Thursday, May 10, 2007

Not Your Grandma's Quilts

Quilts are my heritage. The women in my family have been making quilts even before they made the trek from Switzerland to the United States.

Mom spent the 1930s, the Great Depression, making pies for hobos and the constant stream of hungry, unemployed men who walked past the farm where she lived with her parents. When not feeding someone, she stitched flower garden, star of Bethlehem, and double wedding ring quilt patterns out of assorted fabric scraps for her dowry.

She taught me to stitch squares together and make a doll quilt before I was old enough to write my name. Since then I have written about quilts more than I have stitched them. Quilting and quilts became popular again in the 1970s, and each year brings a bouquet of unexpected new quilt techniques, patterns and equipment. The rotary cutter probably did as much for quiltmaking enabling quilters to cut faster and more accurately.

The quality of work in the quilts exhibited at even your little county fair or hometown shows is phenomenal. Quilts, considered a country craft or folkart, have entered the art world. Fabric art quilts are not my grandma’s quilts. Now quilts hang on the wall as often as they cover beds.

I wrote an article for Quilters World magazine about activist quilters and their art quilts that make a statement. I fell in love with the exhibit, Changing the World One Thread at a Time, curated by Thelma Smith. The men and women who made these quilts believe in voicing their opinions in cloth, but do not skimp on the quality.

And don’t forget Hollis Chatelain’s award winning fabric art. I fell in love with the faces, the mothers and children, in Hollis’ quilts. If you enjoy machine quilting – her skills will blow you away. Look at this.

Last night I discovered a new website and quiltmaker, Nancy Eha, who creates the most amazing beaded quilts.

And don’t forget Eileen Doughty who introduced me to activist artists and Thelma Smith's exhibit. Eileen's landscape quilts provide a new perspective. She started out as a cartographer, so that may explain the new view.

If you travel to Houston the last week of October, check out the mother of all quilt shows, the International Quilt Festival. The best of the best, new cutting edge merchandise and fabrics and techniques are unveiled here. And quilters from around the world congregate, teach and take classes, exchange ideas and best of all -- they talk quilts.

The quilting community is a happening place, the new art scene, but best of all, it is still a sea of friendly faces who make items whose heritage include warmth, comfort and family.


Emily said...

I love your blog and have read it since I found it this week on the net. But I must admit that todays article is one of your best.
Keep up the good work. It is great to have something that interests women for a change!

Dawn said...

Hi Emily,
Thank you for your encouraging words. Quilts are a passion of mine, glad you enjoyed reading about them. Today's blog posting is a favorite of mine -- horse dancing. I hope you enjoy it, too.