Wednesday, October 3, 2007

An Ode to Quilts and the Quilters Who Quilt Them

I am almost finished with the quilted patchwork throw I've been working on since the summer. This is my first foray into anything resembling quilting, and I've really loved it. I don't think I'll ever be a classic quilter; I am too messy for that. But I found a book in the library called Liberated Quilting, and I'm pretty sure this is the art form for me.

Liberated quilting, from what I can tell, is quilting for people who can't color inside the lines. It is for people who understand a little messiness is a natural part of life. It is, in short, for left-handed people who have difficulty sewing in a straight line.

I found Liberated Quilting by Gwen Marsten when I was at the library looking for books on the kind of quilts I would love to be able to make. Most of these quilts are by or are inspired by African American quilters. They have wild colors and rhythms and are rarely symmetrical. Straight lines are not required. And they are beautiful. Incredibly, heart-renderingly beautiful.

This afternoon I sat down with a quilting book I have checked out more than once from the library, and one day will actually buy: The Quilts of Gee's Bend, a whopper of a coffee table book that is filled with the quilts and words of an an amazing group of women, all of whom live or lived in the same tiny community in Alabama and made quilts that are nothing less than art.

You can evaluate these quilts formally if you wish; talk about pattern, rhythm, line. And many of them show the handiwork of artists who intuitively or intentionally made great use of classical elements in their work. But what I love so much is that these great works of art come from the stuff of daily life, work clothes and curtains and dish towels and old Easter dresses. Go look at what's inside your laundry basket and imagine it as material for artwork that I would argue rivals the great modernist painters. Ain't that a pip?

I have always wanted to paint, but I am a lousy painter. But I can see making abstract, liberated quilts. I could see quitting knitting and taking up quilting full time. A confession: I am not one of those people who goes all crazy over yarn. I go into yarn shops and see lots of beautiful stuff, but it doesn't make me swoon. I appreciate it, I like the feel of it, but I don't end up spending hundreds of dollars and then hiding the credit card bill. I have virtually no stash.

Fabric, on the other hand, I could look at for hours. I'm nuts about it. And now I have reason to believe I can actually do something with it. This is big. This is very big.


Victoria said...

You are such an entertaining writer. May I ask what your kids books are called so I can look them up in the library? If you wish to not say, that's fine, I like anonymous bloggers too!

Left-Handed Housewife said...

Hi, Victoria:

I don't mind telling you my book titles. They are:

Dovey Coe
Where I'd Like to Be
The Secret Language of Girls
Chicken Boy
Phineas L. MacGuire Gets Slimed
Phineas L. MacGuire Erupts

They are all middle grade novels (for readers 9-11).

Thanks for asking!