Jean B. came in to share her latest creation with me before sending it off to the recipient. While she was telling the story of the project, she started pointing out different fabric pieces and telling the story of those fabrics. One of the pieces came from the fabric she used to make a maternity dress. Her son is now 60+ years old.
When Susan W. was making one of her masterpiece strip quilts, she did the same. She recounted where she got each piece and what the parent project was. It was fun to hear her reminisce and remember all the projects she made and who received them.
These two examples illustrate another aspect of the stories that quilts tell that I didn’t cover in the Quodlibet of the Quilt post. Often the fabrics themselves are not just ones that come to a quilt without a history. Quilts have been made from a loved one’s neckties or clothing, for example. Each piece would carry the story of that person and the history or memory behind the item.
The selection of particular fabrics can also tell a story. I went through a period of intense research into my genealogy. As I was finding pictures, I wanted to make “memory” items. My mom’s memory item was a purse. I used 1930s reproduction fabrics because she spent the first decade of her life in the 30s. For another memory item, I used Civil War reproduction fabrics which added to the story of the item I made. My grandparent’s memory item used a sage green fabric that reminded me of the eucalyptus leaves that my grandmother seemed to love. Her house always smelled of the leaves.
T-shirt quilts illustrate this point perhaps most poignantly. Each T-shirt or other garment in the quilt tells a story. The most interesting of all are the life journey quilts that use garments from a person’s life from childhood to adulthood. Each piece tells a story that adds to the overall story of the quilt.
What we do with our quilts is really quite remarkable. We are storytellers. We may not be aware of it. We may not even do it intentionally. But subconsciously, often the decisions we make about the fabrics, colors, designs, and so on become the elements of the story. We create the setting (time and date) of the story, set the mood, introduce the characters (the people inspiring the quilt or receiving it), and relate the timeline or plot of the story when you share the story with someone. The pattern often expresses the theme and point of view of the story. Hopefully, we don't experience a lot of conflict, which for a story is the driving force for moving it along. But we do experience some conflict in the construction of our projects. At the shop, we all have a very intimate relationship with our seam rippers that we have named Jack. Our machines sometimes act up and cause us great angst, but these can also add to the story.
We love it when you share the story of your quilts or other projects. Keep showing and telling with us; it is then that those stories come alive and are published.
Feel free to share your pictures and stories below. We'd love to hear your projects' stories.
If you are interested in creating your own T-shirt quilts, check out this great resource: