Recently I met an artist who has just gotten serious about quilt making. During our discussions about technique and process she mentioned that she might have an opportunity to try a quilting machine that has the capability to automatically quilt a design which the quilter creates via a computer. I thought this sounded like a very exciting opportunity as I had read about this technology but have never seen or tried one of these machines.
As I thought about this I recalled seeing references to work which utilized this technology being excluded from participation in a show. At the time it didn't have much impact on me because I don't have access to this type machine but it made me begin to think about why they would exclude such work.
We are in the computer age. We design on computers, create images which we then print on fabric from the computer, people who use patterns created and printed from computers, so where is the line and what is the line protecting?
Before I became involved in the world of quiltmaking and art quilts I had no idea of the improvements in quilt making tools. I recall being completely puzzled when purchasing items to make my first quilt and the store clerk suggested I buy a rotary cutter. I bought one, along with a plastic ruler, but I left the store sure I had been encouraged to buy things I really didn't need. I had a nice pair of scissors at home and had no idea of the usefulness of a rotary cutter. Boy was I wrong!
Since that time I've purchased many items designed to assist in the creative process, some great and some not so great. I have nice sewing machines and a small but nice setup for machine quilting on a frame. I even have a stitch regulator. I don't use it much, but like the rotary cutter, sometimes you don't know how a tool or a piece of equipment will work until you try it in your studio.
I suspect if we could go back in time there might possibly be quilt makers who would object to some of tools and equipment we use today. I have, however, read that quilters embraced machine quilting from the very beginning of widespread home sewing machine ownership. Some quilt makers might feel pride and ownership in their skill of cutting with scissors or being able to hand piece and quilt a work with nothing but a needle and thread. They might scoff at the necessity for a sewing machine. They might not want to allow machine-made work to be included in a quilt show. (Actually I believe many traditional shows do have categories which separate work by the techniques used to make the work.) They might consider work made with a machine lesser than..... These are just suppositions I'm making based on my perception of the pride women have taken over the years in "hand work".
As an artist, I believe I could create the quilt stitching image and allow the machine to quilt it automatically while still having ownership of the work as a whole. Think about artists who design the quilt stitch but have someone else do the quilting either by hand or machine. Artists who work in other mediums pretty much do whatever they like and use technology in any way they like. What is the difference for art quilters or is there a difference?
I suppose the biggest question involves software with built-in patterns. While some might object to the use of that technology, I'm confident that there are ways that these pre-programed built in patterns could be used in very interesting and unique ways.
So what are your thoughts about automated quilting?
If you haven't read about this technology here are links to just two of the many companies who are marketing this technology. I have no hands-on knowledge or affiliation with either of these companies and I am not making an endorsement of their products.
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