My Life in 10 Objects: (# 9) Handmade Quilt

August 24, 2014

“Some of the most common ways in which a craft object attains meaning for a respondent are through information coded into the object by the maker; through the experience of discovering or acquiring the object; through a personal connection with the maker; and through provenance or projection. The object may acquire meaning at first contact — it may, as one passionate craft curator recently said to me, ‘touch your heart’ — or it may accrue meaning over years of use. However it happens, objects ultimately possess meaning to the extent that they affect or confirm the stories through which a respondent constructs his identity and orders his world. The more central those narratives are, the more meaning the object has.”
— Peter Korn, Why We Make Things and Why It Matters: The Education of a Craftsman

“Objects carry both history and desire.”
— Priscilla Long, The Writer’s Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life

“Anything a hand has touched is for some reason peculiarly charged with personality.”
— Richard Holmes, Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer

Bear Paw quilt block

Bear Paw quilt block

Finished quilt top, ready to hand quilt

Finished quilt top, ready to hand quilt

Quilts represent my love of handmade things.  I chose as my ninth “life object” this unfinished quilt that I am making.  The top has been pieced for several years.  I have yet to sew it to batting and backing and hand quilt it.  I have a good track record of finishing projects like this, so I trust that someday this quilt will be ready to use and display.  The unfinished aspect of this object reminds me that, for me, the creating and making are just as rewarding and pleasurable as owning the finished product.

“The profit of work is in the doing of it.”
— Richard Quinney, Once Again the Wonder

My mother sewed clothes, but she did not quilt.  I don’t remember my grandmothers making quilts either.  But my oldest sister Sandy, a home economics major, was and is passionate about quilting, and over the years she has passed on some skills to me — how to make my own binding, how to miter corners, how to applique using Wonder Under, how to cut and piece using Square-in-a-Square, etc.  So my quilts connect me to my sister, which is very comforting.

Quilting appeals to my frugal nature.  I like the idea of taking scraps and leftover fabric and sewing them together to make something useful and beautiful.

“The act of piecing a patchwork quilt is both utterly practical and powerfully symbolic. It’s an act of reclaiming, saving, mending, and unifying. The result, the quilt itself, solves a basic problem — the need for warmth — but it represents much more: the quiltmaker’s resourcefulness, wishes, and fierce opinions; an attempt to make something beautiful out of what otherwise might have been wasted; and the desire to make some kind of peace.”
— Katherine Bell, Quilting for Peace: Make the World a Better Place One Stitch at a Time

And I like the contemplative nature of quilting, its rhythms — repeating color blocks and stitches — and the lessons it teaches me about taking large projects a step at a time and, in time, accomplishing something quite wonderful.

“When we work with our hands and build something, we learn how to sequence our actions and how to organize our thoughts.”
— Robert Greene, Mastery

“I had often wondered if there was some neurological link between the gentle repetitive action of your arms wielding a broom or your hand stirring a pot and the ideas that filtered through to the front part of your mind; some fusion between physical action and creative ignition.”
— Debra Adelaide, The Household Guide to Dying

“It’s only when what we learn while we’re doing what seems to be basically routine that really counts; how to endure, how to produce, how to make life rich at its most mundane moments.”
— Joan Chittister

Several years ago, I created a private blog, “Handmade by Rosemary,” for the purpose of documenting the quilts and quilted things I have made over the course of two-plus decades.  I kept it private because I made quite a few references to family in it.  But I’ve just edited the blog to make it available for public viewing.  There are 46 posts in all.  (No recent posts because I haven’t been quilting lately!)  If you want to view the entire series and see the quilts I’ve made, you can link to the first post above and then make sure you scroll all the way to the bottom to see the links (arrows) to the next post, and the next, and so on.

I’m at a point in my life where I am deciding whether it is time to get rid of my boxes of fabric scraps and maybe even make gifts of some of the quilts I’ve kept.  I am not sure whether I will want to make more quilts in the years ahead or whether I will instead pursue other creative projects.  You can see from my blog archive above that I have plenty of quilts to last my lifetime!  Do I need more?




4 Responses to “My Life in 10 Objects: (# 9) Handmade Quilt”

  1. Barbara Garrett Says:

    I stumbled onto your blog when looking for a photo of a washington road for an activity in the college class I teach – and I must say I am captivated by your blog – wish I had time to read all of it. Makes me miss the home of my youth.

    I’d love to ask you more about your drive across highway 20 if you don’t mind. I know it was 4 years ago…

    You have my email… 🙂

  2. Dianna Says:

    Rosemary – Though you may no longer be creating quilts, as a librarian you may be interested in this website:

    • Rosemary Says:

      Wow, this is an amazing and scholarly approach to quiltmaking. I couldn’t follow (understand) all of the analyses and tools, but it is wonderful to have someone share such a singular point of view about quiltmaking.

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