Quilts seem to be enjoying some renewed popularity lately, and this makes me happy. Growing up, in our family, quilts were a big deal. We were taught at an early age how to thread a needle and knot it, then given free reign over the mountain of fabric scraps in my Granny’s closet. From my mom’s obsession with quilting I learned that hand quilting was superior to machine quilting, because it was harder and took longer, that small and perfect stitches were to be sought after and fawned over, but large stitches forgiven, and that natural fibers were the only acceptable medium, with rare exceptions made for creative experimentation. I was taught that quilts made with scraps to keep people warm were more special than the most beautiful show quilts, and that all handmade quilted objects–even potholders–were to be treated with reverence. Our annual trip to the International Quilt Festival was practically a pilgrimage (nevermind that it takes place in our hometown).
Since quilted objects were the ultimate gift, I decided when I was in high school to make my mom a full-sized quilt for her birthday. Because I was inexperienced and careless, I immediately screwed up the math on my piecing and ended up with a pattern of alternating patchwork squares (cut from old scraps, of course) and slightly wonky octagons. It still worked, I persevered. I decided to hand-quilt it, because I knew my mom would love this, but also because I had to drag the thing back and forth to my best friend’s house so I could work on it every waking moment without my mom seeing it. My fingers were aching and sticky with the leftover adhesive from moleskin and bandaids–my thimbles–for weeks. When I finished, I didn’t know how to bind the edges. I didn’t have enough money to buy quilt binding, and I had the extra challenge of dealing with the zig-zag border I’d ambitiously chosen, so I wound up embroidering the edges with a wavy blanket stitch.
All in all, it was not my most beautiful creation. It’s the only full-sized quilt I’ve ever made, though, and I came away from the experience with an even deeper respect for the massive undertaking that is quilt-making. It is a long, demanding, and sometimes painful labor of absolute love.
Recently, my mom and I made a crib quilt for Levi and Evette’s new baby. We had some good times digging through our fabric stashes for the right colors and cracking up to a David Sedaris audio book while we worked. We even broke one of our self-imposed quilting rules and quilted it by hand with large, sashiko-style stitches. It was a lot of fun, and I realized that it may be time to go all out and make another full-sized quilt. I’ve been looking through my collection of quilt images for inspiration lately, and here are a few of my favorites:
above: Courthouse Steps by Maura Grace Ambrose © Folk Fibers
above: Logcabin by Louella Pettway © Tinwood
above: Double Wedding Ring (back) by Carrie Strine
Top quilt by Sadie Bell Nelson