“Our lives are like quilts: bits and pieces, joy and sorrow, stiched with love”-unknown.
Okay, call me grandma but I’ve become akin to quilting. That is to say, I’ve begun a small quilt of my own. I’ve always enjoyed crocheting, which my grandma taught me, and the skill of using my hands and creativity to make something. Recently, with the onset of cooler weather I decided I’d like to try and make a quilt; just a simple, “crazy” quilt about the size of a throw to begin with. The fun part for me is choosing the bits and pieces of fabric. I wanted the colors to somewhat match, but I didn’t want to restrict myself. A crazy quilt, afterall, can have all sorts of designs and colors–I have chosen bright colors and am mixing solids with patterns. Mine will consist of standard squares patched together with my grandmother’s old-time sewing machine–no fancy decals or art work.
I suppose what got me interested in quilting, besides the fun of making it, is the history behind them. Almost every culture has been involved in quilt-making, each unique in its own way. When we think of quilts, we reminisce about early America: women gathered together at a quilting party, sharing stories and working together. The Amish were quilters too. As a culture characterized by simplicity, their quilting began with solid dark colors: black, brown and blue. It wasn’t until later, around the 1940’s, that they began adding pastel’s and some pattern to their quilts. Native American Indians, Mexican Americans and African Americans have also taken the tradition of quilting and made it uniquely their own. For example, one of the coolest aspects of African American quilting (adapted by other cultures as well) is “record keeping” or storytelling quilts where the appliques represent significant life events or tell a story of something that happened. I remember reading a long time ago, probably in school, that some African Americans during slavery even used quilt-making to send messages to each other–secret symbols and designs that meant something to them and no one else.
That’s what I love about quilting: it can tell a story or hold some significant meaning for you or the person you are making it for. It can be made up of scraps (maybe old clothing) or have patches from different places and times. Some fabric you collected during your travels, a hand-me-down dress, pieces from old curtains, something your mother once wore…anything that then turns into something special. It’s like having a piece of living memory next to you all the time. I was so thrilled and inspired when recently on the news I saw that some classrooms in Connecticut were making quilts about protecting our environment and recycling. With the help of the teacher, each student in the class got to make a square regarding some aspect of protecting our environment. Then, all the squares were sewn together into a small quilt. The project helps students work together, create awareness about the environment, and send a message; all of which go along with the age-old tradition of quilting. It just goes to show how much quilting is embedded in our culture.
Whether you are the expert quilter (whom I envy and admire) or just starting out like me, OWL has a wonderful selection of books on and about quilting. Here are few that piqued my interest:
Learning to Quilt the Traditional Way by Annlee Landman is a super book for beginners or those looking for some new fun ideas. I especially like the step by step “basic techniques” which includes helpful, colorful pictures.
This Old Quilt: a heartwarming celebration of quilts and quilting memories by Margaret Aldrich is one of my favorites. A collection of fine stories, memories and history of quilt-making with wonderful old photographs and pictures. Makes me want to return to a simpler time where the idea of fun on a Friday night was gathering at Debra Sue’s for quilting and chit-chat.
From the Cover: 15 Memorable Projects for Quilt Lovers by Mary Leman Austin contains 15 quilts that have appeared in Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine over the years. The beginning of the book has a chronology of the magazine throughout the years, including tidbits of information that appeared in them. There are beautiful illustrations of each of the 15 quilts, complete with patterns and step by step instructions. One of my favorites is the Chaco’s Paw with its intricate design and pastel colors.
Mini Quilts from Traditional Designs by Adele Corcoran and Caroline Wilkinson. This book is great for beginners as the projects are all small in size, but still creative and fun. They also tell you for each quilt project what the skill level is: beginners, intermediate, advanced. Designs include traditional, amish style, applique, and scrap. Material lists and patterns make it easy to begin.
Women and Their Quilts: A Washington State Centennial Tribute by Nancyann Johanson Twelker. I love this book because it highlights women quilters through the years (1833-present) , their quilts and designs. It tells the origins and details of each quilt, as well as the information about the quilter.
Crazy Quilts by Penny McMorris-a fun, informative history of crazy quilts, which has “become known as the oldest American quilt pattern.” Great color pictures of historic quilts.
You should also check out the Elm Creek Quilts series by Jennifer Chiaverini: they are fun, light reads. Perfect for a crisp autumn night, sitting on the couch wrapped in a ….quilt!
Sarai is the Publicity Coordinator/Library Assistant and is loving the autumn aroma, apple picking, and cozy fires.