Quilting: The Tradition, The Art, The Love, The Gift

When people hear the word “quilt”, what they picture depends on many things. They may have old quilts around the house that were made by a cherished friend or relative. Their quilts may have stories attached to them or maybe they have just "always been around", familiar but lacking any information as to who made them. Perhaps a quilt might be a puffy bedspread that was bought at a large retailer, chosen because the purchaser was looking for colors to match their bedroom. And not least, it may indeed be a quilted bed cover that says “hand-quilted” on the label but that was produced overseas by people who sit at sewing machines for long hours for pay that is not enough to actually buy the products they are making.

When people learn that I make quilts they often ask, “Oh, what kind of quilts?” My answer is usually, “Not your grandmother’s quilts!” This is in no way meant to be disparaging toward the lovely and ages-old art of quilting when, rather than pursuing a hobby, women were using scarce free time to construct bedding that would keep their family warm at night. Lacking the resources to buy fabric, they might have used scraps from clothing that was too worn to wear, or even flour sacks and feed bags. Color didn’t matter as long as nothing was wasted!

Quilting was also a chance for women to come together in community and fellowship as they helped one another with their quilts. After the piecing together of the squares by hand, the quilt need to be layered with batting and a backing which would then be sewn together. This was the "quilting," which was also done by hand around a giant frame onto which the quilt was stretched. Women prided themselves on their tiny, even quilting stitches. As conversation swirled about, the quilts came to completion and were ready to be put on a bed or wrap around a sick child.

So my response about not making “grandmotherly” quilts refers to many different things. For example, I don’t piece or quilt my quilts by hand. I have a fancy computerized sewing machine and many, many tools and conveniences that make the process a little easier.This is not to say that making a quilt is ever a snap! It is a painstaking and time consuming labor of love. But you do indeed have to love it - for me it is almost a meditationand that brings great joy.

I also am very interested in color. I am drawn to bright colors and modern prints, combining them in pleasing or even unexpected ways. There are books and books full of traditional quilt patterns with names like “Ohio Star” or “Bear’s Paw.” These are not the books that I have on my shelf. Rather, many of the books I search out contain the word “modern” or “contemporary” in the titles. I also love to put appliques on quilts, which means to cut out shapes or designs which then get top-stitched onto the quilt.

And, happily, the sense of community amongst quilters has continued, although in very different ways. I have groups of quilting friends on social media and in my neighborhood. I have an especially good friend that I go fabric shopping with – she heads to the Civil War reproduction prints while I make a beeline for the latest in modern batiks. These differences in tastes, rather than resulting in disagreements, strengthen our bond as we continue to learn from each other. Quilters, next door or around the world, share a passion that sustains us all!

I hope that my quilts and quilted products reflect my admiration and respect for the women who taught us to quilt. The attention to detail and integrity that goes into every quilted item I make results in items to be cherished and shared with generations to come. They are true heirlooms!

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