Quilting and the Preservation of Culture and Tradition

Chandelier quilt using Lela Boutique's Love Notes fabric

Whether intentionally or unintentionally, quilts are a creative and effective medium for telling a story.

They are more, much more than a covering to keep you warm at night.

Anyone can buy a mass-produced blanket/comforter/duvet, etc. but a handmade quilt carries a level of significance and authenticity not found in mass production.
A mass-produced item was given very little thought to the recipient and holds the premise that, “X number of people will like this”.
A quilt is made one at a time with a specific recipient in mind. There is a whole process – I mean a PROCESS that occurs before the first piece of fabric is cut.

Most every quilt I make is gifted

I do find it helpful when I’m given instructions or given even a general direction to take while designing the quilt however, when I’m given he opportunity I prefer to determine that direction on my own.
The process of asking questions – what color, pattern and design motif – and answering those questions is a process I find as inspiring as the finished quilt.

True, there may be times when the answers I receive are influenced by my own preferences or current trends but overall, it is my intent create a quilt that reflects the personality of the recipient. In the event of a baby quilt, the design, no doubt, is influenced by my perception of the baby’s perceived personality!

Here are a few examples:

The quilt below is a basic pinwheel pattern (I don’t recall the
fabric line but it is so cute!). As I chose this fabric I envisioned
the same pinks and yellows from my own childhood and how I loved looking
out my bedroom window at the shades of green as the sun shone on the
grass after a rain.
When the quilt was finished and turned out to be smaller than I imagined, I felt a stuffed bunny would a cute addition.

Pinwheel baby quilt - girlBunny and Pinwheel baby quilt
“I Believe in Angels” was the fabric used for this baby quilt.
The image below doesn’t do justice to the colors but when I saw the
fabric and knowing this baby girl would be an angel, well, the rest was a
no brainer!
Baby quilt made from Christmas Angel fabric

The pattern below has slowly become one of my favorites. I have modified
the whole pattern – it still needs a little work but the fabric I chose
seems to make it all work. While I absolutely adore the color scheme –
especially for a boy (or gender neutral) I feel the reason I loved making this quilt so much, the combination of the colorway and design motif are reminiscent
of the Dr. Seuss books I read as a child.

Feel free to read more about it here.
Go Cars Go baby  quilt pattern using 'On the Go' fabric

This final quilt on my memory lane is from the pattern Woodland Critter’s by Avery Lane. For the longest time, I could not get enough of this pattern! I simply cannot resist an opportunity to combine
applique and quilting. And those critters!
This is my 3rd or 4th quilt in this pattern. Again, my camera and poor lighting do not do the colors of this quilt any justice however, take my word, this pattern looks awesomely cute in any colorway!

Woodland Critters baby quilt using Laundry Basket Favorites II fabric
Although I may use the same pattern for a gifted quilt, I make changes in each one that renders each one a unique, one of a kind, quilt.

On the subject of OOAK – the backing on this one is definitely an original – at least for me. Go here to learn about my “problem” and how I solved it.

More about that follows.

Keeping It In the Family

It is the preservation of the culture in which I grew up and the traces of tradition that remain in my own family that influenced the Sweet Sixteen quilts I made (and still making) for each granddaughter.

Being 16 today is so very, very different from it was 47 years ago when I was 16.

The rising technology curve has changed everything…every aspect of our lives. Most of it for the best but there are elements / attitudes / beliefs from the past that need to be carried into our present.

Many of those elements are found in both Sweet 16 quilts (Shown below):

1. Slow down and smell the flowers.

Take the time to see and appreciate your surroundings. Find time to travel and do more than just take a selfie in front of a touristy landmark. Go off the beaten path and experience other cultures.

2. Bloom where you are planted.

Wherever life takes you keep your feet on the ground. Find what inspires you and do it. Accept advice cautiously. Not all advice is given with your best interest at heart, this is why it is important that you do what YOU want to do – listen to your own advice first.

3. Let there always be a song in your heart.

It’s easy to sing when your happy and things are going your way. Learn to sing – the see the bright side, when adversity, or what you perceive to be, adversity. Flowers need both sunshine and rain to bloom.

4. Live simply.

Acquire only what you need. Enjoy and appreciate the empty space. Not every minute of your life needs to be filled with activity and things. In the end, you don’t actually own stuff – it owns you. More stuff equals more stress.

5. Be yourself.

The butterfly doesn’t try to be a ladybug, a snail doesn’t want to fly. The world was made with billions and billions of different elements – each with it’s own set of skills and purpose. Be who you are supposed to be, do what you are supposed to do and you will always be confident knowing you are always enough.

A Garden s a Bridge

Culture and family tradition is a very hard thing to hold onto when a large majority of your ancestors have passed. That difficulty is compounded when almost no reminders remain to remember them by.

My hope is to use my quilting as a means to restore tradition and with it share a sample of the culture in which I grew up.
When I first saw the Secret Garden quilt, the colors, pattern and design motif immediately brought to mind my granddaughters. I saw this quilt as a perfect bridge between the physical and generational distance between us and as a metaphor for their experience bridging the gap between childhood and adulthood.
In the way various events add texture to our lives, each appliqued element adds a necessary layer of texture that helps to tell a story.

Here is Maria’s quilt:

Secret Garden quilt pattern by Craft Passion using Kimberbell fabric

This was quite a learning process. Should you take the time to compare my version with he original you see I made a few changes…a lot of changes.

Creating a quilt top has a way of awakening ideas and creating a vision you never expected. While I respect and appreciate the design of the original pattern, the specific elements and layout just didn’t reflect my granddaughter’s personality, or mine.

Here is the Work-In-Progress of the quilt I’m making for her sister Lanna, who is now 16:

Secret Garden quilt - 2 using batik fabric by Robert Kaufman

This is Lanna’s quilt top so far. The colors continue with a playful theme but the batik fabric gives it a sense of maturity. The scale of the applique elements are unintentionally larger than those of the first quilt. I used my Cricut Maker to cute a majority of pieces and, well, I’m still learning how to use my Cricut!
Stay tuned – when it’s finished I’ll do another show and tell!

A Final Thought

For those of you visiting my site for the first time, this article is small departure from the usual format where I instruct a technique or review a product or service but I feel from time to time, it is also necessary to explain the relevance of quilting and the processes that go with it.

I have a favorite phrase when asked if I can teach quilting. “Anyone can quilt, but quilting is not for everyone”.

There IS a process that needs to first be recognized than appreciated before one embarks on a quilting journey but when quilting can be used as a vehicle to preserve one’s culture and restore tradition, the process becomes worth the effort.

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