"On the plains of Oklahoma, with a windshield sunset in your eyes like a watercolor painted sky, you'd think heavens doors have opened."
Fly Over States

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Rant About Male Quilters and the Women Who Adore Them

I am just about ready to embark on a frequently unfair, mean spirited rant. The subject of the rant is MALE QUILTERS and the women who adore them.

Here is the substance of my rant:  Let me set the stage:  You have two magnificent quilters, a man and a woman, sitting side by side, each doing good deeds, having sweet thoughts, and creating fabulous quilty works of art.  Just then, someone who writes for a magazine or, god forbid, has a microphone goes by and they will experience a shiver run up their leg at the sight of the quilter with the p*nis.

Yes, I just wrote that. I sure did.

If you’re a quilter with a “Y” chromosome, many people drop everything and think you are god’s gift to quilting.  Actually, it is almost entirely the WOMEN who do this since most men tend to avoid male quilters like the plague unless they are directly related to them or the quilter owes them money.

I used to see a similar phenomenon back in the day when I was a checker at a local grocery store. A women comes in to buy ingredients for Thanksgiving dinner, loaded down with three toddlers, a baby in arms and a bun in the oven and no one thinks anything of it (not even that she sure has a whole lot of kids). 

In waltzes a man picking up cigarettes and beer.  He has with him a five year old sporting a Mohawk, a pierced eyebrow, a tattoo of a dragon and green, glittery fingernail polish.  You’d think he is the world’s greatest dad by virtue of not having a woman with him to take care of the child while he shops.  If the female shoppers and checkers find out that he actually had custody of the little tyke (and the ladies will swarm on him and ask), they want him to father their next child and/or be his s*x slave. Even the grandmas. Hell, especially the grandmas.

“It’s just so hard for a man to raise a child, alone,” female (never male) shoppers would whisper to me, gazing admiringly after the man she just allowed to cut ahead of her in line.

What I would be thinking (but wouldn’t say) is that the father probably has two sisters, his mother, both his grandmothers and various girlfriends begging to help and more than willing to make sure he had hot meals, clean clothes and “a break” from time to time because, "It is just so hard to be a single dad."

Mothers? More like:

“She is so lazy!  Did you know she feeds them Happy Meals twice a week?”

“Why should I babysit her kids just so she can go out and have fun? She has to grow up, sometime.”

“What kind of mother doesn’t pre-sort her laundry?  Her kids look like she has been washing their clothes in red dye.”

Yes, yes, I know I am advancing a stereotype. And things have gotten better. But it wasn’t too far off when my kids were little.  And just to set the record straight, I adore men.   My husband is male.  He is so male he even thinks WOMEN quilters are weird. 

Men are certainly in the minority when it comes to quilting so they stand out. But I don't think it is just a question of noticing or encouraging the ones who are different. If it was, I could walk into an auto parts store and be mobbed. But no. If I walk in to an auto parts store I am generally ignored. I mean, I usually can’t even get someone to help me find something.  None of that rushing me at the door and fawning over me when they discover I am there for a muffler. And they didn’t even do this when I was young and skinny.  And it isn't as if they ignore everyone.  Men huddle together, clerk and customer, talking about oil and lug wrenches. 


Contrast that with a man who stops into a fabric store to pick up a needle. If it is for himself, he gets applause, a few ladies might swoon and perhaps someone will slip him her phone number (not that it is likely to do her any good).  If he is buying a needle for his wife, he is treated like the Son of David (I threw that analogy in there because the holy days are rapidly approaching and some of us might need to get a blasted card in the mail - I'm just saying).

I honestly think it has less to do with that the male quilter is different than the majority of quilters. I think it has more to do with the fact that the majority of quilters are women and that is something some women seem to like to do. I don’t get it, frankly. I simply don’t understand, and may never understand, why so many women dote on male quilters. 

So often, if a woman makes a gorgeous quilt, the quilt is the story.  But if a MAN makes a gorgeous quilt, he isn’t “just” a quilter, he is an "artiste." And the story isn’t about the quilt; it is about the person who quilted it. So a female quilter may be “just such a nice, down to earth person and she just makes such pretty quilts.” But a male quilter, if he made the exact same quilt, is “Utterly BRILLIANT!! BRILLIANT, I tell you!”

Get his autograph. Write him a check. Put photos of his quilts and his “studio” (not a lowly sewing room) in the glossy pages of a magazine. Invite him to speak at your guild. Blah, blah, blah.  If I have read an article about male quilters once, I've read such articles fifty times.  Ho hum.  Men have been "tailors" forever.  They upholster things.  We get all excited about men who quilt, usually, because they take the lowly quilt and repackage it as art. 

As if women aren't doing the same thing...

I don’t think women are better quilters than men. I don’t think men are better quilters than women. But I DO think some women treat male quilters as if they are extra special and more talented.  And that sells magazines and workshops.

Rant over.  Hope I didn't offend too many folks for, at the end of the day, something that isn't all that important.    Oh, and just to clarify before we move on... Mark Lipinski...  Quilters know who he is.  Some people love him, some can't stand him.  As for me, I think he is a hoot and he is packaging something no one else is, or no one else is doing as well.  So I don't mean him when I am ranting about male quilters.  Just so we're clear. 

But now, let's discuss something that IS important.

I hate binding. I have mentioned this. So on a regular basis, I get to the last lap of the quilt race and slow to a crawl. I even did this with Jezebel’s Quilt, the one I made while I was actively grieving our loss.

In the back of my mind, I thought that Jezebel’s Quilt might be good enough to put in a show. So because of that, I wanted to hand bind it. The individual blocks turned out really well.

Today, however, I took a long, hard non emotional look at it and had to admit the truth.

This is not a show quilt.

Why isn’t it a show quilt? Two reason, mainly. First, the quilting is not what it ought to be. I was just learning to use the longarm and I ended up with some dots on the back that don’t look good. A lot of dots.
Plus, the quilting, overall, is uninspired except for the dog paw prints which, in my humble opinion, ought to win “best in show” all by themselves!
Second, I really don’t like the sashing. Standing alone, the sashing fabric I used was terrific. Unfortunately, when put with the other fabrics, I don’t think it fits. It is washed out looking.  I wish I'd used something else.
So I decided to go ahead and machine bind it and put it to use. The notion is to stitch the binding to the front, the way you would normally. After that, fold it to the back and pin it so that it barely overlaps the stitch from the front seam. Here are a few pictures of it all pinned up like it is getting acupuncture.
Next, using the walking foot, you stitch in the ditch from the front and if it is working right, the front seam is hidden and just catches the far edge of the binding on the back.
Finally, go back and butcher the mitered corners. It is not pretty but, done carefully, it is “good enough.”

Yikes, that looks bad.

So I finally finished up Jezebel’s Quilt, today, and feel really good about it. While I was out taking pictures of it in the sunlight, I also took a few of the trees in the yard, just to be able to remember our first spring back home.
Even the Henbit looks nice.
And here are the girls:
Pearl loves Krazy Koon.  Evelyn knows this.  That is why she is laying on him so Pearl can't get him.
Evelyn's version of a coonskin cap.  It reminds me of the recently departed Fess Parker.
Evelyn is out of control.

Happy Quilting,

Penny, Evelyn and Pearl


Anonymous said...

I think male quilters are trespassers, horning in on our territory. So I ignore them.

Penny, think twice about not entering that quilt in a show. You might pleasantly surprise yourself.


Nancy said...

Your rant was excellent! And right on point. I've always been a little skeptical of male quilters. My very male husband is more of the line that wonders why I want to cut up perfectly good cloth, to sew it back together?
As for being ignored as a woman in the auto parts store...(and I'm not young and skinny anymore either), I just walk right up to the counter, read the name of whatever my husband has asked me to pick up off a piece of paper and ask the guy at the counter to go get it. Or if it's wipers for my truck, I give him the year and make and ask him to put them on the truck please (usually in the rain). I play stupid and helpless to the hilt in an auto parts store! I don't know what it is, and I don't want to. They usually look up what I need, go get it for me, ring it up and carry it out to the car or put it on the truck for me. Better service than I get anywhere else! Have a good one!

lindaschiffer said...

I've actually witnessed women doing the exact opposite to men who craft -- intentionally making the men feel uncomfortable and unwelcome (for example, sharing birth stories during a craft class work session). I think both sides come out, depending on the gestalt of the particular group at the moment -- the odd one out (male or female) from the norm may be celebrated or shunned. :P (I think Mark is funny, too:)

I have found two solutions to the not-so-nice machine finished binding. I do prefer hand finishes, but my hands are increasingly unhappy with the strain. :P

One way I like to do it that I much prefer in final appearance to the way you showed is to sew the binding onto the wrong (back) side of the quilt and finish it on the front with a decorative stitch/thread (I generally do buttonhole stitch). When I use this kind of finish, I calculate the binding width about 1/8th inch wider on the front side so that the bobbin stitching on the back of the quilt falls onto the body of the quilt and not on the binding - it is much less visible that way (I also generally use a bobbin thread that matches the backing fabric).

The other way is to sew the binding onto the front as usual but iron a narrow fusible webbing onto the back of the binding and then fuse it down to make sure that the edge is far enough into the body of the quilt to be caught by stitch-in-the-ditch on the front -- uh, that is, I fuse baste the binding down on the back rather than trying to fight with all those pins to baste it in place. Capiche?

:) Linda

Penny said...



Paula said...

I love Mark! He's a hoot.
I hate binding!
The quilt is beautiful and I know that Jezebel loves it too.


OklaTwister said...

HaHa!! I am reading your blog and DH walks in, "What'cha doing, honey?" I scroll up to your headline and read it off. I tell him about women and men in grocery stores, and he is laughing, and mimics "Oh, I just want to have your baby". "That's just what Penny said!!" and I read him that part. Guess it is just a male thing, thinking every woman is after them. Thanks for the chuckles this AM!

Penny said...

Paula, Mark is, indeed, a hoot. I will do my best to keep the crazy man.

MamaT said...

Loved your ranting. I refuse to go to an annual retreat this year because the main speaker is male and the women fall all over him. I won't be one of them!

And Fess Parker...I loved him. Not many people know who you're talking about.

bingo~bonnie said...

I was nodding my head all thru the rant... you put into words exactly how I feel - both about the men quilters/bloggers and also about the grocery store scene... I get lots of looks when I shop with my 5 year old and 2 year old twins :/ that are not so nice...

about the binding - loved the photos of the pins :) I take photos like that too... and I learned how you described from JudyL of www.patchworktimes.com when she shared a video sometime last year.

my first 2 quilts were not perfect but I kept on... and now that I've used that method at least 7 or 8 times now, I feel that it's nearly perfect and I love my results! I recently (3/5/10) shared a 3 part tutorial with lots of photos on how I do mine... including the no-show start and stop binding part. ;)

Keep up the machine binding - you will get it perfected in no time! ;) After all it seems kinda silly to machine piece, and machine quilt - then to "hand" bind... machine finishing is soooo much faster! ;)

Love from Texas! ~bonnie

Stephanie D. said...

Amen on the male quilters rant. To be fair, there may be more of them out there than get publicly noticed, because they aren't particularly young or cute or maybe because they truly are average-ability quilters as are the majority of us female quilters--and that is the correct thing to do.

As for Mark L, well, I don't know if I've ever seen any quilts he's made, though his patterns are a bit above my skill level. But I do love his humor and subscribed to Quilter's Home as long as he was the editor. And I hope he gets a kidney.