The Art of Quilting

The Art of Quilting: A Journey of Beauty, Patience, and Creativity

“She sat still, I thought, and yet she traveled. And when one stitch, the mind travels, not the way men do, with ax and oxen through the wilderness, but surely our traveling counted too, as motion. And I thought of the patience of the stitches. Writing a book, I thought, which men often do, but women only rarely, has the posture of sewing. One hand leads, and the other hand helps. And books, like quilts, are made, one word at a time, one stitch at a time.” – Sena Jeter Naslund

In the winter of 2018, I had the pleasure of accompanying Sandra and Burt Sigal to an art quilt exhibition at the California Heritage Museum in Santa Monica. As we walked into the charming house, I was struck by the beauty of the colorful quilts on display. I had driven past this house countless times before, never realizing the hidden treasure inside.

Sandra Sigal, a master quilter herself, led us through the exhibit with expertise and grace. Her knowledge of the intricate techniques and methods of construction used in the quilts was captivating. As I listened to her explanations, memories of my childhood flooded back to me. I remembered watching my mother sew and create fashionable garments with such ease.

As I looked at the quilts, I found myself drawn to the abstract patterns and designs within them. I delighted in cropping the photos to create new, unique compositions, often removing them from their original narrative.

From Warmth to Artistry: The Evolution of Quilting in the United States

The art of quilting has a rich history in the United States, dating back to colonial times. Early settlers brought the quilting tradition with them from Europe, and it quickly became an integral part of American life.

Quilting was originally a practical way to make warm blankets, but it soon became a form of artistic expression. In the early days of quilting, women would gather to work on quilts together, sharing patterns and techniques. Quilts were often made for special occasions, such as weddings and births, and were sometimes given as gifts.

During the 19th century, quilt-making became increasingly popular, and it was not uncommon for women to spend years working on a single quilt. Quilt guilds and clubs sprang up across the country, and quilting began to be seen as a true art form.

Quilting played a role in American history as well. During the Civil War, quilts were used to raise money for the war effort and provide soldiers with blankets. They also served as a means of communication, with quilts containing hidden messages and codes for the Underground Railroad.

In the 20th century, quilting continued to evolve. Quilters began experimenting with new techniques and materials, and quilts became more diverse in design and style. Today, quilting remains a popular pastime, with many creating beautiful quilts for practical and artistic purposes.

The Steps of Creating a Quilt

Choosing the Fabric: Quilters can use a variety of fabrics, including cotton, wool, silk, and other materials. They may choose new fabric or repurpose old clothing or other materials.

Cutting the Fabric: The fabric is cut into shapes or strips according to the desired pattern. Some quilts are made from a single piece of fabric, while others are pieced together from many smaller pieces.

Layering the Fabric: The fabric pieces are arranged on top of one another in the desired pattern, with a layer of batting (usually made of cotton, wool, or polyester) in between. The layers are then pinned or basted together to hold them in place.

Quilting: The layers of fabric and batting are sewn together using a needle and thread, creating the quilt’s decorative pattern. This can be done by hand or with a sewing machine.

Binding: Once the quilting is complete, the edges of the quilt are finished with binding, which is typically made from a strip of fabric folded over the raw edges and sewn in place.

Quilting is a time-intensive process that requires patience, skill, and attention to detail. While many quilts are still made by hand, modern technology has made machine quilting more accessible and efficient.

February 2018