The year was 1982. A nephew was about to be born, and I wanted to make a quilt for him. The little I knew then about quilting could fit in a thimble. Both my grandmothers had been quilters but I’d never seen a quilt in progress. Few books were available then about this uniquely American art. Shops devoted to 100 percent cotton —the only fabric used by serious quilters— and notions unique to quilting had just begun to pop up.
One Saturday morning I walked over to the little quilt shop just a couple of blocks from my apartment, armed with a color scheme and a pattern. After I selected the fabrics and had them cut, the clerk asked if I’d be using a rotary cutter to cut out the individual pieces for the quilt block.
“Oh no,” I said, “I’ll be doing it the traditional way.” That traditional way meant cutting a template, tracing the template on the reverse side of the fabric and cutting out each piece—hundreds of pieces— individually, using scissors.
Truth be told, I wasn’t so much beholden to tradition as I was lacking in knowledge. I was too embarrassed to admit I’d never heard of a rotary cutter (they were introduced to garment making in 1979, I would later learn), so how would I know if I wanted to use it?
[bctt tweet=”Truth be told, I wasn’t so much beholden to tradition as I was lacking in knowledge.”]
Patiently and politely, the clerk let me know that I might want to consider it in the future. “Cutting pieces is so much quicker with a rotary cutter. And besides, the cutting isn’t as accurate with a template. You can get a lot of variation. That variation can distort your blocks and throw off your whole quilt. Rotary cutters ensure greater accuracy, and your whole quilt will be better.”
I made my nephew’s quilt with templates and without a rotary cutter. I even pieced the entire thing by hand, “the traditional way.” The results were fine, and it was much loved.
A year or two later I followed that clerk’s advice and bought a rotary cutter. By then I had found my favorite fiber art form in quilting and quickly realized I’d never live long enough to make all the quilts I wanted to make. Quickening up the cutting process sounded like a great plan, and I’ve been using rotary cutters ever since.
[bctt tweet=”What’s the tradition in your life . . . that’s holding you back?”]
When we are held back by tradition or lack of knowledge or even embarrassment, we still might be able to accomplish a job or reach a goal, but the work might be less accurate, and we might be kept from other projects because of slowness in completion. Change can bring progress. That’s the lesson of my rotary cutter experience.
What’s the tradition in your life or in the life of your congregational unit that’s holding you back?
Linda Post Bushkofsky is executive director of Women of the ELCA.
Photo of a quilt made by Linda in 2011 for her niece. She used a rotary cutter.