Quilting: Student Art

By Shasta Webb

When Jocelyn Pickreign ’13 was 11 years old, she took sew­ing classes at her local recreation center in her hometown of Fredonia, New York. Now, nearly a decade later, Pickreign is an avid quilter. Partaking in an art form that’s uncommon for members of the younger generations can be “frustrating” at times, but Pickreign manages to stay connected to quilting by teaching sewing classes in her hometown and working on projects in her free time. The Mac Weekly: How did you first become interested in quilting? Jocelyn Pickreign: My great-grandmother made the quilt I had on my bed when I was younger. It was really pretty. When I was 11 I started taking sewing classes through the rec. depart­ment in my village. My teacher asked if I wanted to learn how to do a quilt, and she had a simple pattern—it wasn’t even nine patches—of just blocks. I made my first quilt then and it’s a lot of fun. I’ve been doing it ever since. Quilting is a somewhat uncommon form of artistic expres­sion in our generation. What do you like about it? I like the process, I like to work with my hands. It’s kind of fine motor, but it’s also kind of gross motor at the same time because it’s so much physical assembly. I like watching scraps grow into a picture. There’s more geometry and less subtlety—and I’m not very good at that—than in drawing or painting. I like to make something that’s functional but that’s also pretty. Quilts are warm and bright and cheerful and to make that, and to put emotions into that—I like that part of it. What is your biggest quilting accomplishment? Are quilts considered better if they are more complex or bigger? It depends. There are a lot of categories. I’ve entered stuff in the county fair before and I won Best in Show in Junior Quilted Projects division. I quilted a bean bag, but then my cat threw up on it so I had to get rid of it. It was awful. That’s the only recognition I’ve gotten, but over the summer I did my first full Applique wall hanging with hand quilting. On a personal level it was a big deal because it’s fairly compli­cated. What does that mean? There’s two different types of quilts: piecing and applique. Piecing is like putting triangles and squares together to make a pattern, and then applique is sewing shapes of fabric to a background. I appliqued and then hand quilted [the wall hanging]. I based it off of a Mucha print called “The Moon.” I looked at the picture, cut it all out, and sewed it on. It was really fun. She [the subject of the print] is kind of lopsided, so I was disappointed, but the image itself came out really well. What is the most difficult part of quilting? Most frustrat­ing? The amount of time it takes. You hit a plateau of energy, I guess. There’s a part at the beginning where you’re really excited and you’re drawing and you’re planning and you’re cutting, and then you have to put all the pieces together. And depending on what you’re doing and how complicated your pattern is, it can take a really long time. That can be kind of tedious because a lot of times you do the same steps over and over and over and it doesn’t feel like you’re making a lot of progress. You get to a point where you’re just like, ‘Ah! I just want to put it all together!’ but you can’t. It’s hard. Where do your quilts go when you’re finished with them? Most of them are gifts. In college I’ve lived with two different families and I made a quilt for each other them. I lived with Erin and Laura Holt ’13 here in St. Paul. I made a quilt for their mom and dad to say thank you. And I made a quilt for my host family in Denmark as well. Some I keep. I made the quilt on my bed. Is there any sort of theme to your quilts? Quilters definitely have styles in the way that painters or pot­ters do. I like bright colors and simple shapes and I like each quilt to have one main element. There’s a style of quilting called Baltimore quilts, which I don’t like at all because they’re tacky and too busy. Like a sampler quilt where there will be 16 blocks, and each block is a different kind of block. A lot of people do those to show off their prowess at all these differ­ent techniques. The technique part is really cool, but visually they’re too busy. I don’t like that. I prefer one big picture or just one type of block. Then use color or quilting to make it interesting. Have you been able to continue quilting through college? I’ve been pretty good. I average about a project a semester, depend­ing on the size. Some people, when they need a break, they go for a bike ride. If I need a break, I cut up some fabric and sew it together. Recently I’ve discovered that I really like hand applique and hand quilting—sewing everything by hand instead of on a machine—and that’s like knitting or crocheting so I can do it while I’m doing other things, like watching a movie or, depending on how big it is, I might take it to class. I just like that tactile feeling of working with my hands. Quilting is something many people associate with a gen­eration older than ours. Have you been able to find quilt­ing peers? It depends. It’s different in different places. I’m from a more rural area, so 4H is really big. A lot of adults at least try to pass on the skills to younger people. But as an art, I feel like our generation isn’t as interested in it as the older generations used to be, probably, in part, because it’s so time consuming. I’ve met other people closer to my age who like to quilt. The sewing classes I took when I was 11—that teacher retired so now I’m teaching those. I have a co-teacher and she’s just a couple of years older than I am. When we went to the fair to drop our kids’ stuff off, we had eight blue ribbon winners and it was so much fun. The woman behind the counter asked us who was teaching and assumed it was our aunts or moms. And we said, ‘No, we are!’ and she was really surprises be­cause a lot of young people don’t quilt. The ones that do re­ally enjoy it. Is it ever a source of frustration that there are not many people our age who quilt? What’s interesting to me is that knitting has had a resurgence recently. Lots of young people are knitting and crocheting and making hats and scarves and sweaters and octopuses, or whatever, but quilting hasn’t. I don’t know if historically it’s a social activity or because it’s got these associations with mak­ing do and scraps. It’s very ‘sit in the home,’ and domestic, and it’s not very portable, like knitting. And there hasn’t re­ally been a movement among quilters to make approachable patterns that are cool. All of the patterns that people write are aimed toward women in their forties, for women who are making quilts for their nephews or making quilts for their guest bedrooms. They don’t do anything cool with them. I mean, there are knitting patterns for Doctor Who. That can be frustrating sometimes to get access to skills and then to adapt them to patterns and ideas that I really like. Sometimes because you’re young and you’re not part of that generation of avid quilters, you get dismissed. They assume you don’t know how to quilt because you’re just 20. I mean, maybe my stuff isn’t incredibly impressive, but it’s technically sound. That can be hard, but mostly I just like to do it. When I can do it, I just do it. It’s just fun. Is there something you are working toward in quilting? Actually, I bought a book about Jacobean applique. It’s a style characterized by flowers and birds and then adapted into ap­plique block patterns. Right now, I’m debating whether to make a rhapsody quilt, which is several irregularly shaped blocks, but with a different Jacobean image in each. In gen­eral, I would like to start mixing applique with piecing. The Amish make these beautiful quilts that have a central appli­qued image and they surround it with piecing. I would like to make one of those someday, but that might be a little far off. refresh –>