Quilts: Personal History Keepers

Quilts are great reminders of the history of our lives.  So many of my quilts remind me of the people in my life at the time the quilt was made. They remind me who I was with when I bought the fabrics or threads.  They remind me where I was living and events in my life.  Each quilt inherits a little bit of my life into it.  As a hand quilter, my quilts spend a lot of time with me. It can take a year or two to get the quilt from graph paper to quilt show.  A lot of life can happen in that time.

One of my early quilts (1995) always reminds me of my first quilting instructor. I envision how we would meet every week. She would arrive at my house just as I finished nursing my youngest child.  Carrying two large plastic bins into my house with all her supplies we would gather around the living room, too small to accommodate our group, and get to work. 

My daughter’s quilt (1998) was created when the internet was young and using it to search for patterns was quite the challenge and very different from today.  This quilt is an excellent reminder of how quickly technology changes.

One of the great things about making quilts by hand is that the piecing is portable.  A great consequence of this portability is, however, that the location becomes engrained in the quilt. I spent most of the summer of 2003 piecing hexagons together at the beach.  They were autumn colors, purple, gold, green and rust.  I can recall just how the sand would get into my little box of pre-cut hexagons. As the summer rolled on I ultimately completed many hexagon “flowers”.  Looking at the finished quilt today reminds me of the heat of August summers. But this is not the only thing I remember as I look into this quilt.  I clearly remember running out of fabric for the sashing diamonds as well as the binding.  The backing fabric for the hexagon quilt required a search like never before.  Nothing seemed right.  I searched up and down the aisles of vendors until the “right” fabric was finally found.  That quilt can bring me right back to quilt show where I bought the backing fabric.

When I think of “Partly Cloudy”, a quilt I made of my horse in 2006, the location of working on him is sewn right into the quilt top.  I was part of a group of hand quilters and we would get together each week to work on our projects.  I have a strong memory of sitting in one of the woman’s dining room thinking how great it was that I was working on “Cloudy”, a project I have wanted to start for so long. I no longer quilt with that group of women, but the quilt reminds me of wonderful memories and friendship we shared.

Since the history behind the making of the quilt can be so interesting, it’s a good idea to include those events, locations or people that have impacted the creative process or are directly sewn into the quilt, on your quilt’s label.