Quilts: Works of art and love
April 14, 2006
A quilt made to fit a bed
by Alma Gerbitz. Photo by Anna Aughenbaugh
by Anna Aughenbaugh
Fort Collins, Colo.
The dictionary doesn’t adequately describe quilts with its definition of quilt as “a bedcover made of two layers of cloth with a soft material between.”
Some are beautifully pieced or appliqued works of art that make me gaze in awe upon them. Others, like the ones I’ve made, are done with love but not to perfection, to keep our children and grandbabies warm. (I tied them with yarn, which allowed me to finish them quickly.)
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Our daughter enjoyed pointing out to her children the pieces in her quilt that had been made of leftover fabric from clothes she had sewn as a young girl. Our youngest loved the feel of soft fabric, so I made a quilt of velour pieces for his wedding gift. My grandma pieced a log cabin quilt for our wedding present. It was one of many that she made of scraps. None of the blocks in her quilts matched except for the center block, which she always cut of identical fabric. She lovingly sewed the blocks on her treadle machine when she found time to rest from her daily chores.
The joy that quilting brings to Alma Gerbitz of Windsor, Colo., shows in her voice and face as she talks about quilting. She belongs to the “Piece Makers” club, an informal group of 14 ladies that meet once a month to share patterns and have a good time. Most of the patterns they’ve shared are new to me. One required masking tape. Another had paper that was sewn under the fabric, and then torn away when finished. One block had 57 pieces. Another was called “stack and whack.” Alma even designed and made an appliqued quilt that matches the dishes she collects.
“We don’t have a president or collect dues,” Alma said, to emphasize the informality of the club. “One year we each made one block and donated the finished quilt to a place in Fort Collins for abused women. I enjoy making something from leftovers, treasures with lots of love in them. I often improvise and use fabric scraps I have left over from other sewing projects. I grew up on a farm and learned to be frugal,” explained Alma.
“I know some who are better than me,” Alma said modestly in response to my praises when I saw her beautiful quilts. “Some people belong to several quilting clubs and are perfectionists in all they sew. Purists quilt by hand, although it can be done faster by machine.”
Alma wasn’t happy with the first two quilts she made, but the third one turned out just as she’d hoped it would and she has been busy piecing ever since. The stories behind the patterns and fabrics she uses as she lovingly showed me her quilts (some finished and others in various stages of completion) made me wish each one could be described in written form to the recipients, stating the reasons it was sewn especially for them.
Quilts, from bed-sized to wall hangings, have stories to tell. Those made years ago, perhaps by neighbors who got together for the social life of quilting bees, are heirlooms. Quilts made now will be handed down to future generations. Some, such as autograph blocks that are signed by wedding guests and then pieced and quilted, are reminders of happy occasions. Photographs can be transposed onto fabric to piece into memory quilts. Amish quilts have distinct characteristics, usually readily identifiable by their colors. Hawaiian quilts are intricately pieced and quilted in just two colors of fabric.
My grandmother gave me a quilt, along with a note explaining it had been made by a relative who was a descendant of William Brewster who arrived on the Mayflower. It would have been a family heirloom, but when we moved during a downpour years ago, somehow it got soaked and tossed it into a trash can by some moving helpers. By the time I learned what had happened, the trash had been picked up. I’m glad I was spared having to explain that to Grandma, but the loss of a bit of history still bothers me.
My dream is to make a sampler quilt. If it isn’t completed in my lifetime, perhaps one of my granddaughters will find it among my sewing things and take up where I left off. Hopefully she will sense the love in it that can weave generations together. She will, no doubt, smile as she sees that her grandma was always a little irregular in her work.