Why Do I Quilt?
Frequently I have been asked “Why do you like to quilt?” That seems like a very simple question that should have a simple answer. While it would be easiest to just give a simple answer, for me, the answer has to be pieced together – there is no one single reason why I quilt, there are many.
I quilt because, as a child, I loved quilts that my parents had stored that their grandmothers had made for them when they were children. By the time I was 10 I had gotten those gorgeous quilts out of the linen cabinet and put them on my bed. There was a double wedding ring quilt made with feed sacks, a lone star created using only solids, a hand embroidered and quilted yellow and white butterfly quilt just to name a few. Each made an appearance on my bed at one point or another. Those beautiful quilts didn’t belong shut up in a cabinet; they needed to be out and loved. A purist may believe I “loved” them a bit too much. But today, even worn and retired from everyday use, they remain my first connection to important women from my past, women that I never had the opportunity to meet. They are my first connection to a craft that has significantly influenced the course of my life.
I quilt because I love to sew. For many years I was a garment seamstress. I sewed many of my own clothes throughout high school and college, I sewed clothing for my children, I sewed custom wedding gowns and special occasion dresses. As I got older and my skills continued to improve I came to the conclusion that sewing for myself was unsatisfying – I simply could not achieve the type of fit for myself that I could by altering clothing for someone else. Being a selective perfectionist has its drawbacks (just ask my daughter about clothes shopping trips). Being dissatisfied with the product you produce is a major disincentive to continuing the activity. As my children got older, there were a limited number of things that they wanted me to make for them. Working with brides was wonderful, working with the bride’s mother – well, not so much. In each of these cases the primary reason for sewing the garments was to get exactly what you wanted, not to save money. The reality was that you probably weren’t going to save money by doing it yourself. Not to mention the philosophical internal debate I kept having with myself concerning the best use of time and money when it came to creating an expensive dress to be worn once for a few hours. I am not saying that quilting is inexpensive, but when you compare the investment in both time and money versus the amount of use that a good quilt can be put to at least the cost per use is considerably more reasonable.
I quilt because it offers me a significant creative outlet. I don’t draw or paint, but I do see how bits and pieces of shapes and colors can come together to be something so much more than the sum of its parts. I enjoy the challenge of balancing warm and cool colors, of creating a piece of art that invites you to continue to look at it without growing tired or complacent. I enjoy the puzzle of figuring out the most efficient way to put all of the pieces together. I can put a little piece of myself into each of my quilts through the choices I make when creating it, through the colors, the fabrics, the pattern, and the quilting itself.
I quilt because it’s therapy. When life gets too real and I want to shut out the world, forget my troubles, take a break from the challenges of the day, I can lose myself in the rhythm of the feed dogs pulling the layers through the sewing machine. I must be in the here and now, I must pay attention to what I am doing or the sewing gods will not be happy. We all know what the sewing gods say when you do not focus on the task at hand – “Rip it!” But if you stay focused you are rewarded not only with functional artwork, but with relief from your troubles, even if only temporary.
Ultimately, there is one more reason that trumps all of the others. I quilt because I love my family and I can always be there to give them a hug when they need it. I quilt because, like my grandmothers before me, I can give them a piece of myself disguised as a blanket that they can wrap up tight in and stay warm and know I love them. I quilt because I want to be able to give them a hug even when I can’t be there. They will always be able to wrap up in their quilts and know that they are getting a hug from mom.
That’s why I quilt.