Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Quilting 101: A book review

Whether you are trying to decide if quilting is something you’d like to try, or maybe you’ve already decided to take the plunge, you will need a good instructional book on the basics of quilting. Quilting 101: A beginners guide to quilting is such a book. As its name implies, Quilting 101 is an ideal guide for introducing the beginner to the first steps of creating a quilt. Even for those who are more experienced, this book very clearly illustrates some of the elements of the craft that quilters may find confusing, and may want to receive more details on the subject.

Quilting 101 begins with an introduction as to how to use the book as a reference. Assuming no foreknowledge of quilting, the book introduces the reader to Sewing Basics: the sewing machine and its accessories, including presser feet and needles; how to sew a seam; quilting supplies; fabric and batting information; rotary cutting; layering and basting; basic quilting techniques; and binding. Even for those who have sewn a number of quilts, you will still find this discussion of the basics to be very helpful and informative.

The rest of the book is dedicated to basic quilting projects: kitchen accessories (hot pads, coasters, placemats, table toppers, and table runners); lap quilts; pillows; zippered bags; Christmas stockings; wall hangings; sewing machine covers; pillows; even doll quilts. Through these projects, quilters are introduced to the most common quilt blocks, such as Rail Fence, Log Cabin, Nine Patch, Ohio Star, Churn Dash, Flying Geese, and Bow Ties. Also, the projects allow the quilter to sew using common quilting techniques, such as applique, quilt-as-you-go, sewing triangles, sashing, paper piecing, strip piecing, and chain piecing.

Everything that is described in Quilting 101 is also illustrated in full color photographs, making the quilting process that much easier. Quilting 101 is an excellent book and comes highly recommended to you; you could easily own this book alone, and possess virtually everything you need to know about basic quilting. Many thanks to Creative Publishing for yet another great publication!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

For the love of quilting

Recently, I was asked for a sewing machine contest by YCQT to share why I love quilting. So, I stopped to really think about it.

I thought about how it gives me a diversion from all of the crazyness that life has to offer at times. If you quilt or sew, or really do any type of crafting, you can relate; just by planting myself in front of the sewing machine, or by handling fabric, I can feel the tension begin to melt away. There is something tranquil, almost therapeutic in the cutting and arranging of fabric, or in the soft whirring of the sewing machine.

I thought about how, while quilting is something I do in solitude, I can also do it with others. Sometimes my daughters quilt and sew with me.

I thought about how sometimes I quilt and sew with my sewing circle (our group is mentioned in previous posts on this blog) in our quest to provide quilts and other sewn items for those in need in our area. We have sewn for families of deceased infants, abandoned babies, the elderly, the homeless, families living in shelters–the list goes on and on. We do not have outside financial backing, and many of us are not much better off than those for whom we sew; our fabric comes to us through donations. (If you have any fabric you'd like to donate, by the way, let me know; we'd be ever so grateful.)

I thought about how it would be great to work with a brand new machine. New machines often sew faster, and, for the most part, do not need frequent repairs, so you can sew more in the same amount of time. But whether our machines are new, fairly new, vintage, or otherwise, we will continue with our mission. Even with older, vintage machines (from the 60s, quite often), we do all that we can for the babies, children, women and men of our community.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Hawaiin quilting: An interesting story

The Pillows to Patch Quilt Collection: The Hawaiian Way

I don't know if you have ever looked closely at the origins and significance of quilting in Hawaii, but it took an interesting detour from the route that was taken here in America, and one with which we are accustomed. Most cultures can take a guess or make an estimate as to when a particular practice first came into being, and where it may have begun. Attempting to figure out who the first users are is almost impossible.

With Hawaiian quilting, however, this is not the case. In fact, quilting in Hawaii can be traced back to a specific year, place, event, and persons. It is my understanding that in 1820, the wives of two prominent Hawaiians were invited aboard a ship named the Thaddeus. Once aboard, they were taught the traditional method of piecing quilts by missionary wives. Over the next few years, Hawaiian women wrestled with this strange concept of cutting up perfectly good fabric, only to sew it back together again. To a culture which had no use for warm bedcoverings, and was highly resourceful, this was considered to be wasteful indeed.

So the women of Hawaii took this art form and placed their own unique spin on it. First of all, they appear to have abandoned the practice of piecework. Instead, they used one piece of fabric for an applique and cut their design of choice from this fabric. It is in the cutting that Hawaiians made their quilts distinct from the rest of the world. Using a cutting method not unlike the one you may have used as a child to cut snowflakes, they folded the fabric into fourths or eighths and created their applique pattern. They then allegedly handed the remnant pieces back to the misisonaries! Isn't that funny?

Hawaiian quilts are highly symbolic, as they are not utilitarian. The quilts of Hawaiian women were a reflection of their beautiful surroundings, their religious beliefs, and their homeland. They memorialized and celebrated loved ones who had passed on, as well as yet to be born babies. In a land where an elaborate hand appliqued design could take several months to complete, quilts were considered to be very special, and were regarded as heirlooms. Since there was no need to ward off the cold, it did not matter how long a quilting project took to complete.

Who knew that quilts in different regions of the world could have such different meanings and evolve so differently? Because quilts have their beginnings in necessity here in our American culture, it may be difficult for us to understand, at least initially, how quilts could become so different in other places in the world. Today, it is perfectly normal to see quilts here in the United States that were created specifically as art and not as bedcoverings, but in the early 19th century, this could not have been anticipated.
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