stuff and things

18 June 2010

Traditional Quiltworks

Recently, I unearthed five boxes of old quilt magazines from our storage shed. I'd assumed they were all issues of Quilter's Newsletter. As it turned out, the stacks of mags strewn about the bedroom floor and bookshelves (perhaps they were better off in the boxes, Shandy?) comprise several titles, including Country Handcrafts, Quilt World: A Quilter's Dream Come True!, Quilt Almanac, Quilting Today ... and many more.

My favorite of these is called Traditional Quiltworks. The earliest issues give only template outlines to trace onto template plastic (or an old cereal box) for cutting out each little patch that makes up a block. Back then, quick-piecing with a rotary cutter and ruler was just a gleam in some quilt genius' eye.

Upon closer reading, the old magazines revealed some timely social concerns. A few issues featured professional quilters who claimed to be "getting back to the land" through quilting, crafts, canning, and gardening. Some of the Editor's columns mention feminism; a few other columnists talk about how happy Grandmother was with her traditional role on the farm, so what's the big deal about equal rights for women, anyhow? That caused quite a kerfuffle in the Letters columns for some time. Happily, the editors decided to get back to quilting.

I love the photos of the traditional quilts: eternal patterns like Winding Ways and Palm reveal the mind-boggling creativity of women (and some men) who possessed little art training and fewer resources.
Winding Ways, by Judith C. Youngman, 76" x 93" 

Palm quilt, maker not credited, Issue 25, 84" x 104"
One of the things about traditional quilts that inflames my passion is the stick-to-itivness shown in completing such large quilts. The Palm quilt shown above involved many hours of cutting long, bias pieces and sewing those perfect points without ruffling. Today's quilter would simply go out and purchase a set of pre-printed papers to sew on, a technique called "paper piecing." Piece o' cake!

A bonus for me was stumbling upon the Design Challenge column by Sharyn Craig, a local quilter and pioneering quilt teacher. Her column urged quilters to liberate themselves from preconceived notions of color, design and execution -- promoting the flannel design wall, strip-piecing (using the then revolutionary rotary cutter and acrylic ruler), and drafting in order to combine like blocks for new effects. Each column featured coloring charts so a quilter could play "what if" and find the literally hundreds of variations in the same blocks just by changing value placement. The best part was that she'd illustrate her column with quilts by many of my friends, members of local quilt guilds.

Wow, you guys jammed more than I ever suspected!