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.