National Quilting Day 2020 was virtually amazing

Many National Quilting Day plans were laid aside this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. But quilters still celebrated quilts and community on March 21st virtually: sharing photos, gathering together online, and continuing to rally together (and apart) to support essential workers through the making of masks, gowns, and other supplies. Here are a few ways quilters around the world celebrated National Quilting Day this year. Quilts in the fresh air Our celebration at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky was cancelled in order to follow important social distancing rules. True to form, resourceful quiltmakers and quilt lovers across the world hung quilts outside of their homes to mark the day and to send a comforting and inspirational message to their neighbors. You can see a fantastic slide show of posts showing quilts wrapped around trees, hanging from porch rails and out of windows on the Quilt Alliance Instagram account (@quiltalliance) here. Activated and agile quiltmakers We are a resilient planet of humans and quilters, who are playing an important role right now–using our sewing skills to make masks, headbands, hats and gowns for our healthcare heroes. Others are using their organizing skills to coordinate mask requests, production and distribution. Those with design and fundraising skills are raising funds for materials and shipping costs. This is a group effort on a massive scale and the results are incredible. I started sewing masks on National Quilting Day for a Masks for Heroes group based here in North Carolina that has provided over 10,000 masks since March 21! Happy Birth Day Baby in Hungary! A group in Hungary got a jump on their National Quilting Day project and although this is a bit late, we’re so proud to share their story. Thank you to Hungarian quilter Zsuzsanna (Susan) Sziva for contacting us and sharing her groups’ story. Susan’s group, FoltModern, Hungarian Modern Quilting Group took on the Happy Birth Day Baby project this year. They adapted a pattern, Stepping Stones, designed by Janet White, founder of the project that debuted in 2003 as part of the Ohio Quilts! celebration of the Ohio bicentennial. The concept for Happy Birth Day Baby is simple and sweet: quilters make a quilt for the first baby born on National Quilting Day in their local hospital. Susan writes: A warm welcome from Hungary to all quilters around the world. We hope you will have a wonderful Quilting Day this year too. We are a small group of quilters following modern quilting principles. We are small but passionate so we organize a special day for Hungarian quilters second time this year. Last year was very exciting for us. In January we decided to celebrate Quilting Day in Hungary. We planned a virtual sew-along for the day itself and a Happy Birth Day action for the weekend. We chose a simple traditional block, flying geese as a base of the sew-along. We modernized it, but just a bit. We planned a table runner, but it could be easily converted to any size and format. In the special Facebook group of the day, we had 687 members by the end of the day. Some of them was just chatting, some of them was sewing the modified flying geese block, others just a traditional one or a 3D version. We had some sponsors so we drew small gifts a few times. The whole day was fun. Our team members sewed 15 baby blankets using different patterns. As celebrating the Happy Birth Day we gifted all newborn in 3 different hospitals. This year we asked fellow quilters to volunteer our action with blocks if they do not have time or energy for making a whole quilt. These blocks will be sewed together by our team and friends joining the event we organized for this. It is going to be a huge challenge, we have got around 60 blocks so far. Happy stitching, Zsuzsanna (Susan) Sziva FoltModern, Hungarian Modern Quilting Group Quilts made during the 2020 Quilting Day Sew Along in Hungary…

The Gift that Keeps On Giving

In September, the Quilt Alliance hosted its last Quilters Take Manhattan fundraising event. We are sad to end this chapter in our history, but excited about our next adventure–the launch of Quilt Story Road Show in 2018. Watch a video about the road show here! Through Quilters Take Manhattan we made a lot of new friends and worked with some of the most loyal and generous sponsors in the business. Every year at QTM we gave away door prizes and held both a silent auction and a raffle. Our sponsors went all out to provide prizes and items to bid on–the quilt bling was bountiful and beautiful! At our 2017 event in the Big Apple, one of our longtime sponsors Handi Quilter, Inc. donated one of their HQ Stitch machines for our door prize drawing. Lisa Mason of Darien, Connecticut came to QTM this year and put all of her raffle tickets into one box–the one for the HQ Stitch 210 sewing machine donated by Handi Quilter. She had a plan. Lisa’s daughter Caroline works at Elizabeth Seton Pediatric Center in Yonkers, NY, providing art therapy for mothers whose children live in the care facility full time. The program only had one sewing machine, and Lisa decided that if she won the machine in the raffle, she would gift it to this worthy program. Guess who won the raffle? 🙂 “I was so delighted when I actually won!!” said Lisa. “Karma is a wonderful thing!! I’m so thrilled that I could give them that machine.  It is such a great portable!! Of course I had to try it out before I gave it to them.  I used it to teach a group of 9 and 10 year olds how to sew simple patchwork at our local library.  Passing down the obsession!” We were so excited to hear Lisa’s story, further proof that quilters (and quilt industry leaders) are the most generous people you’ll meet. We can’t wait to start traveling to guilds and groups across America to hear more stories of generous deeds and needs met. Find out how you can book a spot on the Quilt Story Road Show on our website.   We’d love to hear about the ways you and/or your guild or group gives back to your community (comment below). On behalf of our sponsors and our members, I wish you a very happy holiday season. May we always know the joy of giving! Holiday hugs to you,…

Meet Quilt Historian Merikay Waldvogel

Merikay Waldvogel is an internationally known quilt historian author, and lecturer. She is widely considered an expert on mid-20th century quilts. Her expertise and tireless research into quilting and the quilters who made them led to her induction into the Quilters Hall of Fame in 2009. We are so honored and excited to have Merikay as a featured speaker at the 2017 Quilter’s Take Manhattan event.  She loves quilts and quilt stories, so her lecture “Making Do: Southern Style” is sure to be both entertaining and educational. We hope you will join us for a fun-filled day of lectures by Merikay and other quilting superstars  on September 16. Here’s your chance to get to know Merikay a little better. We recently asked Merikay to answer five questions we ask quiltmakers as part of our Quilters’ S.O.S. – Save Our Stories( QSOS) oral history project. Here are her answers – enjoy! What is your first quilt memory? I call it “my quilt epiphany.” I was out shopping one Saturday morning in Evanston, Illinois looking for something to decorate a wall in my new Chicago apartment. One quirky quilt on display in a shop window caught my eye. I was immediately drawn to it. I felt a palpable physical reaction. My heart was racing. I was hooked. I bought it without even considering the age, pattern, or price.   That quilt changed my life. Today nearly 45 years later, when you ask me “what is your first quilt memory” I can honestly say that was it.   As a little girl growing up in suburban St. Louis, I did not encounter quilts anywhere. I have spent my adult life in the South where it seems like everyone’s grandmother made quilts. Quilting groups at churches are still active. People still lay out their family quilts at concerts in the park. Trunks of quilts still show up in attics. And, I will probably be studying and stroking quilts until my dying day.     Have you ever used quilts to get through a difficult time? That’s an interesting question. I have to say the most difficult time for me was when my mother died in 1973. She was only 46 and it was breast cancer. Unbeknownst to me, she was making a cross-stitch quilt during the last year or so. Her friend, Mary, had it quilted by a church group and wanted to give it to one of us four kids. It’s hard for me to fathom this now but no one expressed an interest in the quilt, so Mary offered to make a quilt of our choice for each of us. I asked for a traditional star quilt made from dress fabrics my mother had sewed. I received the quilt in about 1978 and used it on our bed in Tennessee. Both of my sisters also got quilts, but it was decided that my brother’s quilt would be Mother’s cross-stitch quilt. Being the oldest sister, I decided I would hold on to it until he got “settled.”  I still have it. Unlike 40 some years ago, when I didn’t consider cross-stitch quilts “real” quilts, today I know making a kit quilt is not the easiest thing in the world, and of course, it is special because she made it at a very difficult time of her life and I wonder what she was thinking at the time. What makes a quilt appropriate for a museum or special collection (including yours)? Quilts for museums ought to be in excellent condition, have a solid provenance, and most importantly, be worthy of future research and exhibition. These include: quilts with inscribed dates, names, and locations; pictorial and commemorative quilts; quilts with unusual fabrics; quilts made within one family; and quilts made by noted quilt designers and prize winning quiltmakers.    For my own collection, I chose that first quilt because its quirkiness intrigued me. I still don’t know why the unknown maker finished it the way she did.  Maybe she was going through a difficult time herself.  I soon became enthralled by the printed fabrics in quilts. I loved Log Cabin quilts, for example.  At first, I only collected 19th century quilts, but as I learned more about quiltmakers of the 1930s, I began collecting patterned quilts and even kit quilts. I used them in books, lectures, and exhibits. Every quilt I personally acquired had to spark my curiosity. The Bird’s Eye View of the Chicago World’s Fair quilt by Richard Rowley opened up a new level of collecting and in-depth research for me, as did the Chintz Center Medallion quilt (date inscribed 1833) from North Carolina. Both quilts are exceptional quilts with many aspects to explore. I have written about them and displayed them often. I am sure they will both find homes in museums eventually, but for now I enjoy owning a piece of American quilt history.    What do you think makes a great quilt? You ask difficult questions!   That reminds me of the project Karey Bresenhan proposed at the end of the 20th century. She asked representatives from various quilt organizations to choose their top 100 quilts of the 20th century. I was on the panel. We had a short time to make our choices. I remember thinking how the goal seemed impossible. All kinds of thoughts ran through my head . . . are we talking about old quilts and newly made quilts? Would a Jean Ray Laury or Yvonne Porcella quilt win out over a Bertha Stenge or Grace Snyder quilt? Would an Amish quilt hold its own against a utility quilt? Would kits be excluded? And how would the judges make a comprehensive search? That question turned out to be the key to choices. Most of us had extensive libraries. Being a part of the state quilt documentation projects, I knew I could find photographs of excellent quilts in the state quilt books. The organizers collected our suggestions and then sent us a final set of photographs to vote for the top 100 quilts. I didn’t agree with all the final choices, but I would say for the most part, the winning quilts were “great” quilts. To me, a great quilt is above all else well-made, has a sensitive design, and makes a strong overall impact. Like a fine piece of art, it draws you in, ignites something within you, and leaves an impression.   What do you think about the importance of quilts in American life? Whether we call them blankets, covers, or quilts, quilts have always been there in American life. Providing warmth, comfort and joy, quilts also carry with them memories and mysteries. They are there at life’s special moments.They are gifts of friendship and love. Their making can be soothing and healing. A lot of laughter and story-telling goes on around a quilting frame and among friends sharing old quilts. Quilts bring people together who may never have known each other.   For my own American life, I can say that quilts were my entrée to the South. Through quilts (by listening to quilters’ stories and researching the times the quilts were made), I came to love this place, Knoxville in East Tennessee, I call home. Pictures from Merikay’s Album Friends met through quilting and quilt documentation days. This Sampler includes our favorite Tennessee quilt patterns found during Quilt survey in 1984-85. At my house with quilt friends from left: Joyce Gross, Linda Claussen, Cuesta Benberry, Eva Earle Kent, Me, and Bets Ramsey in 1993. Merikay and Bets Ramsey examine a quilt for the Tennessee state survey. Quilts on a stand in my office–a variety of new and old! I love them all. Here I talk about a heavy wool quilt made of a cloth called “Linsey.”…

Q & A with Laura Hartrich of @quiltstories

We first met Laura Hartrich at QuiltCon 2015 in Austin, Texas, when she recorded a Go Tell It at the Quilt Show! video with us. Her quilt “Quilt for Our Bed,” pieced by Laura and quilted by Nikki Maroon, won the People’s Choice Award at QuiltCon that year, and we were thrilled to document Laura’s quilt story, along with 39 others exhibited at the show.

In 2016, Laura founded an Instagram account, Quilt Stories, that already has over 3,000 followers. We recently asked Laura to tell us more about her inspiration and goals for the project. Q: Laura, what motivated you to start the Quilt Stories Instagram Page? A: To be completely honest, the motivation was a little selfish. I’m a quilter myself. On my good days, I love the community and inspiration that come along with being connected to so many quilters around the world, via social media, especially Instagram. On my not-so-good days, I struggle with comparing my work to that of others, and feeling like I’ll never measure up to the vast talent that’s out there in the quilt world. I wanted to create a project that would remind me that it’s not all about talent and design and book deals and QuiltCon acceptance letters. I thought providing a platform for people to tell their most meaningful quilt stories would give me that reminder. That’s not to say I don’t love great design and show-worthy quilts. But I wanted to showcase quilts that shine for other reasons… Q: Your page header says: “A place to share quilts with special stories. A place to be reminded why we quilt.” Do you give any perimeters for the stories people submit?  A: I really don’t. I let people interpret it as they will. I also don’t curate the account at all. I post all the stories people submit, in the order received. If someone thinks their quilt has a story worth telling, I want @quiltstories to be the place where they share it. And I really believe that every handmade quilt has a story worth telling. The people who follow the account have all been so sweet and supportive when folks share quilts, whether they are commenting on a master quilter’s work or a first time quilter’s work. The focus is more on the intention of the maker, and a little less on the end result. I think it’s a special corner of social media, where positivity and encouragement are the norm. Q: When did you start the page and how many stories have you received since you started? A: I started the account in October 2016. I’ve shared a story almost every day for the last 9 months. There are almost 200 stories posted, and the Quilt Stories community, as I like to think of it, has grown to over 3,000 followers. Q: What is the funniest story you’ve received? A: I don’t actually receive a lot of funny stories! Most of them are more purely in the happy or sad range. But I can think of a couple. My favorite has to be from Jill of @pieladyquilts who sent in a story about a quilt she made called “Let’s Get Married” (pictured at left). She explained how her husband proposed so unexpectedly (after a very short courtship!) that she “nearly drove off the road.” Her full description was funnier than mine. You can scroll back and find her post on December 8, 2016.  Q: What story made you the most emotional? A: Oh, wow…  There are so many beautiful stories submitted, that either make your heart break or burst with happiness. It feels impossible to choose one. Nikki of @babylovesquilts sent in a quilt (pictured at right) she made for friends who lost their baby 23 weeks into their pregnancy. That was a heart-wrenching story. Many quilt stories I receive tell a story of loss and grief. A memorial quilt can bring healing both to the maker and the recipient. On the happier side, I loved a story from Melanie, @southerncharmquilts, about admiring a picture of her great-grandmother with a beautiful hexie quilt top (pictured at left), but no one in her family knowing where that quilt had ended up. Not long after, Melanie received a phone call from her grandma, who had found the quilt top, bagged up and in mint condition. Melanie was, of course, thrilled, and went on to finish the quilt. Quilters finishing long-forgotten quilts is a common theme, and always a happy story. Q: What are your plans for the project?  A: I can’t say that I have any plans for the project, other than to keep posting as long as people are willing to share their stories with me and the Quilt Stories audience. Thank you for featuring Quilt Stories, and thank you for all the great work you to do preserve stories of quilts at Quilt…

Scavenger Hunt: a fun add-on event during QTM!

If you’re coming to Quilters Take Manhattan this year on Saturday, September 16, I hope you’ll consider supplementing the fun by coming to our amazing Garment District Scavenger Hunt the day before. The Hunt goes from 2:30 to 5:00 pm on Friday and tickets are $40/each. Buy your tickets here. Since the hunt was my idea and I put the event together last year, I wanted to let you know how it works. This isn’t the sort of scavenger hunt where you’ll have to look under rocks in parks, or knock on a stranger’s door to get a weird kitchen gadget. Instead, you’ll be roaming around the Garment District as part of a team of five, with very explicit addresses and directions. At each of the places you go, you’ll be asked to prove you were there by taking a “group selfie,” sometimes with a prop (at Mood Fabrics, you may have to pose with clashing fabrics.) What makes this hunt especially fun for quilters, is that you’ll be stopping at historic landmarks, tucked-away quilt shops and the headquarters of NY-based fabric companies and having loads of fun along the way. We’ve made the time period longer, so everybody will have time to get to each and every stop. (You won’t want to miss any: some of the people you meet along the way will give you free stuff!) You can bring friends to add to your team, but you can also sign up solo: we’ll put you on a team with other passionate quilters. Each team will have 5 people. Here are a few of the things you might be asked to do: Visit this famous sculpture of a garment worker. Get your picture taken with someone on Seventh Ave. who looks like she/he ought to be a contestant on Project Runway. The rest is a secret! You won’t find out the stops until you start this magical Scavenger Hunt.                   By the way, the hunt will start and stop at Gotham Quilts, a cool modern quilt shop on the 6th floor of an office building. Don’t take my word that this will be a memorable outing, let’s ask Andrea “Andi” Foster (below left) who was on last year’s winning team, pictured here (below right) with their winner ribbons and prizes! “ This event is so much fun! You and your teammates tear around NYC and try to come up with a strategy to stay ahead of the other teams. I loved meeting other quilters, learning where the fabric companies and stores were located and seeing where NYC quilters get to shop. It was a blast!” For the sake of honesty, I have to admit that I stole this idea from famous quilter Paula Nadelstern, whose 60th birthday party was a Manhattan scavenger hunt. All the stops were about things she loved (the Folk Art museum, M & Ms) and hated (cilantro) and we had to get our picture taken showing each of these things. I couldn’t believe how much fun it was to experience the city in this way (and I lived in NYC for 10 years, so it’s not a novelty for me). I wanted to share the fun with all of YOU, fans of the Quilt Alliance and its annual benefit/inspirational party, Quilters Take Manhattan. I was lucky at Paula’s party to be on the winning team (see us left, proudly wearing our plastic medals and “I’m Amazing” tee-shirts.) Join the party! Manhattan has always rewarded those with a sense of adventure! You can thank me later. Buy your tickets ($40/each) on the Quilt Alliance website. Love, Meg Meg Cox is an author, quilter and traditions expert, who served on the Quilt Alliance board from 2005-2015, and as president from 2010-2015. Visit Meg’s website: megcox.com…

Five questions for Sherri Lynn Wood

Sherri Lynn Wood is the keynote speaker at this year’s Quilters Take Manhattan, the Quilt Alliance’s annual fundraising event in New York City. Also speaking at the Saturday, September 16 Main Event at the Fashion Institute of Technology will be Merikay Waldvogel and Michael A. Cummings. Women of Color Quilters Network founder Carolyn L. Mazloomi will interview Cummings for Quilters’ S.O.S.- Save Our Stories (QSOS), and Craft Napa founder Pokey Bolton will emcee. Sherri is a working artist based in Oakland, CA. Most recently she completed a four-month residency at Recology San Francisco with the task of presenting a body of work made completely from materials scavenged from the city dump. She has been making quilts and facilitating improvisational patchwork as a restorative life practice for twenty-five years. She is the author of The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters – A Guide to Creating, Quilting and Living Courageously (Abrams 2015). We recently asked Sherri to answer five questions we ask quiltmakers as part of our QSOS oral history project. 1. What is your first quilt memory? Sherri Lynn Wood (SLW): One of my father’s co-workers in Richmond, VA, named PT for Hiram Petty Thomas, had a farm in South Hill, Virginia, which he visited every weekend to work it. Sometimes our whole family would visit PT on the farm just for a day. One summer when I was 9 or 10, I rode up one weekend with PT and stayed for a whole week with just his Aunt Helen and his mother Florence. PT returned the following weekend and brought me back with him. Helen and Florence ran a florist business in South Hill and maintained the farm some. During that week they took me to their neighbors house, one farm over, to a quilting bee. The hostess lowered a big frame from the ceiling and Florence, Helen and two or three other women sat around and quilted for the afternoon. I remember peeking underneath and waxing thread, and then threading the needles. When we were back at PT’s farm, Helen always had a sewing machine set up on the dining room table with stacks of diamonds, or squares, or triangles ready to be stitched whenever there was a free moment. They showed me how to chain stitch the patches, and that, I think, was the first time I ever sewed on a machine. I bought my first sewing machine when I was twelve, but didn’t make my first quilt until I was 24. 2. Have you ever used quilts to get through a difficult time? SLW: Yes, actually. I became depressed, and I dropped out of divinity school at Emory University around the age of 24 and I took up quilting. I loved it so much that I got a booth at the local farmer’s market and began making quilts for sale. I had always thought I would be a minister, and when I dropped out of school because of the depression, I was without a sense of identity. Quilting was hands on and very soothing, and eventually led me into becoming an artist. Over the course of my career and as I’ve become more healed myself, I’ve consciously chosen a trajectory of service and healing with my art and quilting practice. Also, fun note – seven years after dropping out of divinity school, Emory accepted one of my first major bodies of art work, “Parable Quilts,” for my masters thesis and awarded me a Master of Theological Studies. 3. What are your favorite quilting tools? SLW: Well, I have so many favorites, but let’s start with scissors since they seem to have taken a back seat to the rotary cutter. I still use my rotary cutter but there is so much I couldn’t do without my scissors. Since I do not use rulers to square blocks up, as my quilts get bigger I have to use my scissors to cut large sections and rows to match before I flip and sew.  I always list SHARP dressmaking shears on my list of supplies for students, and am always dumfounded by how many people ignore this staple tool and bring dull or an itty bitty pair of scissors to class. Scissors are also necessary for cutting clothes apart, which I do a lot in my make-do and passage quilting practice. I also love my 15 year old straight stitchin’ and shootin’ Juki. It’s still going strong! Can’t live without my Q-Snap floor frame, also at least 15 years old, for hand quilting. 4. What do you think makes a great quilt? SLW: This is a great question and my answer is the rhythm of the maker’s attention. Another way to say that is honesty, or limbic resonance, or making relationships from a soul level. I’m all about flexible patterns and following internal cues to improvise patchwork. The more honest I am with myself, the more present I am to my emotions, habits, desires, joys, and challenges as they arise, the better the quilt. There is a lot of emphasis in the quilting world and the broader culture on good design, but my emphasis is on self-discovery, seeing my patterns. My goal is to get my design-planning brain and ego out of the way so that the patterns can flow as immediately as possible from a soul level. It’s not so easy to do! For me it’s a life practice. When I see this kind of soul-level honesty, this kind of deep rhythm of attention in another person’s quilt, I’m in awe. 5. What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quiltmakers today? SLW: I may have answered that on a personal level in the question above. However, on a community level, I think quilt makers are diverse politically and it’s a rare opportunity these days to work side by side and share a similar love for a craft or activity, with people who have opposing political views. I think the biggest challenge may be for us to continue to explore, understand, accept and celebrate our differences rather than ignoring them, as well as celebrating our similarities. I would love to see the community of quilters to continue to grow in diversity in the areas of race, age, gender, nationality, and class. I think it’s great how guilds come together to make quilts for other people who have suffered or are at some disadvantage, but what I would like to see more of is these same quilters going out and quilting WITH these communities, like refugee communities, or with homeless populations for example, rather than for them. There is so much potential and infrastructure that has barely been tapped for social change, systemic healing, and growth for guild members and the broader communities they are a part of….