December 20, 2014

Twice Warmed

     Henry Ford was quoted as saying, “Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice”. I feel the same way about quilting. With a quilt stretched on a hoop in the winter months you can tuck your legs underneath and feel the warmth growing. At first it is simply layers of fabric, the quilt top and backing with a fluffy or dense batting sandwiched in between. That can certainly be warm, but when all of the layers are joined together with tiny stitches, all of that fabric and fiber blends into something even warmer. I have to think that some of that warmth comes from the love a quilter puts inside.
      There are as many ways of creating these coverlets as there are talented quilters. Often pieced quilt patterns have very traditional names, such as the Log Cabin or Geese in Flight. Some quilters love piecing. They gather their fabrics, old or new, washing, pressing and then carefully cutting them into shapes and stitching them together until they have created a geometric collage made entirely from fabric. For the most well-made quilts, each piece must be cut perfectly and then assembled precisely. One askew triangle can  throw off an entire quilt top. Piecing can be tedious but the results can be astounding. In this Log Cabin quilt I made for my husband, even though the fabrics are very bold, the subtle shades of the piecing show light and dark. 

      Some pieced quilts use cut bits of fabric to create a picture. In this quilt, fabric arrangement makes a collection of tulips and leaves.

On this quilt, in my front hall, soft colors illustrate the play of pastels.

The same for this quilt upstairs:

This quilt, in my guestroom, is a collage of lively colors, perfect to brighten up a sedate space.

On yet another quilt I have made, the pieces of fabric are intentionally cut and sewed, or appliqued as it is called, to background blocks. Each block is appliqued and then the blocks are assembled. It is an exciting moment when all of the blocks are completed and then laid out on the floor to decide placement.

      In this whole-cloth quilt, there are no pieces. There is only the front, batting and back. Except for the edging it is all one piece. It is one of my favorites and one of my proudest accomplishments.

      Quilting can take up room. Some are made on huge floor frames, many large enough to be shared by several quilters. They meet and quilt together in what is called a Quilting Bee. It is a great way to learn or improve your quilting skills. There are smaller frames as well, all designed to stretch the layers of the quilt top, batting and backing to keep them smooth to be quilted together. My favorite is a big hoop. Most quilts are sewn together by either hand or machine. In the hands of a quilt artist I have seen both methods create magnificent pieces.

      For myself, I love the handwork. Hand quilted pieces like the whole-cloth, the tulip and the pastel quilts, join the three layers of the pieces together with precise stitches, done through all layers with a very tiny needle. I have found that the smaller the needle the more perfect my stitching becomes. A talented quilting artisan can take that needle and run it through all of those layers and pick up several tiny stitches at once. I have learned that it is truly an art. Of course a needle that is that small and sharp is not kind to tender fingers and in the hand quilting world there are a myriad of thimbles and other such things to try to save the quilter's fingers from the inevitable. A good quilter will usually build up some pretty tough areas on thumbs and fingers but sooner or later that little stinging needle finds its way in. I have seen quilters, including me, use spoons and band-aids and bits of leather and every kind of thimble imaginable while quilting.

      Whenever I look at a handmade quilt, whether stitched entirely by hand or lovingly managed through a sewing machine, I know that inside it is stuffed with more than cotton and thread. Inside are the echoes of pricked fingers and determination. Of all the needle arts and crafts I have done I believe that the gift of a handmade quilt may be the most valuable. If you have such a piece, take a moment and try to imagine what the artist has put into it. Not just the precious hours of their lives but so much more. If you stop and look and feel it in your hand maybe you can feel the love inside.

Have an amazing day and please come next week back for another visit!

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