pink peony

pink peony
old-fashioned peony

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Pieces A'Plenty

Quilts just happen to be one of my favorite things in the whole world created by needles. What is it about something so everyday, so useful, so necessary that makes quilts so wonderful? After all, a polyester blanket can serve the same purpose. But who in her right mind would choose a artificial-fiber -- thing -- over a hand-stitched, colorfully-patterned, cottony-soft quilt?It is the creativity of their makers, of course, that elevate even the most mundane task to art, with a little imagination and desire.

I am deeply involved in a book project this summer featuring quilts in our part of the Ozarks. But we aren't just taking pictures of quilts -- we're also including photos of the quiltmakers, the women (and sometimes men!) who took the time to turn simple bedcoverings into things of beauty. Everytime I see another vintage quilt, I feel as if I have made a new friend -- the one who chose the colors, cut the pieces, carefully stitched them into intricate patterns and then put it all together with tiny quilting stitches. She (or he) speaks to me through the work of her hands. She says, "Let me see how I can make the very most out of this little piece of print, how I can do my very best to make the pieces in this challenging pattern come together just right, and how I can set it all off with precision quilting."

I see how a certain woman put a bit of bright red in the center of an otherwise subdued block -- did she feel a need for a bright spot in her life right at that moment? I notice how another took the time to add some elaborate embroidery -- was she just a little bit proud of her needle skills and want to show them off, just for a moment? And then there are the subtle patterns hidden in the quilting -- for no other reason, perhaps, than the thought that someday someone would find them -- the bird or the heart or the rosebud -- and wonder at it and smile at its discovery.

I do wonder -- at the amazing variety, the incredible beauty, the skill level displayed -- and it makes me think of my own creativity. What am I doing or making that can compare to what I'm seeing in these old quilts? I have access to tools, materials, and time in quantites that would have made those early quiltmakers ache with envy.  But do I take advantage of them? Not nearly enough.

How thankful I am that the quilts I'm seeing have been treasured and preserved and are now being shared. They may just be the inspiration I need to get back to my own quiltmaking...

Isn't this unusual quilt just wonderful? Don't those circles spin across the surface of the quilt? See how she pieced the wedges that make up the circle? And the pink and green background colors contrast beautifully with the mostly shirtings in the circles. I would never have thought of that!

I've always wanted to make an Ocean Waves -- I just love all those little triangles. And that sweet woman sitting on the quilt? She's a fabulous quilter, too, just like her mother who made this Ocean Waves more than half a century ago.

So, while I don't have time for quilting right now, I'm having a WONDERFUL time just getting to see these treasures and to meet  the beautiful people who are sharing them with us for our book: Pieces A'Plenty: Quilts and Other Comforts. 

Be watching for it come September -- it might just inspire you, too, to take up this time-honored craft that allows for such amazing versatility and creativity. I'm almost ready to pick up that betweens needle again....almost...

1 comment:

  1. What a colorful post, Janet! I love the stories you share; you notice things I wouldn't even think to look for. Hope you're managing to stay cool.