Why We Quilt

Have you ever wondered why quilters take a perfectly good piece of fabric, cut it up into smaller pieces, and then put it back together again? If you’re a quilter like I am, I’m sure you’ve heard this question.

The question, why do we quilt?, is a reasonable one and I found some answers at a local quilt show that I recently attended. The quilt show, hosted by the Black Canyon Quilters in Montrose, Colorado, had Marianne Fons as co-host. Marianne Fons of the famed Fons & Porter quilting duo, gave a 90-minute lecture on the reasons why we quilt. It was a very informative presentation that included a lot of history about quilting. Fons is currently touring the country and presenting this lecture at quilt shows. She hosts a television series, Love of Quilting with her partner Liz Porter and is the Co-Editor-in-Chief of their magazine by the same name. Their website is www.fonsandporter.com.

Fons decided to do some research as to why people quilt (and I say people because there are quite a few men out there who quilt), and came up with four main categories. The categories are necessity, therapy, fame & fortune, and love. If you’re a quilter, I’m sure you’ll identify with some of these categories. If you’re not a quilter, this will give you a better understanding of why a quilter will cut up fabric and put it together again.

History indicates that quilting became very popular as a necessity. If you’ve seen pictures of the Gee’s Bend quilts, you quickly understand the need for warm bedding. Quilts made from worn-out clothes such as faded and torn dungarees, shirts, dresses, and even underwear were very common. There was usually no design or pattern to them and instead, were irregularly shaped with no emphasis on color coordination. They were strictly needed to keep people warm.

Quilting for therapy has become very common among quilters. We quilt out of boredom, helplessness, stress, and other psychological needs. A perfect example is the current project by the Quilt of Valor Foundation (www.qovf.org), to make quilts for our wounded soldiers. During this time of war, many of us feel helpless in what we can do while the war is going on. The wish to do something for these injured soldiers is why the Quilt of Valor project began. We quilters can make something for wounded soldiers and ease the feeling of helplessness. Similarly, we can make a quilt and donate it to a local hospice, a battered women’s shelter, the children’s section at a local hospital, and yes, even the pet shelter! (I know someone who makes placemat-size quilts out of scraps for the kitties in the local pet shelter.)

Thirdly, we have the fame & fortune category. Fons promptly placed herself in this category. This category contains people who have masterd quilting or a specific technique in quilting and have made quilting a career. You’ll agree that Fons & Porter, Lynette Jensen, Eleanor Burns, and Nancy Johnson-Srebro are a few of the people who belong in this caregory. These people may have television shows, written books or their own magazines to belong in this category. In many quilting guilds across the country there are women who teach classes and/or publish books and they too, are in this category albeit on a smaller scale.

Probably the most popular category today is love. We make quilts for unborn grandchildren, sons, daughters, etc. A child may receive a quilt for graduating from high school or college, or their own wedding. We make quilts for friends and family members for their birthdays or the Holidays. We also make “comfort” quilts for someone that we care about who is going through one of life’s rough times such as a divorce, a serious illness, or death of spouse. Comfort quilts can serve two purposes, love and therapy.

In doing her research, Fons states that there are probably more unmentioned reasons why we quilt, however, she found the four above mentioned reasons as the most prominent.

Now, that I have better insight as to why I quilt, I can better explain to my husband why I just spent $150 on fabric that I’m going to cut up and put back together again! Hopefully, he’ll understand.