Saturday, July 5, 2014

History of Quilts in America - Happy 4th of July!!!

Unfortunately, I didn't have time to actually research this myself, but when I Googled "History of Quilts" I found this wonderful site:  http://www.quilting-in-america.com/History-of-Quilts.html


The history of quilts began long before European settlers arrived in the New World. People in nearly every part of the world had used padded fabrics for clothing, bedding, and even armor. With the arrival of the English and Dutch settlers in North America, quilting took on a new life and flourished.

The term "quilt" comes from the Latin <i>culcita</i>, meaning a stuffed sack.  The word has come to have 2 meanings. It is used as noun, meaning the 3-layer stitched bedcovering. It is also used as a verb, meaning the act of stitching through the 3 layers to hold them together.
A quilt is a cloth sandwich, with a top, which is usually the decorated part, a back, and a filler in the middle. Under the general term of patchwork are of 3 different types of quilts: (1) the plain or whole cloth quilt, (2) applique quilts, and (3) pieced or patchwork quilts.
The quilt, as we know it in America, was originally a strictly utilitarian article, born of the necessity of providing warm covers for beds. Quilts were also used as hangings for doors and windows that were not sealed well enough to keep out the cold. The earliest American quilts, made by English and Dutch settlers, were so intimately connected to everyday life of the early colonists that no record of them exists.


During the early years of American colonization, most Colonial women were busy spinning, weaving and sewing the clothes for their family, so had little time for artistic quilting. Commercial blankets or woven coverlets were more likely to be used, but during difficult times, when money was scarce or imported textiles limited, many Colonial women had to become creative in their use of materials on hand to keep their families warm during the cold seasons.
Those early settlers could not afford to simply discard things when they wore out; necessity required they carefully use their resources. Therefore, when blankets became worn, they were patched, combined with other blankets, or used as filler between other blankets. These were not carefully constructed heirlooms, rather they were functional items for the sole purpose of keeping people warm. Only in later years, when fabrics were being manufactured in America and were more affordable, freeing women from the work of making their own yarns and fabrics, did the more artistic type of quilting become more widespread.
In the 100 years between 1750 and 1850 thousands of quilts were pieced and patched, and many of them are preserved. Many of these quilts were so elaborate that years were spent making and quilting them. It is no wonder they are cherished as precious heirlooms and occupy honored places in homes and museums. Those early quilts provide a glimpse into the history of quilting as well as the history of the United States.


Whole cloth quilts, broderie perse and medallion quilts were popular styles of quilts made during the early 1800s. The whole cloth quilt, also known as counterpane, is usually made of single pieces of material on the top and back, and the decoration is obtained by means of padded or corded quilting in more or less elaborate design.
The applique quilt, or "laid-on" quilt, usually has a top made of whole cloth with smaller pieces of contrasting fabrics cut into shapes or forms that are applied or stitched down. These quilts were considered more elegant than the humble pieced type. Applique for quilting came into favor around the mid-1700s and reached its climax about 1850. Only the wealthy could afford the expensive imported fabric and had the leisure time for this type of quilt making that displayed the fine needlework of the maker.
The earliest settlers had no labor or materials to spare so they typically found the simplest, most expedient solutions to problems. This focus on functionality was exhibited in their architecture, tools and household furnishings, as well as political and social institutions. The block-style pieced quilt was an example of this functional approach to design. Once again, the history of quilts mirrored that of the developing country.
In the early 1700s Amish colonists began settling in the rich farmlands of Pennsylvania and the Midwest. They emigrated from Europe with the hope that they would be able to have the freedom to live according to the principles of their religion. Those early Amish women did not quilt, rather using the featherbeds traditionally used in Europe. Over time, contact with outsiders combined with necessity, Amish women began creating quilts with the characteristic beauty and craftsmanship that are the hallmark of Amish quilts.


As the frontier was conquered, living conditions improved. With prosperity and the availability of more materials, quilts became less austere. The patchwork quilt was a "utility" quilt, in contrast to the applique quilt which was a "best" or show quilt, upon which time and material was lavished.
A particularly popular style of quilt in the early days of quilting (through the early 1800s), was the Medallion quilt, which was made in a style that had actually been brought to America from Europe by the colonists. This type of quilt -- a central motif surrounded by multiple borders -- offered endless design possibilities for quilters, who could use patchwork, applique, embroidery, either alone or in combination.
Though there are examples of elaborate patchwork quilts that took enormous amounts of time to make, pieced quilts were generally the everyday bedcover, and designed to be made quickly. Since even small cloth remnants could be used in patchwork quilts, every scrap of fabric and usable portion of worn garments were saved and used in patchwork quilts. Pieced quilts became the most common type of quilt at that time.
A variation of the utility quilt was the plain "tufted" quilt that is tied through in enough places to keep the filling from shifting and bunching. While a tufted quilt has no stitching holding the layers together, it does have the typical 3 layers seen in traditional quilts. Another variation of the quilt is the "summer" quilt, which does not have the middle filling, so is useful as a bedcover during the warmer months. The summer quilt does have the traditional stitching holding the 2 layers together.
Members of rural communities frequently joined together to help their neighbors with big projects, such as barn building or finishing quilts. The quilting bee was a social event that allowed the finishing of several quilts in a single day instead of weeks or months.
Naturally, early quilters did not limit themselves to designing only quilts of a single type or method. They used their imagination and ingenuity to combine patchwork, applique, and embroidery in endless combinations. One early variation was the Medallion quilt, a relatively simple design with dramatic impact, that was particularly popular through the early 1800s.
During the 1800s in many parts of the country there was a custom that a young girl make a baker's dozen of quilt tops before she became engaged. This collection consisted of 12 utility quilts, undoubtedly pieced, and 1 great quilt, which was either a pieced or applique quilt, for her bridal bed. After her engagement, she would take final steps to turn her tops into finished quilts.
Another custom was for mothers to make several quilts for each of her children to have when they left home to start life as adults. A variation of this custom continues to this day as quilters continue to make heirloom quilts for their children or grandchildren.
In the mid 1800s the introduction of the sewing machine somewhat altered the dependence on hand-sewing. Long before electricity became common, quilters could power a sewing machine with a foot treadle or hand crank. The invention of a separate quilting attachment for the sewing machine by Henry Davis of Chicago did not seem to be widely used; hand quilting remained the favored method for nearly a century.
Much of the handwork involved in quilting may have been a form of relaxation for pioneer women, a relief from the drudgery and real labor of family life on the frontier. Additionally, fine handwork was a source of pride and status.
As the frontier was conquered, living conditions improved. With prosperity and the availability of more materials, quilts became less austere. Patchwork quilts were more likely to be made of new and finer fabrics. Appliqué quilts, which require more fabric, began to emerge and developed a body of traditional patterns. More and more women, particularly those in the upper-classes, had the time and resources to pursue more "genteel" arts. During this time the Victorian crazy quilt, became popular. By the early 1900s, quilting was transforming from a necessary art into a creative one.
When the United States entered World War 1 in 1917, quiltmaking became more important than ever. The U.S. government urged citizens to “Make Quilts – Save the Blankets for our Boys over There.” Quilts were made for fundraising and awareness building. The government took all the wool produced for commercial use in 1918 and instituted “heatless Mondays.” Following the war interest in quilting as an art was renewed.
During the Great Depression, people simply did not have the money to buy blankets so once again women relied on their own skills and resources to keep their families warm. Saving bits and pieces of material from clothing and other blankets, using material from feedsacks, and "making do" were common practices for frugal quilters during those difficult years.
During World War 2, quilting was used to raise money to support the Red Cross. The “signature quilt” was especially popular. In a signature quilt, business people, store owners, and citizens of a community would pay a small fee to have their names embroidered on quilt blocks. The blocks were sewn together and quilted, and the finished quilt was raffled off with all proceeds going to the Red Cross. These quilts are now fascinating community records.
Through the 1950s and 1960s, there was less general interest in quilting than at any other time in American history. To many, the quilt was associated with lean times and “making do” – quiltmaking was viewed as dated and old-fashioned. It was primarily older quilters, those who had always quilted, who kept the art of quiltmaking alive during this time.
Then in the 1970s and 1980s, the granddaughters of these older women began to revive interest in quiltmaking. The back-to-the-land movement, prompted by the anti-materialism of the late 1960s, generated a desire among many young people to learn hand skills that had been neglected in the postwar rush toward an automated society.
A milestone in American history, the Bicentennial celebration of 1976, was also a turning point in the history of quilts in America. The quilt became popular as a means of expressing national pride and achievement, and a powerful reminder of our past.
Now, in yet another century, quiltmaking in the early 2000s is still practiced as it always was, though now more for relaxation than out of necessity. Some quilters follow the craft in conventional form for leisure-time amusement or because it represents a tradition they find emotionally significant. Others have found in quiltmaking an artistic medium they can manipulate to their ends, and have ultimately created new styles and techniques.
The history of America can be seen in the history of quilts: in the rich heritage left us by those thrifty, self-sufficient women who helped settle this land, in the families whose history is sewn into quilts one patch at a time, and in the legacy of the quilting arts passed on to children and grandchildren so they may carry them forward to the future.


There are many online sites with information about the heritage of quilting in America. Some are excellent, containing well-researched scholarly information, such as The International Quilt Study and Museum at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln.
Others, such as Block Central's Quilt Directory contain links to many fine sites that pertain not only to the history of quilts, but to other elements of quilting as well.


This site has a lot more wonderful information and I recommend that you visit it as soon as possible!  I thank them immensely for this information and am glad that this information is out there for our information as I find it fascinating!!!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Behind the Scenes of a Custom Quilt - Why They Take Longer and Cost More


Recently I had an issue with a customer (2 actually).  It was my fault as I didn’t let them know that their custom quilts could take months to get them done.  I woefully under quoted them on the time it takes to do a custom quilt and apparently I lead them to believe that these would be quick and easy…  My mistake!  Custom quilts take much longer than a usual Edge to Edge (E2E) for several reasons. 

The first reason they take longer is because first of all you have to ditch (stitch in the ditch) around every section of the quilt… This can take many days as if you hand guide this portion, you have to be in “good shape” mentally and physically – no aches and pains, no issues gnawing on your mind as you can’t do this with any malady.  If you choose to do it with the computer, it actually takes even longer as you have to not only stitch it out (which goes slower than hand guiding), but you have to set each line up on the computer.  Both of these take many hours and sometimes days.

The second reason they take longer is that you have many more patterns to pick out.  If the customer can tell you exactly what they want, it cuts out the design time…this seldom happens.  If you are like me, I need to have complete confidence in my choices and until I do…I keep looking.  The design time can take hours if not days as well. 

The third reason they take longer is the time it takes to set up these sections on the computer.  I won’t bore you with the details on how you do this, but it requires much measuring and marking the quilt and sizing the quilting pattern, then you have to stitch them out and if it is a complex quilting pattern the stitching out takes quite a bit of time as well.  This process almost always takes days.

When you count this up, it takes hours if not days for all of these processes, so most custom quilts take at least 3 – 5 days and can take as long as 7 – 14 days (and some even longer).  As professional longarm quilters, I think we have a habit of making this seem easier and faster than it actually is, because once we see how we would do it…we let the customer know that it can be done and forget to convey the complexity of the process.

Another reason it is hard to estimate how much time it takes to do a custom quilt, for professional longarm quilters, is that it is impossible to know exactly how long it will take and when you will be able to fit it in to your other workload.  It might seem to a customer that their custom quilt is getting pushed to the back of the line and is not a priority, when they see E2E get done and go out the door.  This is not the case, all quilts are important to me, it is just that sometimes you need to be a little more inspired for a custom quilt.  You need to have your mind and body right to tackle it and sometimes that takes longer than other times. 

Ok, so now you know why it takes so much longer than E2E, this should also help explain why they cost so much.  A few years ago I did a custom quilt for about $400…it was on my frame for 2 weeks and I worked on it every day for at least 5 hours a day and sometimes 8 hours a day…so counted up I worked on this quilt for approx. 91 hours…This means I worked on this quilt for approx.. $4.39 an hour.  Hopefully this helps to explain the behind the scenes of a custom quilt and why it takes longer and costs more than an E2E.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Epic, Ridiculous and AWESOME



I am so inspired by these ladies right now.  It truly makes me believe that we live in the greatest nation ever, where anything is possible and that we are an industry of YES!!  Check out their website and PLEASE watch the little film about how they started...it is awe-inspiring at the very least!

http://www.cottonandsteelfabrics.com/

http://vimeo.com/76730844 - here is the link to the video...

Check them out on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/cottonandsteel

I cannot wait to see their new line!! Woot Woot!!  Who is with me????


Monday, January 27, 2014

Man Quilters!!!

So, there is something going on in quilting right now...it is not a completely new phenomenon, we have all heard of Ricky Tims -  http://www.rickytims.com/, and Jamie Wallen -  http://www.jamiewallen.com/jamiewallen/Welcome.html etc., but it seems to be going more mainstream!!!!  I discovered it this summer, right after I opened the new studio for Liz B. Quilting, when a man came in and asked me to quilt for him.  He was with his wife and just like a used car sales man, I kept trying to talk to her, so she let me know in no uncertain terms that it was HIS quilt and to talk to HIM!  Cool!  Especially when you see how his quilt looked...


I know right?!!!  It was his first quilt and not only is it crazy hard, but it is a signature quilt as well for one of his nieces...What???

At the Grand Opening of Liz B. Quilting new studio a man came in and said he was a quilter...I said great.  It was/is amazing because he is also a Vietnam Vet...he used to be a mason and now quilts to stay young in the mind!  He has since brought me probably 10 quilts, they are all huge and he donates them all to Wounded Warriors.  They are all his own designs (not that they are not already done, but he doesn't use a pattern, just figures it out).  Here are some of his latest creations...



Next thing you know a guy (who also came to the Grand Opening) comes in and wants to take the beginning quilting class...he takes and does such an AWESOME job!  He started to make a quilt for his Mother-in-Law's church...should have taken a picture of that when he was coming in for open sew.  Here is his beginning quilting class top...


Next thing you know another man shows up for my Spring Bed Runner Class with his wife...he finishes his whole bed runner in one after noon!  He then proceeded to go home and piece a crazy hard chain pattern that I can't seem to get off my phone.  He used strip piecing and chain piecing methods all by himself  What???


And then this morning...this one shows up!  This one was made by a retired Marine who has a mini museum in his basement and is going to put this on the bed down there...then, he is going to make his new grand-baby girl a pink one like this...What???  He designed it himself and even is letting me borrow the pattern (that he designed on Power Point) for my hubby's retirement quilt...(don't read this honey : D). 


As if that isn't impressive enough...he mitered his corners!!!


This is so exciting!  I am loving these Man Quilters!!!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Christmas Blog

I know that I am woefully late with this blog, but it is such a great story I have to share no matter how late : D...

A few months ago I had a customer come in and ask if I could sew some blocks together for her.  I said, of course I would be happy to do it.  Then, she showed me the blocks...they were beautiful red, green, tan and cream sampler blocks.  They were very hard blocks to make...Dresden Plate, Tumbling Blocks, Appliqué Hearts, Grandmother's Flower Garden, Turkey Tracks - all the usual suspects...AND they were all hand pieced!  They were done very well with lots of room for seam allowance without losing ANY points.  We decided that they couldn't be just sewn together that they needed sashing and cornerstones...a few of the blocks were smaller than the others, so we would put frames around those to make them a little bigger...



So, I had to ask her what was the story of the blocks...and what she told me warmed my heart and I want to share the story with you.   

It turns out 20 years ago she had a very good friend and they started quilting together.  They had made these blocks together and these were her friends.  They were teachers together here in Stafford and her friend had been very meticulous about putting these blocks together.  She further explained that quilting wasn't her thing and she had since had 5 kids and here just wasn't time for her to do them. 

So, I asked her how did she end up with the blocks...she stated that her friend had passed away of cancer and that she had had these blocks for 19 years...and she wanted to get them put together and quilted to give it to one of their very good mutual friends.  This just warmed my heart and I couldn't wait to get started!  

Here is a picture of what it looked like when we it was finished.  She was thrilled and I am so happy to say that her friend loved it too!  She wrote to me afterward and let me know that her friend was very surprised and very happy to have it.  I love my job!!!


Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Thanksgiving Blog...

I wake up in the morning and I cannot believe that this is my life…  I tried to think up the things I am thankful for and it was impossible!  I am thankful for EVERYTHING!  I am first thankful to God and then to my husband who stands with me in the wonderful life that I get live and my family who made me who I am…my Mother especially without whom I would not be strong; determined nor capable as I am today. 

I am thankful for my home, the good food I can afford, the nice clothes I can wear, the ability to buy whatever I want (and the blessing that I do not want too much to be happy).  I am thankful for my health.  I am thankful I am an American and that I have The Bill of Rights and freedom.  I am thankful for all the men and women who defend freedom for me. 

I am thankful for my son. I love that I was allowed to be a Mother and that my son is happy and healthy.  I am thankful for all that he teaches me daily and that I am allowed to teach him too. 

I am thankful for my business that allows me to make people happy; be creative; to be in charge of my own destiny (to a degree) and to make money. It is everything that I have always wanted in a “job/career”.

I am thankful for my maturity, my inner contentment, peace and happiness.  I am happy for the most part all of the time. 

 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cool quilt! No, didn't make it...so cool!!! He was a tractor puller and these are his ribbons...I wish I made it!!!