Monday, July 16, 2012


When I wrote last week about having bought some fabric at the Big Fabric Store, somebody posted a comment that read, "I am surprised that given your disdain for anything not up to your standards of "art," that you would use sub par fabrics like those you find in that 'Big Fabric Store'....  considering the time and effort I put into my work, I wouldn't consider using low quality fabric."

I replied that fabric quality isn't all that important to me, for a couple of reasons.  First, most of my piecing uses  quite tiny bits, which doesn't give bad fabric all that much opportunity to misbehave or look limp and cheesy.  And second, I never wash my fabric, before or after construction, so there's no opportunity for it to bleed or fray.

But the comment got me to thinking about snobbery.  We all are snobbish about certain things, totally laissez-faire about others.

I'm not very snobbish about materials, beyond never using polyester batting.  I'll use the cheapest fabric I can get away with, which means innocent till proven guilty.  (On occasion I've cussed at certain faults of low-end fabric, but high-end fabric has its faults too, including the price tag.)  I love Aurifil thread, but am willing to use Coats & Clark if that's a color I need.  I own a huge supply of a relatively low-end machine embroidery polyester thread, which I use for quilting, because it works better in my machine than a lot of higher-priced specialty threads.

I'm a bit more snobbish about my tools.  I love my Berninas and am spoiled by their performance and features; once took back a lower-price machine, highly recommended by many quilters, after owning it five days and deciding it was just too clunky.  I've never had the urge to see if needles other than Schmetz might work just as well.  I won't touch those cheap, small, dull-from-birth seam rippers.  I have great lighting above my worktable and my machine.  But I buy mid-range irons, content to replace them when they die, and mid-range scissors (I am a snob about having many, many of them so one is always within reach).  And rather than invest in a gorgeous studio, I have a jerry-built operation in which a card table is an essential part of my sewing surface and the design walls are just panels of insulation board propped against the wall.

But where I'm a real snob is about process.  I believe passionately that piecing is far more elegant than fusing, that it's essential to be meticulous about pressing, that a quilt should lie flat on the wall, that the corners of a faced quilt shouldn't be any thicker than the middle.  I believe that when you get stuck on a project you should put it up on the wall and wait for the fabric to speak to you.  I believe that you can and should work on several things at once. I could probably think of many other examples.

Once a big discussion broke out on the Quiltart email list about people who still regard hand quilting as aesthetically and morally superior to machine quilting and whether such traditionalists deserved to die.   My take was that they were wrong about hand quilting but that I could cut them a lot of slack about love of process.

Many people love or hate process as much or even more than they do product.  For example, fly fishermen on foot in hip waders feel superior to guys in boats, who in turn feel superior to those in boats with sonar.  Bow hunters feel superior to hunters with guns, who in turn feel superior to guys who drive their pickup trucks out and blind deer with spotlights.  Cooks who make their own pasta feel superior to those who buy fresh pasta from the grocery store, who in turn feel superior to those who buy pasta in boxes, who in turn feel superior to those who have Domino's bring over some penne primavera.  People who do their own taxes in pencil on paper forms feel superior to those who use TurboTax, who in turn feel superior to those who go to H & R Block.

I bet every one of us has our own little process prejudices somewhere deep inside, whether they have to do with quilting, hunting, fishing, cooking or what have you.  We all love to feel superior to somebody else, and process is probably a less harmful criterion for making such judgments than gender, sexual orientation, race, religion or others of the more popular rationales.

What are you snobbish about?  What don't you care about?  I'm sure your mileage will vary.


  1. What a very interesting post. We don't shop at Home Depot or Lowe's. I think we are the only people in the entire US! My husband is a small business man and wants to support others small business. While I am sure they have a great variety, I do like the more personal service I get at the local independent hardware, paint, lumber store. They know their merchandise and will bend over backward to make you happy.

  2. Excellent! Perfectly articulated! (Regarding my quilting, my snobbery seems to "evolve" as I learn new techniques and as my skills improve...)

  3. You always deliver "food for thought" in your posts.

    Each of us gets to choose what we want to make, what to use to make it and then what to do with it after it is made.

    There are quilters who only are interested in selling what they have made or becoming "famous". Others who only make useable items and can't see the value in something that is purely decorative. Then there are some, like me, who enjoy the making, the working out of the puzzle of elements. When finished--it's on to the next. No shows, no sales, no entry forms to fill out. It's all just fine.

    And why make negative (anonymous) comments? Just stop reading if you are offended.

  4. I tend to get more snobbish if I am working on a project that will be entered into a competition or will be made for sales. But...I just enjoy experimenting and who cares if it is poor quality. If it turns out good, I remake it as a snob.

  5. Oh- I love this post! I think I'm a snob about workmanship mostly - can't stand a stray thread, or miss sewn seam! The back should look as good as the front after its pieced, I get that from my Grandmother. I also agree that the top should lay flat once it's quilted and it should look just as good close up as it does far away!

  6. To each his own I say and what ever you are particular about is fine! I would never own a Bernina, I have used them before and I don't like them - I am a Pfaff person. I always prewash my fabric. I don't skimp on the quality of my tools and materials. One thing I am not picky about is my surroundings - my studio is ugly, but it functions well. I think learning about other people's likes and dislikes is eye opening and very interesting!

  7. I think that we should be particular about choosing materials or processes that don't interfere with the creative process. If cheap fraying fabric, low cost thread, or certain sewing machines annoy you to the point that you are irritated or distracted while creating, don't use them. Same with processes, surroundings, or clutter. (Clutter is a part of my creative process, but it drives some folks crazy who sit next to me in workshops.)

  8. Love the "food for thought" in this post. Not finding too much snobbery in my creative life. Still exploring after all these years...

  9. What food for thought. We never shop at IKEA and I describe myself as a Waitrose refugee. Waitrose is an up-market supermarket but we don't have them in Cornwall. I am also a Bernina junky. I bought a second machine at the beginning of the year but I would not consider any other brand and I agree with the person who said that other brands were too clunky. My studio was an integral garage and it has to serve as the laundry room, store for loads of household junk and allow my husband a corner for his DIY stuff (not that he does any these days) so I am far from a snob about that. But then I am strictly amateur so I don't feel the pressure to have the latest gizmos.
    I guess I am a bit of a snob about actual quilts these days, though. At Festival of Quilts I often get to the last afternoon and realise I have not looked at the traditional section at all. Maybe you can't do everything and although like most people, I came up through traditional quilting, these days it is all about art quilting for me. There are quilting groups in this area but they are very traditional so no way would I join one. There, now I have admitted my prejudice!!

  10. What would your detractor use instead of Kona cotton solids? I consider these fabrics high end for solids. But Moda's new Bella solids are very nice too and priced right. No kidding, I'm anxious to know what would be better than these for solids.....

  11. Debbie -- I think she was more down on the prints that I bought at the other fabric chain. I didn't want to use that photo again, so I found one of the Kona solids at another chain store to illustrate this post.

    I too consider the Konas to be pretty good stuff -- it's all I've used for at least 90% of my quilts in the last eight years.

  12. Interesting (as always), Kathy. I know where I am snobbish, but am not sure if I would even dare verbalise how. I see it more as standards I maintain for my self - boundaries that I won't allow myself to cross in my artmaking. Particularly in my design process. Not standards that I expect others to necessarily meet, although admittedly, I would probably value artwork that meets my standards of snobbishness more highly than artwork which doesn't. I imagine many of us would. I'll ponder this a bit more. Maybe I'll even get to the point of sharing how I'm a snob!