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Exploring the Quilting Revival posted: 1/21/2003
by Hallye Bone Printable Page
Category: History Method: All
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Quilting is experiencing an all-time "high" in popularity. Quilters come from every age and stage in life- young adults, kids, grandparents, and those young-at-heart. Men are quilting. Quilt shops are flourishing. Quilt shows attract hundreds. Guilds provide education and socialization with other quilters. It is fascinating to ponder why quilting is so popular. Why now?

Historically, quilts were made for two reasons: necessity or decoration. In Europe, "whole-cloth" quilts were made for warmth and worn as garments or used as bed hangings. Quilted pieces were worn by soldiers to cushion their bodies from suits of metal armor. These antique quilts' designs were stitched onto a solid piece of wool, cotton or silk fabric.

1860 Crazy Quilt

The Colonists used precious whole-cloth quilts for bedding. Needle arts were prized in Europe and American stitchers during the 1800's taught their children to embroider. "Baltimore Album" quilts, popular in the 1830's, showcased a woman's tiny applique stitches and colorful designs. During the Westward movement, pioneers wore out bedding and clothing. Ever resourceful, they used old clothing and scraps of fabric to make pieced quilts. Creativity is an innate characteristic of man; the drive to beautify one's surroundings is strong. These hardy women made bed coverings to keep their families warm and they made them beautiful to ease their loneliness and to remind them of home.

The Civil War created a need for soldiers' bedding. Women responded by making quilts that were carried to battles on horseback. After the War, many quilts used dark or black fabrics because widows dyed most garments black. "Crazy" quilts, popular in the late 1800's, contained many of these fabric scraps. Women outdid one another, decorating every seam of crazy quilts with exquisite embellishment.

1930 Scrap Butterfly

The 1930's saw a revolt against dark fabric colors. In quilts, "Easter egg" or pastel colors were in vogue. The Kansas City Star and other periodicals popularized pieced patterns. Thrifty quilters during the Depression era used tiny garment scraps and even feed sacks in "scrappy" quilts like "Double Wedding Ring" and "postage stamp" quilts.

World War II was a low point for quilting in America. Fabrics were needed for uniforms. Women were working and had no time for quilting. In spite of this, many steadfast women quilted but fabric colors were drab browns and olive green.

Bicentennial Excitement. The Bicentennial in 1976 spurred Americans to look at truly American art forms. Quilting had become associated with rural America. In the 1960's, there were few calicoes available to use for quilting. It was difficult to find knowledgeable quilting teachers. Patterns were hard to find. Slowly, shops opened. Ann Hazelwood, owner of Patches, etc., in St. Charles, MO., recalls opening her shop with only twelve bolts of fabric. Quilters clustered together to share their knowledge and to encourage one another. Quilt exhibits and competitions fanned the flames of creativity.

Recent Developments. In the past twenty-five years, quilting has grown tremendously. Books and magazines cater to quilters. Small stitching groups and large guilds inspire us to be more creative and teach us new techniques. Huge quilt shows, like the International Quilt Festival in Houston or the American Quilter's Society's Show in Paducah feature hundreds of booths and thousands of choices in wares from thread to embroidery machines.

Quilting on-line. The Internet has played a part in quilting's expansion. You can now meet a kindred-quilting spirit on-line. You can access a pattern from the Web. Do you want to order fabric at two a.m.? The Web is a good source for fabrics of all kinds, any time.

Why? There are many reasons why quilting is so appealing today. And, there are many reasons why more people are beginning to quilt.

First, in a high-tech, high-stress world, we are seeking the "warm and fuzzy" side of life. Quilting is, in some ways, a gentle revolt against the mechanization, from cars to computers, that we face daily.

Quilting is a link with our past. Grandma quilted and so did great-grandma. We fondly remember sleeping under those comforting quilts. Why not make quilts, too?

Man-and woman-- will always seek to create beauty. It is extremely satisfying to make something rather than consume something. A quilt is not only beautiful; it is useful, whether we use it to keep warm or to decorate a wall. Many of us strive for perfect stitches or unique design. The beauty in our quilts pleases and satisfies us.

A quilt is a lasting gift, something we may hand down to future generations. Because we treasure our forebears' quilts, we know how our children will value ours.

Quilting is healthy! The New York Times reported that any form of recreational sewing will lower blood pressure and heart rate.

Quilting is good for us! Repetitive, rhythmic motions that we use in the quilting stitch are soothing.

Quilting is fun! It's fun to play with pattern and color and see what results. It's fun to gather with friends to share ideas and to "talk quilts." Quilting is time well spent.

1982 Quilt

Making memories: Quilts are perfect gifts for weddings, graduations, and baby showers. Into "memory" quilts, we can stitch dates, names and memorable moments. In "tee-shirt" quilts, we can immortalize a runner's Boston Marathon attempt. In baby quilts, the child's name can be the focal point. These gifts are unique; no two are alike.

Baby Boomers on Board! An entirely new group has entered into the American scene: the baby boomers are retiring young. At last, they have time to spend being creative. And, they're flocking to quilt shops and taking classes. They collect fabric and many own more than one sewing machine. Manufacturers are racing to keep up with the demand, both in of this new leisure generation.

Quilting is an enticing activity. If you've made one quilt, you're probably "hooked." Where else can you improve your health, make something useful and meet lots of nice folks, all dedicated to the same yet diverse goal? Yes, quilting is here to stay-hooray!

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