couture” quilts. Schmidt has never met these women, nor (at Jennifer Ackerman Haywood’s prompting) seemed remotely curious to do so. She was not interested in whether the women liked or respected her designs. She expressed mild irritation that she could not “save some money” by commissioning their work without an agent. For doing so involved communicating by the clearly arcane (in Schmidt’s world) medium of pen and paper: “the Amish don’t do email.” She also remarked amusedly on the added complication of “them all having the same name.”

Now, as a woman whose business is quilts Schmidt is of course going to be primarily concerned with quality of product and income generated. But I found it rather shocking to hear someone whose distinctive designs are so closely bound up with a particular medium and its history (and indeed is intelligently aware of that fact) express so little respect for the women who continue to practice that craft, and keep the skills of their foremothers alive in traditional ways….to say nothing of the added value that “the Amish ladies” (to quote Schmidt’s website) lend to her high-end products and their sales.

Please understand that I do not subscribe to some rabidly utilitarian view of quilting. Nor do I object to anyone applying contemporary business models to traditional crafts. I am simply rather surprised when people who profess to be interested in the work of women’s hands can dismiss the identities of those who labour for them in a way that is all the more troubling for being, as Schmidt appeared in the interview, entirely unselfconscious.

Rant over.

I also began a new knitting project this weekend. It is designed by yours truly, and involves the lovely new cocoon wool from Rowan, and some giant cables:


more from this soon….