"On the plains of Oklahoma, with a windshield sunset in your eyes like a watercolor painted sky, you'd think heavens doors have opened."
Fly Over States



Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Evolution of Granny


After the parties left the courtroom, last Friday, someone asked if I had any big plans for the weekend. I offhandedly mentioned that I’d like to go see the quilts at the county fair.

The bailiff walked me to the courtroom door (he had to lock it once I was gone) and told me that his eighty something year old grandmother, who lives with him and has dementia, used to live in West Virginia and was an avid hand quilter. He traveled down memory lane about how she and her girl friends regularly met at the church to quilt. Apparently, their practice was to set up a quilt on a frame and leave it in the church basement so that anyone coming in and out could sit down and add their stitches (I’ll just bet that led to some grousing by the quilt police when someone came in and massacred a section!). I had to laugh because he said that two days a week, they had to fend for themselves for meals. Granny had her priorities and on those two days, it was quilting. I told him that nothing had changed!

The bailiff shared that his grandpa didn’t like quilting days. I asked him if it was because she was gone all day but he said, no. He said that when Granny got with her girlfriends, they all persuaded her that she wasn’t being treated right by her husband and she would come home ready to beam him with a frying pan. It would take two days of walking on eggshells and lots of I love you honeys and sugars to get her settled back down. I told him that nothing had changed!

The bailiff’s experience with quilters is much in line with the traditional. We think of a bunch of women bonding and laughing, teaching each other about quilting and life. Quilting was as much about female bonding as it was about creating something useful and beautiful. Probably more so. Surely more so.

It can still be that way but with the introduction of the long arm and, to a certain extent, more high powered domestic sewing machines, the way many of us quilt has changed. Women used to gather around a large frame and laugh and giggle and weep. Weddings, disputes with our daughter, an ailing mother, a new baby, concerns about a grandson heading down the wrong path, thoughts of God (or the new preacher), the fears and joys of getting older, or a cranky husband, were fair game for discussion. It was a community event.

Men often don't understand that. In fact, at the thought, their jaws likely drop and they start hoping (praying) that certain private matters remain private (don't hold your breath, gentlemen). They think women are off making blankets. In fact, they are off being women.

With a long arm, we tend to retreat to individual “studios” and labor over our “art.” It is far more solitary and perhaps more suited to the artist than the crafter. It should be no surprise that we have seen an explosion of “art quilting” and wall hangings. Used to be, if you went to the trouble of quilting something, you made it big, you made fewer of them, and you made them useful. These days, we can whip out more quilts. When we run out of room for them, it is no real trouble (if we are using machines) to make wall hangings. From there, our creative juices encourage us to delve into art quilts.

Magazines also have changed our concept of what a quilt is. It is no longer just a type of blanket. It is art. It is an expression of who we are.

Instead of being something we make from scraps we’ve recycled, many of us go to the quilt shop to buy just the right shade. Even in a scrappy quilt. A SCRAPPY quilt! I’m not saying that is wrong. I love, love, love my quilting. And I am describing my own behavior. It is therapeutic. This style suits me and if quilting were still being done mainly by hand in church basements, I wouldn’t be part of it, I’m sure. And I would be less happy as a result.

One thing that hasn’t changed about quilting, and I think this may be the most important part, is that we still crave female (primarily) input. I think quilting message boards have exploded, in part, as a modern evolution of traditional quilting guilds. We still trade quilting tips, share our projects, ask each other our opinions, participate in group projects, swarm on new quilters with advice and encouragement, offer sympathy and encouragement, let our sistas know that we understand. When there is a wide range of ages and abilities, SOMEONE will understand. They will have "been there." We just do it online more than locally. Fewer hugs, sadly - it IS a tradeoff.

Back in the day, housebound women often had few good options. These days, our invalid sisters, even those with questionable social status or religious beliefs (who back in the day wouldn't have shown up at the church quilting bee) can join us on an equal footing and offer their own unique perspective about life. I'm involved in a couple of active quilting message boards and I learn something about quilting - or life - everytime I visit them.

Of course, many women are involved in local guilds but many aren’t and can still get the help and support that works for them.

I think women engaged in needlework (or the "fabric arts") will always want the companionship of other women. When you see noncomputer savvy grandmas in their 70’s and 80’s blogging about quilts and being active on quilting message boards, that tells you something. And IMO, that connection is one of the most wonderful things about quilting. No, I take it back. It is THE most wonderful thing about quilting.

Change of subject. I have never been into hand quilting, which is one of the reasons I have avoided appliqué (aside from it is flat out scary). I am determined to overcome my phobia because I just love appliqué quilts. Plus, I don’t like the idea of letting something scare me out of anything.

So anyway, I’ve read and been told by people who know that silk thread is the way to go. The thread allegedly blends in nicely and is easy to hide. It is pricey, though. I went ahead and bit the bullet and ordered a sample pack of neutral silk thread – YLI – from The Virginia Quilter. I’m pretty excited about it. They arrived, today.



Five spools. Cost me 26 bucks, with shipping.

Evelyn got a bath, this morning. Unlike some dogs, she kind of likes getting into a tub of warm water.



Pearl kept trying to crawl in with us but she didn’t really need one so had to sit on the sidelines.

Here they are after the bath. Pearl was excited the way puppies get. Evelyn just kept trying to lick her paws dry, which strikes me as irrational.









I don’t have court, today, and made good progress towards finishing up the border on my Weave Quilt. Here is a picture of the material I’m using:


I haven’t decided what I am going to do in the corners but I think I will probably just try to center in squares similar to what I have in the border.

No court again, tomorrow, so I hope to finish the borders and start on my next project - a paper pieced round robin from the HGTV message board. I need to pick out fabric.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Silk thread costs a lot, but it lasts a long time. Because it sinks into the fabric, you can use neutrals instead of buying a whole spool for each color.

You can also use 60 wt. cotton thread in colors to match the applique. I switch between silk and 60 wt. cotton frequently, sometimes on the same project.

Personally, I think the internet was the greatest thing to happen to modern quilting since the rotary cutter. But I think I'm preaching to the choir.'

Janet

Stephanie D. said...

I've done a little applique, not a lot, but I like it okay. I haven't tried the silk thread, though, and that might make a difference.

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