The Quilt Scout
by Mary Fons
Two Kinds of Quilters
When you hear someone beginning a sentence with the phrase “Look, there are two kinds of people in the world”—beware. There are 7 billion people on Earth. Two kinds? It’s probably more like 7 billion.
Blue Marble - There’s a lot of fabric in that place. Earth, as seen from Apollo 17. Photo: Wikipedia
In fact, I like the version I heard years ago: “There are two kinds of people in the world: the kind of people who think there are two kinds of people in the world, and the kind of people who know better.”
That said, over the years of being around quilters, hearing quilters’ stories, and telling my own, I’ve come to believe that for those of us who come to quilting later in life—by that I mean people who did not grow up sewing and making quilts—there are two paths that lead us to the quilting life: joy...or pain.
Think about it: happy events like the birth of a baby, a graduation, or nuptials are perfect occasions for the gift of a quilt and indeed, many quilters point to such an occasion as the reason they got started in the first place. The baby quilt is such a popular rationale for a person’s first quilt, we in the business like to joke that it’s “the gateway drug.”
Out of the desire to mark a joyful milestone, people who always kinda thought about making a quilt one day will finally go for it. And there you have it: one “kind” of
quilter is born.
Quilt in lamplight - The quilt: good for pretty much anything. Photo: Wikipedia
But not everyone starts making quilts because of the good stuff. I know
The first few quilts for me were a way to heal, both physically and emotionally, from stuff that was going on in my life. I didn’t explicitly say to myself, “Making quilts is a metaphor for healing.” I just went nuts with cutting fabric up into little pieces and sewing it back together again. It wasn’t conscious, this drive to piece myself back together,
as it were.
But the further I get from my start as a quilter, the more I see it clearly: I came to quilting out of a desire to feel better, to feel more whole. Making a quilt was a way for me to connect with my family and to connect with myself. I know it sounds a little woo-woo, but if you make quilts, you know that there is a little woo to what we do. We make colorful blankets, y’all. Blankets that warm, cover, wrap, and protect the people we love, and that includes ourselves. That’s deep.
And so, if you consider this idea that there are two kinds of quilters in the world, the kind of quilter who comes to quilting for joy or the kind that comes from a place of seeking, which kind are you?
Oak leaf - Joy or sorrow, isn’t it just the best eye-candy? Oak Leaf Variant appliqué quilt, c. 1860, cottons, made by Mrs. M.E. Poyner, Paducah, Kentucky, dimensions: 74" x 86". Collection of Bill Volckening. Image: Wikipedia
I don’t need to point out that there is no competition, no better or more virtuous path. And it’s true that once you’re “in,” your reasons for staying a quilter will continue to change. I may have come to the craft out of a place of seeking to soothe myself, but believe me—there’s a lot of pure joy around here.
And the quilter who was a one-woman graduation-quilt machine for years may find that now that everyone’s gotten their quilt, she can finally make her own. Just for her. And she’ll go seeking what that quilt looks like and how it makes her feel.
There might be just two kinds of quilters in the world but oh, the glorious millions of quilts we make.