Are you a quilter?  My friend is a first-class practitioner of the art.  Here is one of her machine-stitched prize-winners at our Fall Fair. See the blue ribbon in the lower left corner?

In my heart, I’m a quilter, but my skill level sets me as rank amateur.  Still, I keep trying.  I love quilts for special occasions.  Here are a couple I made for new babies in my family.  I get along all right in putting the pieces together and in doing the stitching – I prefer hand stitching to machine stitching, but I really have trouble finishing the edges.  I’ve tried adding a border, turning the bottom up over the top and turning the top down over the bottom.  All come out as less than picture perfect.

The examples on this page are made of new material and designed as artwork, that’s the modern way.  But what really appeals to me about quilting is the old-fashioned notion of using up scraps of worn-out items to create something new and useful and beautiful.  That was the impetus behind the pioneer woman’s quilt-making.  That and the quilting bee, I would imagine.  An opportunity to spend an afternoon with other women, catching up on the neighbourhood news, exchanging recipes, and having a cup of tea together would seem like a vacation to our hard-working foremothers.  And at the end of the day they had several finished quilts and a perfect excuse for taking the day off from their other household chores.

I recently cleared out several bags of fabric scraps that are never going to make it into a quilt of mine, but I’ve kept enough that if I’m ever struck with a burning desire to frustrate myself again, I’ve got bits of red velvet for the heart of a log cabin design.

One of my favourite examples of quilting is a wall hanging my mother made years ago.  She used bits of fabric from my old clothes.  I can look at that hanging and see the blue velvet of a flower-girl dress I wore when I was five, or the embroidered white organdy of my graduation dress, or the red velvet she remade many times as a Christmas dress for her daughter.  I also see one of her favourite blouses and something in mustard yellow that I hope neither of us ever wore as a garment.  To me, this hanging represents the spirit of the quilt; practical, beautiful, and glowing with love.

But, our foremothers were creative as well as practical.  They could have just cut out squares and sewn them together to achieve the practical and useful portion of the equation.  However, they looked around them, and just like an artist in paint, transferred the everyday of their lives into patterns that reflected the country they inhabited.  “Duck’s Foot in the Mud,” must have come from a woman living near a slough, where she saw the tracks of a waddling duck on a muddy bank.  Or how about “flying geese?”  I live on a migration path for Canada Geese and their twice-yearly honking and long vee formations always stir my soul.  Of course that shape belongs in a quilt.

For years I had a hand-made “grandmother’s flower garden” quilt on my bed.  It looked a lot like this one, with the yellow centres and single row of matching petals against a white background. Now it is worn threadbare, the colours faded, but the quilting stitches are still intact.  I keep it in a memory corner.  Maybe one day part of it will end up in a memoir hanging of my own.

And speaking of memories.  I had an idea for a project for the Fall Fair this year.  I took a bunch of my old prize ribbons (I win prizes for my roses, not my quilts) and wove them together to make this colourful hanging, the little one on the right with the “well done” ribbon.  No prize—my imagination continues to outrun my skill—but lots of fun and a great conversation piece.


What about you?  Do you quilt?  Do you have a favourite example?  Hand-stitch or machine?  Purpose bought fabric or scraps  from the rag-bag?  Share your thoughts in the comments section and win a free e-copy of The Man for Her, first book in my Prospect Series.  Limited to first five commenters only.

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  1. Sherry Chinn

    I have a wall hanging my grandmother made. I also have several squares that she made with fabric from flour sacks, framed in my daughter’s room. We worked together on baby quilts for my future children and I have several of her quilts. They are very special to me. I also have her quilting fabric and some unfinished blocks. Someday, I am hoping to make a quilt from those blocks. I really miss her.

    • Alice Valdal

      Isn’t that one of the wonderful things about a quilt–it pieces together the generations. Thanks for writing.

  2. Sandy Tindall

    I helped my mom quilt a quilt when I was 12. My sisters and I embroidered each block and signed and dated our names. When we finished she gave the quilt to me! I still have it. I have made all 9 of my kids a quilt and going to start on grandkids.

    • Alice Valdal

      Wow! quilts for nine kids and you’re still game to start on the grandchildren? You must love quilting.

  3. Tammy Jeancola

    I made one quilt in my life… I made a pin wheel quilt for my oldest sons crib. Sorry no picture. But I absolutely loved creating something special for my first newborn ❤

    • Alice Valdal

      pinwheel for your first attempt. That is ambitious. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Sheila Ashley

    I have a quilt that my great grandmother made and she passed in 1966 and my mother made quilts for all her children and grandchildren. I have a few quilts over the years but my eyesight has gone bad along with a tremor so I don’t do much sewing or crafts any more.

    • Alice Valdal

      Ah, that aging thing is a pain. Lovely that you have those family quilts to admire. Thanks for writing.

  5. Andrea

    I don’t quilt but I crochet crib quilts for babies. The quilts on this blog are gorgeous!

    • Alice Valdal

      Ah! Next week I’ll talk about crocheting and knitting. I’m more successful in that field. Thanks for writing.

  6. Lucy Ansley

    Hi Alice,
    Really enjoy having a connection through your blog. How far we have come since passing notes to each other in high school.
    Quilting is a large part of my life through the long cold winter days. My Mom spent much time crocheting, knitting, painting, embroidery sewing her own clothing and a gazillion other artistic undertakings, however quilting was not included.
    I have always been fascinated by very old fashioned quilts made with what was available, so my first 13 quilts ( with the help of my youngest daughter) were made with all our old sweatshirts cut into squares and turned into quilts for all our family. Very serviceable, some still not worn out.
    A box of men’s suit samples( acquired at a yard sale) from the old Mills Dept. Store became very warm quilts with all the pieces embroidered together and tied.
    This may be a new idea for you… when a person has passed away, I have turned some of their clothing into simple memory quilts that their family get hugs from for years.
    I could go on for a while yet on how I have turned doilies, embroidered items,jeans,and vintage quilt tops into useful bed coverings.
    Keep the blogs coming, I love them.
    Your old friend, Lucy

    • Alice Valdal

      Hi Lucy, Lovely to hear from you. I love your re-use ideas for quilts. Never would have put old sweatshirts on my list of quilt fabrics but it makes perfect sense. They’re lovely and warm and soft. I remember Mills Bros. It seemed the height of elegance way back when. I’d love to see a picture of some of your projects.

  7. Vivian Furbay

    I left a comment on Prairie Hearts and thought I would add one here. I love to quilt. Just finished hand quilting a single bed size quilt for a friend’s mother and have to bind it. The main colors are light yellow and tan, but I used pastel colors on the top. the backing and binding are a light tan.

    • Alice Valdal

      Thanks for commenting, Vivian. It seems quilters are passionate about their craft.

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