Innovative, Remarkable, Remembered

I'm feeling very introspective lately, so what follows are some thoughts on innovation, being remarkable, being memorable, and being popular. I promise it ties in with quilting and creativity.

I was listening to an online talk by Seth Godin about innovation, risk and the mass market. He mentioned the name of the man who invented the car. To be honest I don't remember the guy's name, but I do remember that Seth mentioned that he had to get a permit or permission from the king, because it wasn't legal to drive a car on the fact, in many places, there were no roads.

I don't remember his name and I bet many of you don't either. But I do remember Henry Ford. Henry Ford didn't invent the car though. What he did was make it accessible to the masses.

Singer didn't invent the sewing machine, but they sure made it available to the masses. In fact they were revolutionary in their use of the installment plan and they were wildly successful.

So successful that even non-sewing people think of Singer as the leader in the realm of sewing machines even to this day, even if those who really use sewing machines these days know that new Singer machines are no longer innovative. They still are quite affordable and their wide reaching availability in the mass merchandisers stores, the big box stores, certainly shows that they are being sold to the masses. They have their place, but they're not exactly remarkable.

Why do I write about this? Am I building up to a rant about cheap machines and big box stores? No. About the difficulty of putting a price on helping people, not just selling a product? Not really. Though this is the crux of the questions facing the independent quilt shop and sewing machine dealer these days.

I admit I certainly could launch into a rant of this type, especially as Hobby Lobby has just opened up a store across the street from our shop.

But what Seth's talk brought to mind was that the masses are the middle of the bell curve of any market of any product or concept. The middle is unremarkable. It's affordable, easy to use, doesn't do too much too well.

The remarkable, on the other hand only appeals to the outliers. To the masses, the outliers are the weirdos, the obsessed, the elite. Quilters are artists...artists know they are outliers. I think it's safe to say that we could be called obsessed, some of us might be those other terms too.

He talked about those who innovate are remarkable, but over time they might not be remembered. What, or who, is remembered isn't usually the original developer of the remarkable thing. With the main creativity of the idea and/or the basic mechanical concepts worked out, the next folks to work on the idea are the ones who can focus on the masses and make the concept or the product accessible, remembered, possibly unremarkable.

We all want to be remarkable. In what area is completely up to you and as varied as people are.

A blanket is typically unremarkable. Sure, some folks have a special blanket, and you certainly can find luxury blankets somewhere. I wouldn't know, my blankets are definitely unremarkable. I like the blanket I might add to my bed on an extra cold night, but it's unremarkable.

But a quilt, even a poorly made quilt, is remarkable. (I'm not referring to the commercially made quilts sold by the mass merchants.) They vary from maker to maker, from season to season of the maker's life, and from what materials we choose. They are unique and worthy of being remarked upon.

Remarkable and memorable is a rare combination.

Sometimes we find a rare place in our creativity and really make something remarkable. It doesn't have to be museum quality, it could be because the "market" you are making your quilts for is actually remarkable and responds to your efforts in a remarkable way. This might be the family who reminisces about their mother and grandmother as they hold their quilt.

Remarkable isn't for the masses.

Do you think about the work of your hands, your quilts, your art as remarkable? That means it likely doesn't appeal to the masses or at least isn't shared with the masses. I've been there and I know many of you have too; a ton of people want you to make a quilt for them or for someone they need to give a gift to, and they have no idea what goes into a quilt. Their desire for the quilt immediately diminishes when they learn what goes into it.

Does what I do appeal to the masses? Nope. Can I bring what I do to the masses? Do I even want to do that?

I have even been innovative, but wasn't really able to bring it to the masses within the quilting niche. Does that mean I'll fade into obscurity as others bring that innovation to the masses? Probably. But in the meantime I hope my little tribe of students and quilty friends find me remarkable in some way.

Have you tried to innovate in your life, in your craft, your art, even your sewing? Innovation doesn't have to be revolutionary or a giant step. It might just be a tiny little step out of your comfort zone, trying a new technique, a different color, or even a different substrate/fabric. Maybe it's introducing a person to what you do.

Do it! Let's be remarkable. The personal reward is great. Remember it may not appeal to the masses, but that's OK. I'm pretty sure the masses (in general) don't appeal to us!


  1. This was a great article Amy. I write the monthly newsletter for my quilt guild & would love to feature your article in our Sew Savvy column. May I have your permission? I will give you credit along with all your links. Thanks so much♥️

  2. Great article, Amy. You're a good writer! I think the new Hobby Lobby will be good for your business. Competition is always good. But you are spot on in that you offer something more remarkable, more desirable, more for the artist! And, of course, I think you are remarkable!

  3. I agree with Linda, find a way to get get the Hobby Lobby people to cross the street to see what you offer. They may really want your classes. Continue being remarkable, and enjoy what you are doing.

  4. Amy, perhaps you don't realize it, but you're the person who brought ruler quilting on a domestic machine to the masses.

    1. I realize it, but I wasn't able to really do it up big like so many others were. I was innovative, but others brought it to the market.

  5. Any- I know you often use glide thread and I have tried it and like it . Do you use it in the bobbin also? Thanks Lois