I love the feeling of starting a new quilt–deciding on a design, choosing the fabrics, sewing together the first few pieces. Unfortunately, this means that I don’t always end up finishing my quilts–I’m usually looking forward to the next project long before it’s time to sew on the binding. I’ve come to learn that my favorite quilts are quick quilts–quilts that can be finished in just a few cutting and sewing sessions. However, the Q.S.O.S. archives are full of stories of quilts that took months or even years to complete! In today’s Q.S.O.S. Spotlight, 3 quiltmakers share stories of that quilts that took their time.

It took 5 years of planning before Ellen Danforth began her quilt, “You Can’t Wear That”:
americ4“The idea for this quilt came to me as I was nearing my 40th birthday. I didn’t start its construction, however, until nearly five years later. I finished it just before my 46th birthday. It took me a little more than a year to make, although I was designing it in my head for those almost five years. During that time I was thinking about four things: I wanted to celebrate my “coming of age”–at age 40 instead of 18. I chose to work in the technique and style of a Victorian crazy quilt because I wanted to express a sense of myself that I had repressed. The slow process of making the quilt by hand was not unlike the process of self-discovery. The butterflies in the chemise represent my transformation and my ability to grow after a period of inertness and effort.

This quilt is also a “visual conversation” that I had with my husband of twenty years. It was the best way I could find to express myself to him on a subject that I found difficult to speak about.”

Mary Andrews’ first quilt took so long that she thought she’d never make another quilt… but she couldn’t stop and has been quilting ever since!
What got me started in quilting was finding some Sun Bonnet Sue quilt squares in her atticafter she died. The fabric on them was from the 1930’s and even her sisters didn’t know where they came from. It looked like her work. I decided that I would put them together and make a quilt out of them. I was working as a dental hygienist at the time, so I got one of my patients that I knew was a quilter to show me how to put them together. Someone else showed me how to quilt them. I did a terrible job quilting them, [laughs.] because I had never hand quilted before. It took me five years to make that quilt and I thought I would never make another one since it took so long. I went to buy one and saw how expensive they were and thought to myself, I can make this. I made some for my children and then started taking some quilting classes. I joined a quilt guild and got hooked.

Karen Musgrave shares a collaborative quilt (made for a Quilt Alliance fundraiser in 2004!) that took an entire lifetime to create:
14-31-34F-1-qsos-a0a3t0-a_15370“I worked on [this quilt] very intensely for four months… There was a lot of activity. There were days that I worked 14 hours on it. There were other days that I only worked 1 ½ to 2 hours on it. When people ask me how it took me to make the quilt, I tell them almost 48 years.
Why do you say that?
Because it is life experience that took me to be able to make this quilt. I’m not afraid of color. I like color. I like texture. This is a very colorful quilt. It has a lot of texture. It has a lot of symbolism and I love symbolism. I’m really happy about the label that I made because it is three women with hands connected which represents the three people involved in the quilt.”

Interested in reading more? You can find more quilt stories at the Quilters’ S.O.S.- Save Our Stories page on the Alliance’s site!


Posted by Emma Parker
Project Manager,  Quilters’ S.O.S.- Save Our Stories