Many people on the business side of quilting are concerned that not enough young people are taking up the fabric habit.
Many quilters would like to see their younger family members show some interest in the joy of creating with their own hands.
So, often quilt shows have a category for Young Quilters to encourage them by providing an opportunity to show their work. We all know children enjoy being recognised for their efforts...we do, too!
When children are in school and have a spelling bee, it's easy to know who has done their homework. In gym class, they can compete in races and other athletic events where the competition happens in front of everyone.
These are the kind of contests where performance is witnessed, and the important life-lessons of winning and losing are relatively fair.
Even a science fair project, where adults may be involved more than should be allowed, can be judged, as that "assistance" can be considered when giving the awards.
But in a quilt show, the only thing in consideration is the quilt itself.
The judge rarely knows who the the quilter is (and if so, has to ignore any knowledge of that person), and cannot make any personal assumptions. The judge can only look at the quilt, and how it is made.
There is absolutely no way to tell how much work a child has done and how much was done by an adult.
This quilt was made by a five year old
A competent 7 year old can do better work than a 15 year old who is sewing for the first time, so age divisions are meaningless.
Most young people making a first quilt need some amount of guidance...but what were their own choices, and what was provided by an adult, or a kit?
How much of the basting, quilting and binding were done by someone other than the stated maker?
Now, these things are not bad in themselves.
It is a joy to work with a grandchild or young neighbor and complete a project.
A new artist could even be born that way...or at least a person who knows the satisfaction of creating a useful item!
It's just that it is not fair to JUDGE the quilt, even if adult help was allowed in the rules.
One of these quilts was made entirely by a nine year old boy. The other was made almost entirely by a grandmother. Who deserves a ribbon when only the quality of the quilt itself can be judged?
A child's quilt completed by an adult quiltmaker is not fair competion for a quilt made entirely by a youngster. When a ribbon is awarded for what is actually an adult's contribution, it is telling the child who did his/her own work that it's OK to cheat...or that if you do all your own work, you will lose (often again).
So let's encourage the young quiltmakers by showing their quilts, regardless of how much help they had. Let's give them a ribbon for sharing their accomplishments. They can all have a ribbon, even a gift bag or other acknowledgement.
Let's celebrate their entry into the world of creating and making, and also the satisfaction that comes with working together.
And some day when they're older, and they decide they have the skills to compete fairly...let them enter the show as equal quiltmakers.
I am looking forward to what they will do!