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Jim's Blog

Purity & Purpose in Quilting Traditions

Over the years my wife Jan and I have built up a wonderful collection of antique quilts. I keep them close by in my studio to use for reference or inspiration in case I get stuck on an idea or feel the need for a creative boost. They’ve become a pretty substantial part of my creative process. And I’m often asked which is my favorite, but I don’t really have a good answer for that. It’s like asking which is my favorite grandkid! I’m pretty fond of them all, and like my grandkids, each one has its own unique qualities. But if I had to choose it’d be a Log Cabin quilt that we picked up a few years ago in South Carolina. It dates from the late 1800’s, but some of the fabrics in it go back more that century before that. That's typically the case, with most quilts back then were made from scraps from earlier projects. The really unusual aspect of this particular Log Cabin quilt is that the center squares in each of the blocks is black instead of the traditional red. The red center is supposed to represent the “heart” or “hearth” of the home. That this quilter used black squares leads to all manner of speculation. I use a variation of this design from time to time in a variety of pieces like the fun Mickey and Pluto design below.

I come by my love of quilts and quilters naturally. I grew up around them! My mother was a quilter. Her mother, with her crazy quilts and intricate Trapuntos was one of the finest quilters I’ve ever known. I learned a lot living with those women, things like patience and perseverance and thrift. Some of those basic attitudes essential to quilting have served me well in every part of my life. But more than just the basics of how-to and what-it-takes, I saw in their passion for quilting an undeniable spirit of creativity and a boundless imagination… translating ordinary, mismatched bits of cloth and thread into something intricately constructed and beautiful. That passion, that desire to create something wonderful out of the things at hand is at the heart of quilting. It’s something I strive for in my own work and it’s the basis of what the world calls folk art.

That’s why I’m excited to be appearing at the Sewing & Quilt Expo in Schaumburg, IL this Thursday and Friday, October 13-14. They’re my kind of people! I’ll be signing and meeting folks most of the day Thursday with more on Friday including a special presentation of new designs at 11:15am. Come out if you’re in the neighborhood, I’m really looking forward to it! For more info go to their website.