A friend of mine recently, for the second year, attended a quilting retreat in the hinterlands of Jabez which is near Somerset. One would be amazed at the number of women who are passionate about quilting and can’t wait to attend the annual January event sponsored by the Rockcastle County Extension Service and held at the Lake Cumberland 4-H Educational Center.
This year 84 ladies attended the seminar bringing with them sewing machines and any other paraphernalia needed for quilting, such as fabric, batting, thread, rotary cutters, sharp scissors, patterns, cutting mats, irons, needles and creative imaginations.
Some quilters have practiced the art for decades; others are new and enthusiastic beginners. Whichever one a stitcher happens to be, the end result is always satisfying and amazing.
Websters defines a quilt as “a coverlet for a bed, made of two layers of fabric with some soft substance, as wool or down, between them and stitched in patterns or tufted through all thicknesses in order to prevent the filling from shifting.”
Quilting dates back as far as ancient Egypt. There are myriads of patterns, many of which have a historic meaning. Others are uniquely designed and some have great sentimental value.
A quilt, like a prized piece of jewelry, can be precious and stay in the possession of a family for generations. Years ago, swatches of fabric were not thrown away once they were torn from a used garment, but saved and used again transforming them into a useful and beautiful coverlet of some kind.
An adult user of a quilt might look down upon his bed and remember with pleasure when those pieces of material were garments worn to school, to church, to parties, to playgrounds and to bed.
My childhood friend Mary Sue Krippenstaple (now Deters) might say, “That’s the dress I was wearing when I broke my arm while roller skating.”
She and I used to tie up quilts from bush to bush in our yards dividing the play area into what we imagined to be rooms. Quilts also became robes when pretending one was royalty. They were also perfect for staking out a spot in the yard for playing or having a pretend tea party.
Many quilt patterns have names and interesting histories. “Wedding ring” quilts, made since the 1930s, represent two interlocked rings in the patchwork design and are a popular gift for newlyweds.
There are hundreds of patterns which have special meaning, and of course there are those who are clever and create their own unique pattern which has significance to the user. For example, I have a friend who made a lovely quilt from her children’s baby clothes. Many such examples remind the users of the loving hands which created the patchwork.
To cite a personal example, after my sister, Mary Ester (known to many as Datter), passed away, I could not bring myself to give her cotton blouses to the Goodwill or otherwise dispose of them. Instead, a friend of mine gathered those garments together, cut them into pieces and made them into a quilt. Each swatch conjures up a special memory or happening.
Another friend has spent a great deal of time and patience trying to save a badly worn quilt which reminded her of her childhood and the many hours her mother spent making quilts and other useful garments. Although the material is practically falling apart, my friend clings to the pieces as a reminder of the loving hands which bound it together in the first place.
Quilts do that. They are not only utile but tangible reminders of persons and events of yesteryear. Those who sleep under a quilt, sleep under a blanket of love.