Today’s featured quilt is by John Adams, known affectionately as “Quilt Dad”, and the folks in the Sew Connected Bee. The Week of Collaboration wouldn’t be complete without John. He is the ambassador of collaboration in the modern quilting community.
John’s Thoughts on Collaboration
Allow me to cut right to the chase: the whole reason I started my blog, the whole reason I am on Flickr, and the whole reason I am quilting and sewing at all is because I was drawn to the idea of collaborating — and creating works of art collaboratively — with quilters and crafters around the world.
Let’s rewind a bit. Four years ago, I first became interested in fabric, sewing, and quilting, but I was spending a lot more time in front of my computer than in front of my sewing machine. I had discovered the world of sewing sites and blogs, and in many ways I was teaching myself how to quilt based on the tips and tutorials of others. The blogs I had found were inspirational, for sure, but a whole new world opened up to me the day I stumbled across a new and — at that time, unique — Flickr group called The Virtual Quilting Bee.
Today, virtual quilting bees are very common within the modern quilting community. At last count, according to the master list in the Quilting Bee Blocks group, there are over 180 virtual quilting bees organized in Flickr alone! To my knowledge, The Virtual Quilting Bee was the first. As I learned exactly what a virtual quilting bee was and how it worked, I became enamored with watching (from afar) this group of 12 very talented women develop not only 12 charming and unique quilts sewn together from bits and pieces that each created, but also a friendship that spanned the miles between them.
Quilting alone at home is great and all, but I knew that this was something I wanted to get into. The idea of creating something with other members of our virtual community — and actually producing a physical artifact that represents that collaboration and the many individuals that had a hand in creating it — was the very idea that jump-started my engagement with other quilters in every part of the world.
However, as I mentioned earlier, I was barely a quilter, much less a blogger at that point. I knew that if I waited around to be invited to join a virtual quilting bee, I might be waiting for a while. So in September of 2008 I took a leap of faith and reached out to many of the crafters and bloggers whose work I admired and invited them to join my own virtual quilting bee, which we named Sew Connected. I honestly didn’t even know if anyone would be interested in joining me in this adventure, and I still remember the small thrill that I received as each of my invitations was accepted. Together with this amazing group of people — Jacquie, Amy E., Meg, Stefanie, Dee, Amanda Jean, Amy D., Audrey, Buffy, Sarah, Rita, Tracy, Lyssa, and Jessica — I embarked on a 15-month journey that remains one of the highlights of my quilting “career”.
And that whole part about creating friendships at the same time that we’re creating quilts? I can attest to the fact that it’s very true of virtual quilting bees. In fact, many of the SewConnected sewists remain some of my closest quilting buddies.
Tell us about your quilt.
The quilt that I’m sharing today is the quilt that my friends in the SewConnected group helped me create. I sent each of them a selection of fabrics that, to me, seemed to be a very happy assortment of prints in bright, primary colors. It contained many prints from some of my favorite fabric designers and lines, including Denyse Schmidt (Katie Jump Rope and Flea Market Fancy — which, at the time, I had no idea how “special” it was, as I was casually picking up fat quarters of it from a small local shop that had every bolt in stock!), Sandi Henderson, Tula Pink, Sandy Klop, and more. I asked my bee-mates to make log cabin-inspired blocks in a variety of sizes, which I later pieced together into the vibrant patchwork quilt you see today. My group members over-delivered against my wildest expectations, helping me to create a truly unique — and very special — work of art. I am blessed to be able to have a keepsake that represents the camaraderie we shared, as well as the skill, talent, and hard work of every person who contributed to its creation.
Since then, I’ve been hooked on any and every collaborative project that comes my way. The SewConnected family grew to include two more bees — SewConnected 2 and SewConnected 3. I’ve participated in over 10 more virtual quilting bees since then, along with a round robin, a row robin, and countless swaps. I’ve just embarked on my newest collaborative adventure — The Traveling Quilts, which I like to think of as a mash-up of a virtual quilting bee and a round robin. I’ve got an amazing group of quilters traveling along with me, and I invite you to come watch what we are able to create together.
My blog readers are constantly asking me how I can participate in so many different bees and swaps, but the truth is that I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m definitely one of those quilters who is in it for the community and the people. My fellow quilters are what keep me happy, inspired, and excited to keep working, growing, and developing as an artist. If not for the chance to collaborate with others, I truly believe I would have stopped sewing a long time ago.
John can be found both on flickr and on his blog, Quilt Dad.