What do you see when you see a quilt? I see many things. First, there is the obvious, the fabrics used. Maybe they are unused fabrics, bought off a bolt or flat fold, something that caught the eye of the quilter in a shop somewhere. Maybe it is unused but it has been around awhile and previously owned. Maybe it’s scraps from another project, pieces of old clothes, memories of special events. In any case, it was auditioned and made it into the quilt. Why? For the color, the tone, the hue, the joy of the fabric or maybe it just needed a home and the quilter decided this was it. What catches your eye first in the fabric? Is it the pattern, or lack thereof? Is it the color and how it matches or contrasts to the surrounding fabric? If you don’t like it, does it matter? Does it work in the quilt?
After the fabrics, I tend to look at the overall pattern of the quilt. What grabs my attention? Maybe I see the quilt as a whole or maybe specific parts draw me in? I’ve seen quilts that are balanced; symmetrical and smooth. Some are unsymmetrical; cockeyed and a little edgy. I’ve seen quilts that are pictures, maps, animals, people, designs, pure color, and most everything in between. I’ve seen old quilts, new quilts, pristine quilts and ragged quilts.
I also note the craftsmanship. Is the quilt made by a master or a novice? Do seams line up, do points match? Are the borders flat? How is the quilting? I think we can all tell the work of a champion.
These things make a quilt a quilt; the fabric, the design, the work. But then I look for the quilter in the quilt. To me, that is what matters. I want to imagine the heart of the quilter. Rarely do we make quilts because we have to. Mostly we make quilts out of love or compassion, friendship or family, happiness or sorrow. We make quilts to comfort those who need it. We make quilts to add joy to others lives. We give quilts to others to tell them how much we care. We give quilts to strangers to let them know they are not alone. We make quilts to be plain and colorful or show quality. We make quilts for walls, beds, couches, tables, cars, campers and pretty much everywhere else you can imagine. I like to look at a quilt and try to ‘feel’ the story of it.
Just like everyone else, I see some quilts I like more than others. There have been a few that were sort of homely and many that were unbelievably beautiful. Some quilts evoke strong emotions. For instance, our last speaker showed a quilt replicating a flyer for a slave sale. That made me incredibly sad. Some quilts are eye candy, luscious visions of something. Some make me laugh, wince or want to fly. I like to visualize the quilter, thread-covered, hair in all directions, possibly in a bathrobe striving to make the quilt. I have a tendency to see that quilter in a nice quiet room with no distraction even though I know that is highly unlikely. It would probably be more realistic to place the quilter in the middle of screaming children, boiling water and general havoc. Whatever I see, though, is in my mind (such as it is). I will probably never know the real story.
There is one thing I know for sure though. Quilting is more than craft, it is art. Every quilt is special to someone. As for me, I have never seen a quilt I didn’t love.
See you at the meeting.