a journey to the artists, origins and work of American craft
Loraine Harrington, Pant’s Legs Quilt, c. 1992, Courtesy of Mississippi Cultural Crossroads.
uilting, the tradition of
stitching together layers
of fabric and padding,
probably began as a way
to provide protection in clothing,
but we most often associate quilts
with the warmth and comfort of
bedding. As so often happens with
objects created for a particular purpose, quilts have come to be valued,
not only for their function, but also
for their appearance.
Many quilters use pieces of
assorted new or recycled fabrics
stitched together to create a quilt’s
top layer. When piecing together a
quilt top, a quilter might use a pattern to ensure that the pieces are
consistent sizes and shapes, resulting in a fairly regular and often symmetrical design. Following another
tradition called strip, or string quilting, a quilter sews strips of fabric
together and pays attention less to
a specific pattern and more to how
the colors and shapes relate to each
other during the piecing process.
This improvisational approach to
quilting often results in unpredictable and asymmetrical designs.
Just as musicians come together
to create a symphony, quilters often
gather together to make a quilt.
of sewing pieces into “How far can a needle take you? a quilt top, —Hystercine Rank”in
stitching a pattern to join the top
layer, batting, and bottom is time-consuming. The collaborative tradition in quilt making began when
family members, friends, or church
groups gathered to help complete
a quilt. The hours spent quilting
provided opportunities for social-
izing, telling stories, and sharing
household advice. Begun many years
ago, the quilting “bee” or quilting
party continues today in churches,
schools, or community centers when
people work together to complete a
quilt. Some quilts created celebrate
special events or a group’s identity.
The Crossroads Quilters is a
group of local women who cre-
sissippi Cultural Crossroads, a rural
Mississippi arts center. Working in
concert on their quilts, the members carry on the quilting tradition
of their community. The group and
some of its individual members have
received widespread recognition for
their beautiful quilts.