Journal Entry: January 11, 2013.
My grandmother definitely influenced my interest in quilting, but ironically enough, she never gave me one quilt lesson. Although, she made a large number of quilts while I was around to watch and learn through her making. Looking back to that time, I’m guessing it just wasn’t trendy for young ladies to learn to quilt; but she did teach me clothing construction. She always passed on her bed quilts to her only son’s (my dad) family, and she always seemed to have one in the works when we visited our grandparent’s house. And, all her quilts were completely machine pieced and quilted.
I received three quilts from grandma, my first quilt when I married. It was a simple nine-patch quilt and was made of fabric scraps from clothing I’d made for 4-H, home economics classes, and clothes I’d sewn for my younger brother and sister. I took an interest in quilting myself when my first son was born, making an embroidered baby quilt. I later made one for my second son, a gingham patch quilt, again with embroidery. From there I launched into making one full-sized bed quilt a year, always hand pieced and quilted and using traditional quilting patterns, for home and extended family members.
Go to my Album to find photos of some of the hand and machine stitched traditional quilts I’ve made.
I thought of myself as a purist, hand stitching all the quilt layers, using 100% cotton fabrics. When I began working full time and I spent a lot of time at the boys’ practices and sport games, my quilts got smaller – wall hangings, albeit using traditional patterns – so that I could carry the projects to work on anywhere and see the finished product more quickly. Patterns for wall hangings began appearing in the local fabric stores and the specialized quilt shops that were popping up in small and large towns across the U.S. At the same time, technology enhanced what I could do with the sewing machine, and machine quilts became more prevalent. Not unlike the early days of manufacturing and bringing computers to the workplace, I discovered more industrial sewing machines with fancier stitches, and other quilting tools, which helped to complete a quilt more easily and faster. I could finish wall hangings even faster. It wasn’t long before I pieced together the foundation of my quilts on the machine, adding embellishments such as yarn scraps, ribbons, buttons, and beads to the foundation as take-along projects.
The seeds of art quilting had been planted; a whole new art form evolved as I joined other quilters embracing traditional quilting as an art form along with artists taking on quilting as another expression of their creativity. There was controversy among quilters. People didn’t know how to categorize these fabric-based embellished quilts and those who created them. Are they art quilters? Fiber artists? Or, are they mixed-media artists? Traditional quilters claimed that those who created wall hangings could not profess to be quilters. I’ve been on the fence on this argument.
I made my first “art quilt” a little over ten years ago. My sons quickly named it the “shrapnel” quilt – because I cut out stars from the metal of Guinness beer cans and stitched them onto the wall hanging. I’ve since renamed it Colorado Mosaic. It’s my interpretation of a quilt sampler and all the blocks remind me of Colorado. It’s completely hand stitched and uses all hand-dyed fabrics. I used a number of techniques and patterns in this quilt: appliqué, pieced patterns, folded fabric, and embroidery.
If anyone asks me about my favorite style of quilting I always stumble a bit in my mind. I love traditional quilting, because of the personal tie to my grandmother, and the historical significance of the designs. And, I equally love the freedom of taking traditional design into an art quilt, by adding embellishment, whether it is traditional embroidery details, other fibers, buttons or beads. There just isn’t a “versus” for me. I don’t have any issues with doing it all, and calling it a quilt.