Men Only?

It was the fall of 2005 when I took a beginning quilting class.  At the time there were few men interested in quilting.  Heather was taking classes and making quilts.  She’s done a number of art quilts and wall hangings.  She does wonderful work.  There is just something about the patterns, colors, and textures that I find interesting.  I’ve seen some stunning work out there.

The classes that Heather was taking were all women.  Quilting has traditionally been the domain of women. The notes that the instructor of my class had “Men Only” on the title of each page.  There was a lot of basic information there that I assumed the ladies were expected to know.  That is changing today and you’ll find more men involved in the art today.

One day Heather and I were in a shop buying fabrics when I mentioned that there should be a “Men’s” quilting class.  The owners of the shop thought it was an interesting idea and a short time later they announced that one of their instructors was willing to get a class going for us guys.  The class was five of us men trying to figure out the sewing machines in the classroom. We were given class notes that had on each page, “Men Only.” I still have the notes and the book we used in the class. I have to say that it was a fun time and I ended up with enough blocks to make a quilt top.

Sadly, I was also in my senior year of my English degree at San Jose State and time wasn’t something I had a lot of.  Heather ended up taking my blocks and finished a wall hanging which is now in our guest room.

I made the blocks. Heather completed the top with banding and did the quilting.

After that, time seemed to blur, I graduated and went back to work.  Time was still in short supply so I never made it back to a sewing machine.  I would still go to quilt shows and would go with Heather to buy fabrics.  I do help her from time to time with feedback on her designs as her “color consultant”.  It’s fun to work on ideas for a new art piece she’s working on.

In 2010, I found a website on Marquetry and found that there was a local club.  I joined and dived in.  I loved being able to work with the veneers and making artistic things that used my sense of patterns and my woodworking skills.  Over the years I’ve made a lot projects and have even ventured into scroll saw work. 

After being exposed to both art forms I’ve noted a number of similarities.  They both involve taking pieces of different colors, hues, and textures and combining them together to create a pattern or picture.  Simple patterns are geometric and go by a number of names, nine patch, flying geese, log cabin, pinwheel, etc.  In quilting the basic nine patch is the foundation of a marquetry checkerboard – the basic piecing methods are surprisingly similar between quilts and marquetry.

Louis cubes can be mystifying whether they are done in fabric or wood.  I’ve made a Louis cube box top and it’s magical to watch the pattern emerge.  Someday I hope to try this with fabric.

Even the tools share similar qualities.  They need to cut long straight pieces and join them together with precision.  I have two of those green cutting mats, one next to my sewing machine and one on my marquetry bench.  Several of my marquetry hand tools I bought at quilt shows.

Look at a sewing machine and then here at a scroll saw and you notice that they have similar shapes – an arm supporting a tool that material (wood or fabric) can be pushed through.  In the case of a sewing machine it’s to join pieces and with a scroll saw it’s to cut pieces, but how you push material through feels the same.

My new Janome machine. I’ll be using this for piecing. Right now the only thing I know is that the peddle goes on the floor.

One of the best marquetrains I know has often told me that she thought that women who sew are natural at the scroll saw because of the similarities between the machines.  Heather has often told me that she thinks I’d be good at free motion quilting because of watching me at the saw and noting how those moves look like what she does quilting.

I’ve long held that both art forms share a lot.  Sure there are differences.  You don’t get the same range of colors in marquetry and things like seam allowances change the math between a quilt and marquetry pattern.  Still, I see where there are commonalities.

One commonality that I am starting to see in both art forms is the mix of men and women is changing.  Our marquetry group has seen a steady increase in women members and I see more men doing quilts.

I like to see how things can be combined and am intrigued by the idea of attempting the same picture in both mediums.

But first I need to gain some skill on the fabric side and get the sewing room fully set up.

After writing about this, I wonder if I should pull in my other artistic outlet and for each picture include a poem …

About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I worked in the high tech world doing software release engineering and am now retired. Then I got prostate cancer. Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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29 Responses to Men Only?

  1. wolfsrosebud says:

    Your retirement is surely spurring on the creativity. Along with writing, I also sew and work with fabric. I never realized your comparison of the two art forms, in this article, had so much in common. Cool write.
    PS I like the idea of writing poetry with your other art. The people in my old poetry group were each given a local artist painting and asked to write a poem. I was a satisfying experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow! You clearly have a talent for piecework!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love your quilt blocks – they’re so complex! And the colours are lovely. I enjoy the precision of quilting, but I suck at selecting colours. I guess I need a colour consultant, too! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Christi says:

    I appreciate how you refer to them both as artforms. They really are!
    Some people — not you, obviously — look down on any hobby that’s primarily done by women. I’m glad that attitude is starting to change.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think you’re pretty darn good at both of these art forms. I’ve never tried quilting. Something tells me I wouldn’t be able to make it perfect enough to fit together properly. Both my mother and grandmother were avid quilters but they made every aspect of those quilts by hand stitching – no machine ever. Can you imagine? I can’t!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. That is pretty darn good, Andrew. My compliments!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Such a beautiful quilt. You two should be selling those works of art. I would pay a pretty penny for a quilt with shames like that for my bed. Let me know if you set up an Etsy shop.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I was playing with blues and yellows on this one. I don’t know about selling. That’s a difficult thing to do and make money. But I’ve been told that after awhile you end up with so many quilts you run out of places to store them. Starting to have that problem with my marquetry pieces. Still, I think about it from time to time.


  8. It’s great to see that another person in the world possesses a tool chest as well organised as mine!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. floridaborne says:

    I never thought about the similarity between woodworking and quilting.

    Heather and you are a talented couple. Heather might be amused at the fact that not all women have any talent in sewing. I’ve said many times that my mother could take a $1 worth of remnants and make it look like a dress worth $100. I, on the other hand, could take $100 worth of material and make a dress that looks like it’s worth $1.

    One day, you’ll show us the masterpiece you create with that sewing machine.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. jfwknifton says:

    Well if you include a poem, then “Quilt” has “kilt” and perhaps “milt”, but you’ll struggle for a rhyme for “marquetry”

    Liked by 1 person

  11. My dad does both of these artforms, Andrew. He has made many quilts and tables as well as kitchen cupboards and other things.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Pied Type says:

    I love the quilted wall hangings. There’s a big one at the medical center in Denver — a landscape that must be at least 5 feet wide and almost as high. Mountains, trees, birds, clouds in a delightful variety of fabric patterns and pieces. It’s framed behind glass, and I stop to admire it every time I’m there. I’m guessing maybe a scene like that is easier to do than a geometric pattern requiring precise cutting, measuring, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    • In marquetry it’s easier to do freeform work, but with fabric, a sewing machine likes straight lines – sewing curves is a real skill. But as with most art it’s really the vision of artist that matters.


  13. Fascinating how you describe the two disciplines as being so similar. Looking forward to your first solo quilting project! And poems would be very appropriate…

    Liked by 1 person

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