When Did You Decide to Become a Quilter?

Now that I have spent the better part of the past three years piecing quilt tops and making quilts I’ve developed a curiosity about how other’s have made the decision to become a quilter.

I ask this because, and as any quilter will tell you, in this day and age, the whole process of making a quilt really doesn’t make much sense.

Why is this so?

1) It is expensive

2) It is time-consuming

3) It requires a learning curve

4) It is expensive, time-consuming and requires a learning curve.

In spite of this however, there continues to exist a strong historical connection between the quilts made today and those from the past. Piecing and quilting techniques have evolved over the past decades – even centuries and the reason for making a quilt by hand has also taken on a new perspective.

A majority of quilts made in the past served a common purpose – as personal cover to provide warmth; as cover to protect bed linens or nice furniture; as protection from the earth while on a picnic or other outdoor activity. Fabrics associated with a loved one were often used to create the top or backing of a quilt.

Quilts were also used to make a political statement or as a way to voice sentiments and often included patriotic motifs such as stars, laurel wreaths, eagles, etc. The traditional patriotic colors, red, white and blue, were also used.

Cat sewing fabric on a sewing machine

Before the Industrial Revolution and before it became necessary for women to work outside the home, quilts, as well as clothing garments, were made in the home. Even when these items were made available for purchase, the price would typically be beyond most budgets. Back then it just did not make sense to buy an item that you (or even your cat!) could easily make at home.

Let’s Make A Pallet

Dog sleeping on quilts and pillows

When I was a kid and we had our cousins over for the weekend, there were never enough beds for everyone to sleep in so out came the stack of quilts. We would layer a couple of quilts, one on top of the other, to be used as a “bed” (also called a pallet) with another quilt (paired with a flat sheet) to be used as cover.

This is what we had to do and this is how we did it. Very little (if any) thought was given to the time and effort required to make each quilt.

How were the fabrics and fabric colors chosen? How long did it take to piece? What type of batting was used? Who did the quilting? Was the quilt stretched on a frame?  How old is this quilt?  Did this quilt belong to someone else?

Because these types of  quilts were as much a part of our daily life as sliced bread it never occurred to anyone the benefit of documenting any of this information.  Today, these questions are layered on top of a long list of life’s questions that can never be answered.

The Quilt Revival

Today’s quilter and quilt techniques represent a much larger spectrum of ideas and ideals. Quilts have evolved from pure and simple function to works of art that combine intricate detail and ornate decoration.

There is a renewed respect and demand for as well as a renewed desire to create hand made items. And, this revival is not limited to items made from fabric. A scroll through Etsy reveals several categories of hand made items for sale including paper crafting, jewelry, leather goods, ceramics and pottery, wood…the list is unlimited.

Collectively, as a culture, I think we have reached a saturation point of homogeneous sameness. I’m observing a trend where we are moving away from a “going with the crowd” mindset to one with a stronger sense of individuality. We desire items that are one-of-a-kind and unique.  Something that no one else has…something created outside the boundaries of corporate conformity and profit.

From the book, Why We Quilt, author Thomas Knauer states “Quilts are no longer about material necessity, but instead fulfill other, deeper, needs: they provide social, cultural, aesthetic and personal connections that are unique to each quilter.”

Why Do I Quilt?

As it turns out, there are quite a few reasons I quilt…reasons why I love to quilt:

1) I love making things with my hands.  That, and I like making pretty things with my hands and I like making things pretty – with my hands.

2) I love learning new things.  Quilting offers an endless supply of opportunities for learning new and unique techniques.

3) I love a challenge. Tell me I can’t do something and I’ll show you at least a hundred ways I can! There is nothing better than mastering a technique I never thought I would be able to do. Paper piecing (shown in the image below) was one of those techniques!

4) I love sewing machines. And, the more bells and whistles the better however, it is not for the reasons you might think.  Bells and whistles per se, I can take or leave.  It’s bearing witness to technology and  advancement of sewing machines. Comparing what we can do today with the machines of yesterday, I am nothing short of amazed at what my ancestors were able to accomplish!

5) I love quilt festivals. They are a wonderful source of inspiration.  Many quilts on display at a festival is a  . It’s a chance to meet some wonderfully creative people. Having the chance to meet and take a class from someone you would only have an opportunity to meet in the virtual world is awesome!

6) I love a great vacation destination. And I love museums.  Vacation + Quilts + Museum = The National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky.  
When it comes to genuine, authentic works of textile art and history, this is THE place to go!  Paducah, KY is also one (of many) prime destinations to attend the American Quilt Society (AQS) QuiltWeek held in the fall and spring of each year.

*** I also love a good road trip or mini-vacation. For me, a good road trip consists of visiting favorite fabric shops and the Missouri Star Quilt Co. is one of my favorites!. It’s only an hour drive from my home and when all you want is to get away for a few hours and be able to return home and sleep in your own bed that night, it’s the perfect day trip!

7) I love being able to make one-of-a-kind gifts. Gifts that will be used, appreciated and then passed down to the next generation and beyond. If the recipient doesn’t like the quilt, they don’t have to worry about keeping up with the receipt and standing in line to make an exchange. They can instead, just re-gift it to someone else or return it to me!

8) I love fabric and the creative possibilities a yard of fabric offers. Fabrics and textiles add elements of style and design detail not replicated by other accessories. It adds warmth both physically and perceptually and creates a sense of comfort and abundance.

9) I love the creative opportunities quilting brings. The opportunity to create patterns, create my own fabric designs, develop and share new techniques, develop new tools. If it weren’t for quilting I probably would not have this website and all the opportunities that it brings.

10)  I love quilting because no matter what is going on in the world, I can sit down in front of my sewing machine and create anything I want. 

It is a weather-proof, pandemic-proof, zero-calorie distraction that provides a relaxing escape to my own corner of the universe.

So, now you know a little about quilting from the past and present, and a little about the reasons why I quilt.

  If you can spare just a minute or two I’d love to know:


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