Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Why Do We Quilt?

(Note: I'm a guest blogger over on Victoria's blog today, but alas, the pictures didn't publish. What's a quilting blog post without pictures of quilts? So, here is the republished version with pictures.
Check out all her other fabulous guest bloggers posting their thoughts and retreat inspirations all this week!

Without futher ado...the post.)

I remember a story of a first generation immigrant (and first generation quilter) proudly sending one of her recently finished quilts home to her mother. The mother promptly sent a return letter, worried that her daughter was struggling financially and needed immediate help in her new life. Why else would she be scrounging up scraps to make her gifts?

It certainly isn't financial hardship that drives most of us to quilt. ( $10/yard the quilting addiction may in fact drive the rest of your budget to financial hardship!) So what is it that draws us to create in this form?

The retreat showed some of the reasons we quilt. I heard about sewing to unwind from stressful work, enjoying making gifts for others, and being inspired by other generations of family members. They shared quilts to be hung as art, quilts to be worn, and quilts to be used (and loved and washed and used some more). Quilts were inspired by and approached in many different ways. Some quilts had clear plans from the very beginning. Some grew from nothing more than a wisp of an idea and lots of play. Some quilts were inspired by an old pattern or a desire to have one "just like that!"

Why do I quilt?

I quilt because my grandmother quilts. She started quilting about 10 years ago and has become quite prolific. She likes bright colors and a bit of whimsy. She doesn't always follow the "rules". (That's appreciated around here, right?) She was the first person to give me a quilting lesson and we still enjoy sewing (and fabric shopping!) together.

("Coat of Many Colors Quilt", made by my grandma)

I quilts because quilts are all about comfort! When I am wrapped up in my grandmother's heart quilt, it is as if I've pulled her close to me across the miles, wrapping myself in a tangible expression of her love. It reassures me that my family is with me, even when they can't actually be with me. Making a quilt for some one else spreads that tenderness and warmth to one more soul.

(Grandma's Pink Heart Quilt)

I quilt because other people inspire me to step outside my comfort zone. Some of my most enjoyable quilts have been made for someone else. Victoria's love of "bathtub" Marys inspired this mixed media piece...something I never would have dreamed up on my own.

Making "Bed of Roses" for my vibrant and funky sister challenged my design abilities and pushed me outside of my color preferences of the time (Civil War prints, red and white, etc.). Now? Don't ask how often I think that my living room needs just a bit more fuschia and orange!

I quilt because ideas just set my brain on fire and beg to be made. A fabric, an image, a combination of colors, a certain kind of design...something just lights up inside and won't be still until the thing gets made! (Ok, let's be honest...until the thing gets started!)

My Great Lawn quilt in progress, inspired by this scene...)

I quilt because it's meditation. I remember how an hour at my sewing machine would relax and rejuvenate me after exhausting sessions in a grad-level movement analysis program. (Just thinking about those weekends might merit another session at the machine!) And the other night, when my brain absolutely would not shut up and go to sleep, the rhythm of sewing triangles together for 15 minutes quieted it right down and finally let me rest.

What makes you scrap scrounge, fabric splurge, cut things up, sew them together and make one more quilt?


Judy in Michigan said...

Hi Andrea, I enjoyed your post/guest post! I think the person you quoted was Edyta Sitar. She was a speaker at our guild this year. It is odd that we buy fabric to cut up and sew back together again! Your roses quilt for your sister was my inspiration for making a similar quilt. I chickened out and made the blocks the same size so I could sew them together more easily. Thank YOU for all your inspiration!

CharlotteP said...

You're right, it IS meditation...but don't you find that thinking about the dratted things can keep you awake for hours?!

Lisa said...

Oh I'm so glad you posted over here too, I wanted to see your beautiful pictures and the quilt made by your grandmother.

I like to think of quilting as a meditation too. I love creating and thinking about a design, the way to execute it. I get so much joy from sewing and creating, I know you do to! Thanks for the peak at your wonderful quilts.

Nifty Quilts said...

Andrea, What a beautiful essay on why we quilt. You really put into words what I've been thinking for some years. And I think this starts a much needed discussion. Thank you!!

Kim said...

Meditation in motion. Yes that is exactly it!

Happy sewing Andrea, nice job on the guest spot for V.

True Blue Nana said...

I was wondering what happened to the pictures. I quilt for all the reasons you listed. My grandmother quilted. I have several of her quilts. My mother quilted, my aunt quilts. Quilting has also helped me through some very stressful times. I get ideas in my head and like CharlotteP they keep me up at night! I try to keep a small notebook with me to sketch ideas when they pop up.

Sujata said...

Hi Andrea!

Just came over from yopur guest post.. Lovely reading your thought process.
Meditation.. you got that right for sure! Peaceful and rewarding..

Andie said...

Love that Great Lawn piece! Love the idea of a random/contrived abstract piece with lots of color - makes me a little giddy!

J.B. said...

And you quilt because it warms MY heart. I love you and your grandma quite a bit. And I'm getting pretty excited to see that sweet Bed of Roses quilt again. :D

Christine said...

I love your story! I enjoyed reading it on your guest post at V's. And the pictures are great.
Thank you for sharing.

Miki Willa said...

Your post is very inspiring, and right on target. I put fabric together as a creative outlet, a meditative practice, a way to share love with others, and because I just love all those wonderful fabrics. You and your grandmother are so blessed to have each other to share this wonderful art with.

Rachel said...

I had to come over and visit because it really bugged me that I couldn't see the photos on your wonderful post over at Bumble Beans. I LOVE the bed of roses quilt. Absolutely amazing! Your sister is soooo lucky!

mary e said...

'bed of roses', it is beautiful. the color combinations are fantastic. i've been meditating on how you created them, ha! actually loss sleep, dreaming quilted roses. found you through your post at bumble beans and the retreat pics. thanks for the inspiration!