Just as a picture paints a thousand words, quilts tell stories of people, places, and events from centuries back. Humans are natural storytellers who love to preserve their stories for future generations to enjoy. Our prehistoric ancestors did so by drawing on rocks and walls of ancient manmade structures. Eventually, these historical accounts were immortalized by artists, who were mostly men, through paintings and scholars, through written word.
Women, on the other hand, were confined to the home and the management of the household, with little or no opportunity to get a formal education. But there must be truth to women being from Venus and men from Mars, because women saw things differently, despite living in the same world. That they did not paint or write was not an issue, they recorded family history through a medium they knew so well – crafts. Handmade jewelry, home decors, family recipes, and needlework – lots of needlework, became their canvas and blank paper. Quilting was one of them; a craft that has survived throughout the ages, and remains popular to this day.
Women recorded family events, such as births, death, triumphs, and tragedy by sewing images on pieces of fabric and piecing them together to create a bigger picture of their family’s history. Quilts featured various designs, patterns and were made for a variety of reasons, from functional to decorative purposes. But behind every colorful design is a story of the people that made it.
The craft of quilting has evolved over the centuries. Like most things, necessity became the mother of its invention, as quilts were initially made to keep people warm during the cold season. When fabrics were made of smaller pieces, women sew them together to turn it into a bigger piece of cloth that would cover a large surface like a bed or the floor. Design was eventually incorporated into its making, and it became a decorative ornament in homes used either as table runners, small rugs, chair warmers, and wall decors.
Fast forward to the 21st century and quilts remain popular in its use, and quilting as a hobby. Many engage into quilt making because of many reasons; from preserving tradition to enjoying the health benefits of making quilts. Yes, you read it right, there are health benefits to it as well. Read on and find out why quilt-making will help you become a better person.
They Tell Your History
For mere mortals, we sure have a penchant for immortalizing ourselves. We name our children after ancestors to preserve their memory, we learn the trade of our parents to preserve tradition, and we record our existence so our memories may live on in the hearts of future generations. A quilt is one medium for recording the story of our family. It can feature designs that commemorate a special milestone in life. More than the aesthetics, it promotes a sense of belonging and purpose.
Take Time Off From The Modern World
Information technology has changed the pace of life. People and smartphones are connected at the hip these days. Most people feel naked and cut off from the world without their phones and a wi-fi connection, that they sometimes don’t know what to do without both. Small wonder why there’s a burgeoning movement of people who want to go back to basics; organically farmed food, natural remedies for ailments, yoga or exercise that does not require equipment, and so on. The same goes for creative pastimes, people are into coloring adult coloring books, cross stitching, and quilting to name a few. Even when one is using a template for the design, the result comes out unique as the color combination are based on the preference of the maker. You can color the Eiffel tower pink in your coloring book, while another can choose to shade it in gold or grey. The same goes for quilts, a generic pattern can be rendered in various fabric patterns and colors of choice.
If you’re looking for a quick getaway from the noise of the modern world, try quilting. It’s relaxing and rewarding to be creating something tangibly beautiful with your own hands.
It’s Good Brain Exercise
We’ve been doing it since kindergarten, and in fact, it’s one way to test our cognitive skills; dealing with shapes and colors. It’s common knowledge that colors, the bright ones particularly, can bring cheer to a room and lift the spirits of the people in it. Designing a quilt exercises the brain. The geometrical patterns such as the jelly roll, bars, blocks, pinwheels, and cut out images or shapes of objects require mathematical precision to successfully achieve a perfectly symmetrical quilt pattern.
Coming up with a design, whether it’s a repetitive geometric design or a picture sewn into a quilt, helps hone your problem-solving skills. Your brain will need to figure out where to place which piece and make it cohesive with the overall design, just like the jigsaw puzzle and coloring book exercises in pre-school.
Stress And Tension Reliever
It takes patience and love to complete one – there is no room for haste. And the process of sewing together a beautiful picture by hand, piece by piece, has proven to have a calming effect on the persons making it. The repetitive pattern and the motion in making it, helps the brain relax, making it a great stress reliever. If patience is a virtue that you do not possess, then quilting is the perfect teacher for you.
Social Networking The Old-Fashioned Way
Traditional quilts are made by hand, by sewing piece by piece until the picture is completed. In fact, mothers in the old days used to make quilts for their daughter’s wedding years before it happens. The quilts usually have either the family’s colors or story for its design, and are stored in a hope chest for their daughter. It’s been said that it takes a village to raise a child – or make a quilt for her hope chest.
Quilting bees or quilting parties became a social networking activity in the 19th century. Initially, women helped each other to finish a quilt through these gatherings. It eventually evolved from work-centric to a social activity as it became a means for women to bond, share ideas (and gossip!), and meet new people. Young men were introduced to proper ladies during quilting bees, while the older and married women served as chaperones to the young people.
As modernization slowly took over the old way of life, quilting bees became a way to cling to tradition and preserving the craft. Quilting bees, became an iconic activity of American women in the colonial times that consequently led to the formation of quilting guilds. Now, there are virtual quilting bees where women who make quilts share ideas instead of making an actual quilt together.
Quilts have become a symbol of hearth and home, and the American tradition of community bonding for women. Now, patterns can be scaled and printed using computers, sewn with a sewing machine, and flaunted through social media. Yet its purpose and function remain the same – to tell a story through a tapestry of colors, patterns and images that would one day be completed as a beautiful quilt to be gifted to someone who will cherish and treasure it for years. If the myriad of vivid colors and beautiful patterns pictured in a quilt are anything to go by, indeed what a wonderful world we have.