We all know what a quilt is - or we at least have some idea. To some people a quilt is just a kind of blanket that old people have, to some, quilts are a Pinterest inspired wedding decor, and to others, quilts are a a physical manifestation of excited energy that had nowhere else to go.
Technically, a quilt is a blanket made of three layers, the first is the top, this is the labor intensive, decorative layer that is full of personality. Here the maker chooses a pattern, colors and fabrics and tediously cuts out precise shapes and pieces them together. The second layer is the batting - most often cotton or polyester - sometimes in old quilts, it is layers and layers of old flannel shirts and fabric scraps piled together - this is the insulating layer. The third and last layer is the back of the quilt, usually just a large piece of fabric, that is used to sandwich the middle layer to the top. The final step in a quilt is what gives a quilt it’s name - the quilting - or the process of stitching all of these layers together, usually in a decorative pattern. This keeps the layers put, and keeps the batting from clumping and breaking up over time.
My interest in quilts arguably was sparked by the double wedding ring quilt that was made for my parents when they were married. It has a beautiful pattern of circles overlapping to create beautiful shapes. This quilt - all hand sewn - was large enough to fit a queen size bed, and when used as the ceiling of a fort, the light shining in from outside created the most beautiful stained glass effect. I grew up with quilts in my house, taking them all for granted until I was in high school when my interest in textiles became more than just a hobby. I started to realize how significant it was that someone hand sewed each piece together and then quilted decorative lines over each piece. What’s arguably even more significant, is that every quilt in my house was created because of an event, usually a birth, or a marriage. Each quilt was such a labor of love, no matter the size or the intricacy, someone had used their precious time to make this for someone in celebration of an occasion.
I have made a few quilts in my time - if you don’t count the small quilts I made for my dolls, then my first quilt was a t-shirt quilt I made myself over spring break my freshman year of college. That one, and then the second t-shirt quilt, and then the t-shirt quilt i made for my brother and the one I made for my best friends grandma were either acts of boredom, or love. However, as I got older and the quilts grew in intricacy I started to notice a pattern. Besides the quilts I made for myself which are no more than an artistic expression or experiment, the quilts I made for others were, as were the quilts in my house growing up, were made because of an event. The first large quilt I made was a queen size double wedding ring that I made for a dear friend of mine. Looking back, I wonder where that energy and time came from, however, taking an honest look into my feelings at the time, I made this quilt because I was so excited for my friend’s wedding, but I had no role in the wedding and no way to be involved. I think this feeling is today described as FOMO or the fear of missing out. I couldn’t be present to help my friend with her wedding preparation and that feeling was so pressing, I had no way to do anything - so I made a quilt. It took almost a year, and over that year, every time I started to feel like I was missing out on helping my friend, I was able to put my energy into her quilt. This is not a lone instance, I find the same is true for subsequent quilts - friends in other states having babies that I can’t be there to meet, friends buying houses that I can’t be there to see, each of these situations is something exciting, that I have no other way of participating in.
I used to think this was just me, some pathetic desire to be a part of someone's life, until I started looking at vintage quilts for sale on ebay. The sheer number or quilts - some of them ugly, some of them pretty, some of them simple and uneven, some of them detailed and technically perfect, no matter the talent level or time it takes, people make quilts when they are excited about something.
This isn’t only true with quilting, but also with other fiber crafts. Think about it, why did you get knitted sweaters from great aunt Suzy in the mail as a child - did you ever really know her or see her? It seems to me as though Great Aunt Suzy really wanted to be a part of your life - this exciting child - something new, but she was on the outside, she wasn’t invited to Christmas and she lived far away. This may not be the usual scenario that we attribute FOMO to, but it is the same feeling nonetheless. We all know what that feeling is like - whether it is a party we want to go to, or a friend who is having a baby we cant be there to meet, the physical feeling is the same, and it builds and builds and part of the reason it is so terrible is because there is usually nothing you can do about it - but you can make a quilt.
The top of double wedding ring quilt that was made for me when I was a baby for me to have on my wedding day. It was never finished by the woman who started it so it was quickly finished by someone who was paid to do it. It was machine quilted in a rough pattern with polyester batting - a true disservice to the hand pieced top. I painstakingly took out all of the quilting, removed the back and batting, and am planning to re-quilt it by hand.