Friday, March 12, 2010

Material Culture

I'm almost done with my Underground Railroad quilt--I've made the binding and just have to attach it. As you'll note, I still can't quilt a straight quarter-inch seam. Right before we left for D.C. the quarter-inch foot for my sewing machine arrived, and I'm hoping this will made a world of difference. My mom says it will, but she's a much neater person than I am, and I have a hard time believing she's ever sewed as crookedly as I manage to on a regular basis.

You'll be pleased to hear--given how I'm subjecting you to pictures of my crooked quilts--that I'm taking Machine Quilting I at my local quilting shop beginning in May. It's a four-session class, and I'm hoping it's going to clear up a few details for me, like how to quilt evenly and not end up with little clumps at the edges, and, of course, how to sew in a straight line.

The funny thing is, I sort of like the crooked look of the three quilts I've made so far. I've been reading a lot about quilts lately--did you know there's this whole subculture of quilt historians out there who are totally obsessed with antique fabrics and patterns and who made which quilt when?--and I find again and again that the quilts I'm drawn to are the ones that lack any sort of technical proficiency, the off-kilter log cabin quilts and the haven't-got-a-clue patchworks. You heard it here first: I like bad quilts.

Except there's no such thing as a bad quilt, if you don't count quilts with repeating images of lollypop-licking teddy bears running under rainbows. That's the beauty of quilt-making, I've discovered. You can be as messy and hopeless as I am, and you still end up with a thing of beauty.

I was interested to learn that at the turn of the 20th century, the Colonial style was all the rage for American quilters. They were freaked out about industrialization and wanted to return to a simpler, easier time. Sounds familiar. Also, there were a ton of quilting magazines, and you could buy quilter's kits, just like you can today.

If you want to read some interesting stuff about quilt history, just google "material culture quilts," and you'll get to all sorts of neat sites. If you want me to sew a quilt with actual right angles, well, you're just going to have to wait awhile.


Tracy said...

When I did my quilt class last year & the year before, I began not even knowing there was such a thing as a quarter inch foot. Mine has an edge that makes it almost impossible to go crooked. I'm sure you'll find yours the amazing find that I discovered it was!

Your quilt is looking absolutely amazing...crooked bits and all. I can't wait to see it bound and finished.

Gumbo Lily said...

I read something once about fine quilters who would always make one block that was a little off or missing something so that it was not perfect. It had to do with "only God" being perfect. I never have trouble with that part of quilting.

I love the quilts that look like they've been made with this-and-that scrap and the not-so-fussy ones.

I'm admiring yours.

Pom Pom said...

I think your quilt is beautiful. I'm afraid of the rotary cutter.

victoria said...

Yes, I agree with you that there are no bad quilts. The wonky ones are wonderful. I love reading all those quilt history books too.

victoria said...

Also - I like yours hanging on the wall like that, very good!!