Someone should’ve warned me that fabric is an addictive substance.
When I enter a fabric store I quiver with excitement over the creative possibilities, while my husband and babies cry at home knowing I’m blowing food money on fabric. Technically, we could eat from my fabric stash if necessary since it’s 100% cotton, so it’s basically emergency food storage, right?
Nobody is more surprised by my obsession with quilting than I am, except for maybe my mother. She’s often said how she never expected I’d take such an interest in a domestic art since I was definitely a tomboy and much preferred to be out in the hood playing kick-the-can with the boys.
My mother says the quilting gene comes from my great grandmother. Wherever I caught the quilting bug, I contracted it about ten years ago and it’s now incurably embedded in my system.
I was recently asked by a friend to come talk about quilting to her elementary students. She wanted me to show some of my quilts, give some quilting history, and tell why I personally enjoy quilting.
I could talk about quilting for hours, but my friend reminded me my audience was made up of young’ens with fifteen minutes worth of attention spans, tops.
Hmmm, tough gig.
When I arrived, I set down my basket full of folded quilts in front of a sitting semi-circle of fidgety youngsters. I grabbed their attention by telling them how long, long ago in a time before you could go to WalMart and buy a 100% polyester blanket laser-printed with a SpongeBob image, quilts were hand-pieced together with scraps of fabric for the purpose of warmth. They were astonished to think such a primitive pre-superstore era even existed!
Then I explained some quilting history—how some block patterns are hundreds of years old with great historic and cultural significance, like how certain quilt patterns were used as secret code for the Underground Railroad to give directions for slaves to escape. I told them how quilting has served artistic and social purposes too. Quilting groups, called “guilds” or “bees,” were a way for women to socialize and have a creative outlet in times when options for female expression were limited.
As a current member of one of Cache Valley’s numerous quilt guilds, I explained how at our meetings we learn new quilting methods, show our quilts, and work on service projects, such as “Quilts of Valor” which are quilts given to wounded soldiers who return from war zones in need of comfort.
The more I spoke about quilting, the prouder I was to be a quilter—and the less guilty I felt about spending grocery money on fabric. I’m sustaining life another way.
As I finished my presentation, a little girl raised her hand and asked, “Can I hold a quilt?” I told her she could, that they all could! The mini mob swarmed, grabbed quilts and wrapped up in them. They giggled and sighed as they rolled around in them, ran their fingers gently over the stitching patterns, pulled them over their heads and rubbed their faces into the softness.
Eat your heart out synthetic SpongeBob.