Quilting as a means of expression – More quilting in The Filson’s Collections

Perhaps not the biggest quilt I've created, but it tells a story nonetheless. My first attempt at patchwork on the bias.

Perhaps not the biggest quilt I've created, but it tells a story nonetheless. My first attempt at patchwork on the bias.

When I last left off in my quilting adventures, I was working on my Swoon quilt. Sadly, that quilt remains unfinished, silently mocking me whenever I open my craft closet door. Much has happened in my life since I last worked on it. My husband and I bought our first house in March 2012, and in the process of getting ready for that, I put my quilt on the back-burner. Once we were settled and I was ready to begin again, I was commissioned to sew a quilt for my father in law, a prospect that both thrilled and terrified me. Me? You want me to sew something for you? You believe that I’m good enough for that? And so, I spent my summer searching for just the right pattern and just the right fabrics, finally finishing the quilt the day we left for Eastern Kentucky in December. It was well received, and I was tired. But again, as I went to pull my Swoon quilt out, life threw another curve ball, in the form of a little baby who we will be welcoming this October and would need a little quilt (or three) of her own.

For many generations, quilting was one of the few forms of personal expression available to women. Cecilia Macheski broaches this subject in Quilt Stories (available in The Filson’s library). The book is an interesting read and features a collection of stories, poems, and plays centered around the art of quilt making.  I love how Macheski expresses that “these stories encourage us ‘to see women’s literary history as a giant timeless quilting bee, where the writers gather around a frame and trade stories, gossip, and love.’”

I was inspired to return to this topic as I stitched these quilts. So much love, joy, and tears have gone into the creation of them. They tell a story of their own, from the places where I’ve ripped stitches out, to finally (finally!) sewing a perfect block, only to have the next one be ever so slightly off. But it is these imperfections that make the quilt perfect and pass on my story. While the women of today have many outlets of creative expression open to them, it is comforting to express myself through the creation of something that will outlast me.

If you are interested in learning more about quilting in our collection, you may find these books useful on your journey:

“Quilt Stories,” Macheski, Cecilia.

“American Patchwork Quilts,” Bacon, Lenice Ingram Bacon.

“Living with Quilts: Fifty Great American Quilts,” George, Phyllis.

Jamie Evans

Jamie Evans is the Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator at The Filson Historical Society. When she isn’t working on publications for The Filson, you can find her behind her sewing machine or out on the roads training for her next big race.

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