December 22, 2010

Quilting...more than stitches

We are rapidly approaching the Stitches in Bloom Quilt Show and the first lecture in the 2011 Garden University series. Terry Grant will be speaking about her fusion techniques...

As we delve into the quilting world, it becomes obvious that quilting history is a fascinating subject. There are many myths regarding the history of quilting in America...Judy Anne Breneman of states "Myths about quilt history are a part of our culture and many have romantic appeal. We can enjoy the myths but need to remember they are tales sometimes passed through generations." Her site gives a wonderfully full history of quilting in America. She talks about the various myths, including quilting being a common task in a woman's life in Colonial America (find the answer HERE).

Fusing is often thought to be a new method of quilting, but it seems that paste was used previously..."It appears that paste was sometimes used to adhere the motif fabric to the background before appliqueing. Quilt historian, Kimberly Wulfert shares the following information on pasting. "In more than one source I have read paste was used in the early 1800s by women making cut-out-chintz quilts. A later reference is in 'Chintz Quilts, Unfaded Glory.' Bullard and Shiell quote from the 1882 Dictionary of Needlework to describe how to make broderie perse quilts and paste is mentioned. The fabric is stretched on a frame before the fabrics are pasted down and allowed to dry. Then remove it from the frame to stitch the edges down. There's no mention of what the paste is made of." Read the full article HERE.

Did you know that fabric scraps were not necessarily a measure of frugality? "Although some quilters used scraps from clothing in their quilts others bought fabric specifically for the quilts they made. Other times quilts were made with a combination of both. The frugality theory also implies that quilt making was a necessary drudgery. Instead we find that most women enjoyed the creativity involved in making a quilt whether with new fabric or scraps. Although quick and simple quilts were made for everyday use many quilts were far too intricate in the piecing and quilting to have been made just for necessity."

We oohh and ahh over hand-stitched quilts now, admiring the detail of the stitches and the effort of the quilter, but piecing and quilting by hand has not always been prized over using a sewing machine.

"When the sewing machine became available the possession of one was quite a status symbol. Piecing was often done by sewing machine and a few women even machine stitched their quilting or appliqué. Considering how much harder it must have been to do this compared to using modern sewing machines it certainly wasn't out of laziness but because of a desire to use the sewing machine. These visible stitches advertised that the quilter was a proud owner of a sewing machine. Sewing the binding by machine was another way to show off machine stitching.

During the Colonial Revival around the turn of the last century hand quilting was valued more but this was a part of a movement toward going back to fine handcrafts. During the earlier years when the sewing machine was first available we do not find that most people considered hand piecing and quilting to be the superior method."

Find more information about these myths and more at

Don't forget to join us for the Stitches in Bloom Quilt Show and Terry Grant's lecture (January 29th, 11 a.m. Education Center). For more information call 503-874-8100.