The Trap Door of Social Media and Your Quilting

Social media.  We quilters use it all the time.  We look up patterns.  We join on-line groups and Facebook pages.  I blog.  You read my blogs.  We tweet and Instagram and thank the good Lord for the resources YouTube brings to us.  As matter of fact, we use social media so much and have for so long we kind of take it for granted. 

However, allow me to insert a personal story at this point.  Let’s take a trip back to the seventies.  A lot was going on then, both historically and socially.  And one of those events was the introduction of HBO.  While cable television had been around since the forties, it wasn’t until around 1972 that HBO – the Home Box Office – became available to large cities and then trickled down into the suburbs.  One of those suburbs was my little hometown, and my dad was one of their first customers.  Dad owned a couple of companies during this time, and he often had to work nights to fill in for absent employees or just to keep things running smoothly.   He saw HBO as an opportunity to watch movies he didn’t have time to see at a regular theater and as an alternative to our local TV channels.  He signed up, the cable was laid, and we were soon watching programs other folks around us weren’t.

Which in a small town brought up lots of discussions – weren’t we worried about inappropriate programming?  Didn’t this mean our family would watch more TV (especially my brother and me) than normal?  Didn’t it bother us that we were paying for both good and bad programming?  Dad had some pretty hard, fast answers:  No, no, and no.  No one would force us to watch anything we didn’t feel was appropriate, he and Mom made sure our chores and homework were done before Eric and I plopped down in front of the television (which, for the record, I’ve never been one to watch hours of TV), and you pay for electricity, which can bring both good and bad into a house, so what’s the difference?

Here’s the bridge between HBO and social media:  They both work the same way.  There are both good sides and bad sides to social media, just like there are good points and bad points with movie channels.  Which side you allow into your life and your quilting determines its impact on both you and your art.  Social media – like HBO – is neither inherently good nor bad.  It, in and of itself, is neutral.  It’s how it’s used which determines its influence. 

Right off the top of my head, I can list lots of advantages for social media:

  • We can stay connected with quilters from all over the world
  • Lots of information and research are available from hundreds of sources with just a click of the mouse
  • You can both shop and pay for on-line “must have” quilt purchases
  • So many learning opportunities!
  • Zoom meetings for guilds and other quilting groups mean teachers are available from anywhere in any time zone
  • Even if you move to an area with no quilt shops, guilds, or groups, you can stay connected with the ones back home or find new ones.

All social media is a stage, and I really, really want to operate the trap door.

There is a dark side to social media, too, even for quilters who (in my opinion) seem to have the sunniest of dispositions.

  • Online vs. Reality – If you’re like me (and a lot of other quilters), when you’re lacking inspiration, have a few extra minutes here and there, or you’re trying to find a quilt pattern, you will peruse social media as well as Google/Google   images.  Sometimes these pictures are photoshopped – the photographer has downloaded the actual picture into a software program and has “touched up” the real image.  Getting rid of a few stray threads is one thing, but to alter the image to the point where it looks almost nothing like the original is another.  And according to my photographer husband, sometimes it takes a trained eye to know if a program such as Lightbox or Photoshop has been used.  There is a chance – if you’re looking at a picture of a quilt – you may not be looking at the “real” thing.  The image could be altered.  So if you look at a quilt and think “Oh, I could never make something like that.  It is so far above my skill level,” there is a chance no one has actually made that quilt.  It’s an altered derivative of the original.

However, once those thoughts have run through your head, it’s super-easy to think you can’t make it or you’re not a good quilter or you begin to have massive amounts of self-doubt.  If this happens, take a deep breath and turn off your laptop, iPad, or step away from your phone and repeat this:  I can make that quilt.  I do have the skill set.  I can do it. It’s just a quilt.

  • Increased Usage – Using social media can be like eating potato chips. It’s nearly impossible to eat only one chip.  Once you’ve used one site to find something, your search will very obligingly return few more.  This is especially true with YouTube.  I may only want to watch one or two videos about quilting feathers, but YouTube will very helpfully line up five more for my viewing pleasure.  Next thing I know, I’ve spent three hours watching videos about quilting without putting in a single stitch.  A timer can be helpful in these situations.  Set it for 15 minutes or a half hour.  When it dings, step away from the screen and move on to the next thing.
  • Social Media Addiction is a Real Thing – This is a bit different from the Pit of Increased Usage.   This addiction occurs when you post something – a question or better yet a picture of what you’re working on – and afterwards you continually check the social media page to see how many people have liked or commented on it.  Psychologists tell us every “like” or positive comment produces a hit of dopamine to the brain (dopamine is the chemical in the brain which allows us to feel pleasure, satisfaction, and motivation) and other happiness hormones.  Our brains happen to like this very much and want to repeat this process as many times as possible.  So we find ourselves continually checking our social media pages and every time the number of “likes” or comments increases, we feel pretty good about ourselves.  Then as the number of these taper off, our “feel good feelings” go away and our brain sends us a signal:  Do something else so we can feel this happy/satisfied/motivated again. 

This, if we’re not careful, can begin a cycle of Social Media Addiction.  Feel bad?  Post a picture or comment to see the responses.  Didn’t get as many responses and likes as last time?  Let’s see if we can fix this. Post something else.  And the cycle continues. 

Allow me another personal example.  I have written a quilt blog since 2008, first on Blogspot and now on WordPress.   Most of the time – as a matter of fact all of the time until around 2016 – I received virtually no feedback.  Once in a while I would get a comment or a like, but not often and certainly not enough for me to keep checking the blog app on my phone to keep up with the nonexistent numbers.  I was writing for my own pleasure and fun.

Then in 2016, something happened.  For starters, by this time my writing had improved.  Second, for whatever reason – karma, happenstance, sheer luck – I began to have regular readers and they would comment.   People began to subscribe.  This made me happy, of course, but it still didn’t make me check my WordPress app on a daily basis.  Then in 2018, the unthinkable happened.  I posted on Wednesday morning as normal, then after lunch I received a message from WordPress:  I had over 1,000 readers since I posted at 8 a.m.

You better believe for the next several months I rabidly checked my WordPress app several times a day.  Could I have over 1,000 readers in one day again?  If I didn’t, what did that say about my writing?  Was my topic relevant?  Then I began looking at which countries my readers were from.  Needless to say, I nearly drove myself (and probably some other folks) nuts. 

I had an addiction and I had to get over it.  I removed the app from my phone for nearly a year.  If I wanted stats, I would have to power up my laptop and go through all that trouble to find out how many readers I had and who was reading from what country.  I do admit I now check the app a few times a week to look at the numbers.  The countries don’t bother me so much anymore, but I am thankful folks in lots of other countries take the time to read my blog.

It’s important to note the opposite can also happen.  Unfortunately, I’ve seen some real “Quilting Bullies” on some sites – especially Facebook.  I am happy the admins of most of these pages will shut the bullies down quickly.  However, I’ve seen some pretty bad manners.  If one quilter shows something they’re making which another quilter believes was done incorrectly, poorly, or (gasp and clutch your pearls) not the way they would have done it, they criticize the project and the quilter.  If you post something and expect to receive complete validation or a huge hit of dopamine every time, don’t be surprised when it doesn’t happen.  I even would go so far to say if having another quilter post something derogatory  would bother you to the point you didn’t want to quilt, it’s probably a good idea not to post anything. 

  • Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) – Admittedly, this is one of those issues which seems to occur in younger social media users.  Fear of Missing Out kind of goes hand in hand with Social Media Addiction in that FOMO sufferers feel the need to frequently check their social media pages.  However, instead of posting something in order to get a hit of dopamine, FOMO people are afraid if they don’t continually monitor their social media, they’ll miss out on something.  So if you’re constantly scrolling Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, or other sites in order to catch immediate releases of patterns, books, or just day-to-day updates from your favorite quilters, you may suffer from FOMO.

A few final thoughts before I end this blog, and this deals with YouTube.  I love YouTube as much as any other quilter.  There are some YouTube quilters I follow and watch regularly.  We will get to them in a minute, and I’ll tell you why I follow them and think they’re simply wonderful.  However, I’d like to issue a few cautionary statements about YouTube videos and channels.  First, almost anyone can start their own YouTube channel.  YouTube has proven itself to be the great equalizer.  No more paying the “regular” channels to put something on them or hoping they pick you up as an afternoon or morning show.  With YouTube, there’s no dealing with the camera and lighting people at a local station or PBS.  You can film and edit your own stuff, load it up, and unless YouTube dings it for inappropriate, stolen, or plagiarized content, it will be available for viewing in just a bit.  As a result we have access to hundreds of quilting teachers from all over the world.  Some of them are very good.  Some of them are not.  After you’ve quilted a while you can pretty much weed out which teachers are worth watching and which are not.  It’s important to remember most of the sewing and quilting parts of the videos are sped up due to time limitations.  So if you think you’re hopeless because you can’t sew or quilt as quickly as some of the YouTubers, don’t despair.  There’s more than a good chance they can’t sew or quilt that fast, either. 

As promised, these are the quilters I regularly watch on YouTube:

Angela Walters – If you want to learn to quilt or quilt better on your domestic sewing machine or long arm, Angela is your girl.  She has teaching videos where she uses both and breaks it down so it’s super-simple.  Angela is the one who really got me over my fear of quilting on my domestic sewing machine.  She does demonstrate how to piece quilts, with most of quilts using pre-cuts and a little additional yardage.  She also has live YouTube (and Facebook) shows about once a week.  You can type in your question in the comment section, the questions are monitored, and she does answer them.  Bonus, she checks back with the comment sections for several weeks, so she can continue to answer questions.

I like Anglea because she’s real.  If she’s speeding up the videos, it’s apparent.  She will point out what quilting areas gave her problems and how she worked through them.  Her tapings are relaxed, and she has this way of just making you feel you can quilt as well as she does, and that nothing is impossible. 

Karen Brown – This Canadian quilter is simply wonderful.  She owns up to her mistakes and then tells you how to avoid them.  At the beginning of every new year, she has a declutter challenge which is a lot of fun.  She (along with thousands of other quilters) cleans out her sewing rooms and gets ready for a year of clutter-free quilting.  I love that she’s a “green” quilter – she repurposes everyday items as useful sewing tools and makes after-quilts to cut down on the number of scraps hitting landfills.  She also offers technical solutions and covers a myriad of quilting topics in a clear, concise way.  If she speeds up her videos, you definitely know it.  She’s just a great, all-around quilter.

Abby Cox – Admittedly, Abby Cox is not a quilter.  She’s a seamstress and is proficient in garment history and construction.  While I don’t make garments any longer, she has placed a longing in my soul to construct a Victorian dress.  I’ll probably never do it, but a girl can dream.  However, I have found her hand sewing tutorials to be EPIC.  No one does it better than Abby.  She is one of the wittiest YouTube sewers out there.  If you want to be educated and entertained, I strongly recommend her YouTube videos.  The one on bras is enlightening and HYSTERICAL.  The one on Valentine’s Day is even better. 

This next quilter is not on YouTube, but you can find her on Instagram.  She generally has a new video on Instagram every day – Bethanne Nemesh.  If you’ve been around long arms, long armers, or looked up instruction for long arms, her name will pop.  She’s more than a long armer, she is an artist.  What this woman can do with thread and a long arm is amazing.  She also can help you become amazing, too.  I’ve taken several of her on-line classes and she is truly incredible.  And much like Angela Walters, she makes you believe you can do what she does – which is half the quilting battle.  Bethanne is incredibly generous with her time and knowledge and definitely worth the daily watch.

Like a lot of things in life, social media is neither good nor bad, black nor white, positive nor negative.  It’s what you do with it and allow it to do to you which matters most.  Use it for good, and when it’s impacting you in a negative way, know when to shut it down and walk away.  Either way, I can’t picture our current quilting world without it.  Use it wisely and well.

Until Next Week, Remember the Difference is in the Details!

Love and Stitches,


PS — A couple of “housekeeping” things. First, one of my readers gave me a really great suggestion. I wrote a blog a few weeks ago about quilt shows and entering your quilts. I mentioned there had been some theft of quilts from shows in the past several years. This reader suggested getting your show quilts appraised for their value prior to entering them. It’s a great suggestion. And while an insurance settelement can’t replace the quilt, at least you’d have money to buy new fabric to make a replacement quilt.

Second, next week you may want to brew yourself a cuppa before you read my blog. It’s a long one — nearly twice as long as I normally write. I am interviewing my very good quilting friend, Anita Smith. She talks her journey as a quilter and an immigrant. May want to have a few Kleenex around, too.

14 replies on “The Trap Door of Social Media and Your Quilting”

Thanks, Sherri. I am with you on everything you said about social media. There’s no way I could have learned by myself how to piece and quilt without Craftsy and U-Tube. And your blog.

Hi Sherri. This is the first time I’ve read your blogs – and it hit a nerve. I realized I’ve been spending too much time explorinng online quilting sitesetc. I’ve been a quilter for about 20 years but never went on quilting sites. All of a sudden, as you said, 3 hours have passed and my quilt has no border yet! Thanks for the wake up!
Betty Foley

Thanks for another great article. I learned to quilt in the 90’s from actual books. Lol. While I love how clever quilters are, it’s hard not to make comparisons from posted quilts with my own. I ended up so discouraged, I didn’t quilt for over a year. I didn’t quilt sewing, I just made a LOT of zip pouches. (Luckily, my daughter was at an all girls school at the time so I was able to gain zip pouch sewing experience – 30 at a time and then have gifts for all occasions). I stopped looking at instagram, Facebook or Pinterest and stopped posting my own projects during that year. I went back to old books and sewed what made me happy. I will log on now but not very often. I prefer to get emails from local quilt shops and pattern designers and support them

I’m kind of a middle-of-the-road social media user. I use Facebook for a few quilt groups (all of which are very supportive) but primarily to keep up with family and friends. As far as quilts go, I frequent those YouTube channels I mention in my blog. I find myself feeling anxious and discouraged if I look at it too long. So I really try to hit a balance. I find my primary sources of inspiration are my in-person quilt groups and my guild. And I’m a huge proponent of sewing what makes you happy. Life is too short not to.

Thank you for an enjoyable and informative post! Will be checking out all your posts now 😻

Your blog posts are always enlightening, informative and entertaining! I’m very thankful for your writing abilities and subject choices. YouTube has been very helpful as well. Sherri, you know how to start this girls Wednesday out right!

My name is Eileen and I’m a social media addict. I call it “falling down the rabbit hole”. It happens on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. I’m going to try to take your advice and set timers. You know I love your blog and you, my girlfriend.

You may not realize it but u just wrote a master class in the responsible use of social media, Regardless of it’s use. Be it quilting or wood working or collecting hens teeth your common sense approach should be required reading for anyone that owns a computer.
Job well done!

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