The art of quilting

By Rachel Hale

What exactly is considered art? I was challenged to answer that question recently when I was asked to be part of the Gateway Arts Council’s podcast series.

For me art has just always been music, dance, acting and of course painting or drawing. None of these have I ever been talented with, although I do enjoy and appreciate them.

When asked to bring some forms of art from the Senior Center for the podcast I was a bit stumped. We do have some talented artists who have donated their paintings over the years, so that was an easy choice. But then Ellen Keyes said to me, “What about the quilting”? That caught be off guard. I mean, our members have created some beautiful quilts over the years but I never really thought of quilting or knitting as a form of artwork. I had been official “schooled” and at the same time it opened my eyes in a whole new way.

So, as many of us do these days, I Googled quilting. I found out some amazing facts. For example: Evidence of quilt work was found in Asia in late BC and early AD years. Quilting became evident in Europe during the 12th century when it was discovered that the Crusaders wore quilted garments under their armor for comfort, warmth and protection.

The Crazy Quilt is probably the oldest of quilt patterns. Early quilters used any scrap or remnant available, regardless of its color, design, or fabric type.

The Nine Patch is a popular pattern used by pioneer women. The earliest homesteaders had neither time or fabric to spare. Most of the quilts they made were utility quilts, quickly sewn together for warmth.

One of our most dedicated Senior Center quilters, I will call her “Miss Janet”, comes down to the Center faithfully three days a week. You will find her in the quilt room surrounded by colorful swatches of fabric, pictures of past projects and pattern after pattern of quilting styles.

She has shared with me how most quilts are created out of scraps of material, creating a colorful and decorative item for anyone to enjoy. Then there are some that will take shirts or ties or dresses belonging to a lost loved one, cut them into pieces and create a beautiful and special quilt that allows them to forever remember that person.

Regardless of the colors or origins of the material there is also many different ways to do the stitching. You can just stitch around each piece of fabric or create a design with the stitching itself that adds a whole different level to a quilt.

Technology has advanced so much that the original hand stitching way of quilting is quickly becoming a lost art form. Sewing machines now have a “quilting” option on them allowing the seamstress to have perfectly spaced stitches. While this might be appealing to many, I have to admit that when I see Miss Janet and her friends sitting together talking and laughing as they stitch I feel like the quilt is not only beautiful but it somehow absorbs that human touch. It might sound a bit corny, but when something so beautiful is created out love and joy I like to think the person that will wrap up in it will somehow feel loved.

If you would like to stop down to the Center and take a tour, see all the beautiful quilts and meet Miss Janet I guarantee it will be time well spent.

Until I see you at the Center,

Have a Blessed Day!

By Rachel Hale

The writer is the executive director of the Senior Center of Sidney and Shelby County.

The writer is the executive director of the Senior Center of Sidney and Shelby County.