Sowing Seeds, Sewing Quilts
Quilting gardener, Sue Kersey, poses with her bluebonnet quilt.
I’m certainly not the first person to notice that many avid quilters are also avid gardeners. While the same does not always hold true the other way around—I know lots of gardeners who could not care less about quilts—most of the quilters I know have at least a passing interest in gardening. Even those quilters who probably wouldn’t admit to being gardeners, per se, usually share an appreciation for flowers or nature with their plant-loving cohorts.
I’ve been thinking about the link between gardening and quilting and wondering why the two activities are twin passions for so many people. Obviously both are creative, tactile endeavors that involve color and pattern, but there’s more to it than that. Both gardening and quilting engage the mind, the hands, and the eyes. Both nurture the body either through sustenance or warmth, both provide virtually endless possibilities for learning, and while both require time and skill to master, neither excludes the novice. Both gardening and quilting are efforts that can ease the mind, soothe the soul, and fill the heart.
As a member of the Highland Lakes Master Gardener Association, I am lucky enough to know many quilting gardeners. I decided to ask a few of them to share their thoughts about why growing things and making quilts are so interrelated. Here’s what they had to say:
My grandmother, who instilled in me a love of gardening, was also a quilter, so the association was a very natural one for me. She was also my first quilting teacher. There are some traits that all gardeners and quilters have in common:
- • They are creative and have great love of color, texture, and patterns. Both quilting and gardening are an artful expression of self.
- • Both quilters and gardeners tend to have a great deal of patience and a desire to make every “failure” a lesson to move upward.
- • Both quilting and gardening tend to produce a calming effect.
- • I believe both gardeners and quilters are “thinkers” with a little “impulsive” thrown in, rather than the other way around.
- • I think both quilters and gardeners are “givers” whose greatest joy is to make something better.
A warm quilt or a beautiful flower (or salad)—how can the world be better than that?
I know that over half of my quilts have flowers or nature inspirations in the fabric, and many are garden-style quilts. I really feel that my garden is a living palette of colors, designs, shapes and inspiration, waiting there for me to explore. And it’s not only the flowers, plants, and trees that are there for inspiration, but all of the garden’s living creatures, large and small. Many of my quilts are full of dragonflies, bees, bugs, butterflies and birds. —Sue Kersey
The love of color and textures is probably primary as far as what ties quilting and gardening together for me. The process is also similar: planning the garden or quilt with drawings, the construction of rows, considering what looks good next to each other or what needs the most sun. Each has several stages of development, from planning to the binding or canning. Creativity is also a strong tie. Practice makes progress. Both quilters and gardeners are usually very nice, even people. The heritage of both activities goes way back in our history. —Zell Cook
I think a lot of it has to do with how people grew up. Quilting and gardening were things that our mothers and grandmothers took pride in doing. Often both quilting and gardening were necessary to provide for their families. Both quilters and gardeners feel strongly about providing healthier, more meaningful things for their children. Both quilters and gardeners cannot be without something to do with their hands that is productive, enjoyable, and adds to the beauty of their family's lives. My children laugh and say the only things they will fight over after I am gone are my quilts! They gave me a cross-stitch picture that says, "Blessed are the children of the piece-makers, for they shall inherit the quilts." —Rose Lackey
Quilters often have needle-pricked fingers and gardeners often have dirty fingernails. Chances are, you may know someone whose hands display both features. And while they may be a manicurist’s challenge, in my view, quilting gardeners combine their two loves in ways that enrich the lives of everyone around them.
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Column 149: Rosie’s Redwork
Column 148: The Quilt of Belonging
Column 147: Kanthas—The Quilts of Bangladesh
Column 146: Patterns
Column 145: Suzy on Carolyn Mazloomi's Groundbreaking Quilt Exhibit
Column 144: Texas Community Marks Juneteenth Sesquicentennial with History Quilts
Column 143: Maya Embroidered Patchwork
Column 142: Huipil Patchwork Quilts
Column 141: Tom Korn’s Military Medal Quilts
Column 140: The Return of Double Knits!
Column 139: Passage Quilts
Column 138: Home of the Brave Quilts
Column 137: The Story of Fabric Yo-Yos
Column 136: Christmas in July
Column 135: Trifles
Column 134: Deaf Initiatives—Communicating Through Quilts
Column 133: My Betty Boop Quilt
Column 132: Maura Grace Ambrose
Column 131: All You Need Is Love
Column 130: Chicken Linens
Column 129: The Quilted Chuppah
Column 128: Patchwork Around the World: Yoruba Dance Costumes
Column 127: The Bowers Co-Op Quilts
Column 126: Fon Appliqué and Haitian Voodoo Flags
Column 125: The Quilt Garden at The North Carolina Arboretum
Column 124: Harriet Powers and Handful’s Mauma
Column 123: Quilters de Mexico
Column 122: An Appliquéd Surprise
Column 121: Matisse’s Fabric Stash
Column 120: Soogan—The Cowboy’s Quilt
Column 119: The Ron Swanson Quilt
Column 118: HClarkdale, Georgia—A Thread of History
Column 117: How WWI Changed the Color of Quilts in the United States
Column 116: Wagga—The Bushman’s Quilt
Column 115: All in the Family
Column 114: The Alabama State Quilt
Column 113: Balloon Quilts of Albuquerque
Column 112: The Family That Quilts Together, Stays Together
Column 111: Two Rivers, Three Sisters
Column 110: Quilters Helping Quilters
Column 109: Community Cookbooks and Fundraiser Quilts—Parallel Histories
Column 108: Quilting to Freedom
Column 107: National Quilting Day
Column 106: The Airing of the Quilts
Column 105: A Call for a National Juneteenth Commemorative Quilt
Column 104: Dominoes
Column 103: 1936 Texas Centennial Bluebonnet Quilt
Column 102: Helen Blackstone, A Texas Quilter
Column 101: Montana CattleWomen Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 100: 100th Suzy's Fancy Column!
Column 99: Montana Stockgrowers Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 98: The Tobacco Sack Connection
Column 97: Meet the Sisters Who Are State Fair Quilting Queens
Column 96: The connection between fairs and quilts.
Column 95: Her Mother Pieced Quilts
Column 94: Rebecca Barker’s Quiltscapes
Column 93: The Thread and Thimble Club Mystery
See other archived columns here