Wow. What a change. Mom quilted from the mid-1970s to the late 1980s; I picked it up 20 years later. The reason I didn’t start earlier? Time & space. Who has months to work on the same project? Who has the space to have a quilt spread out for months on end? I did not realize how much things had changed. I did not realize you could make a quilt in a weekend and have someone else take care of the space issue for you.
What has changed? All of mom’s quilts were cut with scissors; I have rotary cutters which are far more accurate and much faster. She did not have specialty rulers; I have many – some are large, others small. Some cut curves, squares, diamonds, hexagons, triangles, or jewel shapes. Beside scissors, her only notions were pins and a measuring tape; I have many – all designed to improve efficiency and the look of the final product.
Mom’s closest fabric store was 15 miles away; a trip to the city, over 3 hours away. The store did not just sell quilting cottons and notions like many stores do now. It had fabric for all occasions – baby, bridal, Sunday dresses, and denim for work wear. But it didn’t even just sell fabric. It sold ready-to-wear clothes for all ages and all sexes. It sold shoes, hosiery, accessories, toys, and craft supplies. A real ‘general’ store. Needless to say, the selection of fabric available for quilting was limited at best, so most of mom’s quilts were made with cottons from bargain bin bedsheets. In contrast, I have access to beautiful fabrics. Some already pre-cut and matched. If I need a quilt quickly or if I can’t make colour theory work for my quilts, it doesn’t matter. Someone else has done the work for me. In addition, I can buy the fabric anywhere -at one of the local shops, at a Quilt Shows, in my travels, or on-line from anywhere in the world.
Mom made each quilt from start to finish. She drafted the pattern, cut the fabric and quilted the layers. I have many options. If I don’t want to draft my own pattern, I can look through magazines or books. I can go on-line for free patterns, or purchase one and instantly download it. I can quilt it myself, I can rent a long arm, or I can contract it out. Her first quilts were sewn on a treadle sewing machine. She was sooo excited when she got her first computerized sewing machine! Now, almost all machines are computerized and come with larger throats and specialty feet. Many quilters have more than one.
Mom learned English along with the rest of us as we went through school. By her second decade in Canada, her circle of friends and activities had expanded. One of her favorite outings was the monthly quilting bee at church. Most ladies in the community did not work, so the outing was a great opportunity to socialize and the group included women of all ages. Most often the quilts, made of scraps and recycled garments, were donated to charitable causes. Quilt groups everywhere have continued the rich tradition of donating quilts to a cause. Families affected by fires or floods, women in shelters, children in hospitals, Alzheimer patients, just to name a few. As soon as a need is known, quilts are being donated.
The quilting group was mom’s only source of quilting education. She loved being exposed to new ideas. She always came home inspired. She was eager to try everything new. In addition to quilts for charity, they also made a quilt for each child as they graduated from High School and went away to college. Mine was done in a new pattern someone had come across – the Bowtie block. It was white with bowties of pink and purple. Made of Fortrel. For a while every quilt mom made was done in bowtie blocks. It was the only block she knew. Then there were the “Precious Moment” blocks done in liquid paint. There were whole cloth quilts. There were quilts edged with Prairie Points.
Now, there are hundreds of blocks, hundreds of patterns and hundreds of ways to share information. I can attend classes locally, watch TV programs or go on-line for information. I can connect with the local quild and satellite groups. I can learn from professional quilters who come to us or I can go to them. I can meet with quilters in another town, or another country. I can take quilting cruises or tours anywhere in the world. There really is no limit to what we can learn or the friends we can make. There are quilters, quilt shops, and other sources of inspiration the world over.
I still have 3 of the quilts Mom made. As a wedding gift she made us a quilt in white with matching pillow shams. She drafted the pattern, hand stitched it, and crocheted the binding around the edge. Unfortunately I was not able to get a good picture of it so the one below just shows a corner. The quilt has 3 roses in each corner, with cross-hatching in the center.
The winter before her stroke, Mom made a quilt for each of her grandchildren (13). My 2 children were fortunate recipients. They were very basic but reflected her style – a combination of a print and solid, made of bedsheets, stitched in the ditch, with one layer of echo stitching.