Wednesday, March 22, 2017

My Crazy Quilt Foray

My grandmothers were both farmer's wives in Iowa. Growing up during the Depression, hours away from cities, on an isolated patch of land, it's not surprising that they were both very frugal. They were also crafty: making clothes, quilts, furniture and home decor. They didn't think of selling their crafts for money – crafts were just a practical aspect of homemaking. Maybe they made something extra lovely to share with their friends and families on occasion. But most importantly, they made stuff to use it.

I love the functional and practical aspects of crafting; in our current makers world, I think it's been a wee bit overlooked.

For example, I find myself thinking about quilts a lot. I began thinking about it - really, over a decade ago – when my grandmother made a quilt for me "from the neighbor-who-died's old dress shirts...oh, and an old sheet I had." I was one part weirded-out and one part impressed by her ingenuity. Upon reflection, it seemed to me that there was something common sense about making a quilt out of clothing/fabric scraps. Patchwork quilts, especially the ones that have this long, grand history as an American tradition, did they not start as someone's plan to use up some fabric scraps?

Today, you can buy kits in the stores especially dedicated to making fabric quilts. There are magazines and online patterns and special cutting supplies all built around the making of a quilt. The fabric options are endless – but don't worry – you can find a curator of quilting fabric, if you need help! It's amazing!

But it's also a long way from where quilts started.

Then I discovered Crazy Quilts. (Neither of my grandmothers ever made these.) Crazy Quilts use a random arrangement of fabric pieces. It's patchwork - without repetition. There was something really interesting to me about the idea of getting rid of repetition in quilts.... Crazy Quilts were a quilt fad in the 1800s. Today, most of the interest in Crazy Quilts revolves around the hand embroidery decoration of Crazy Quilts.

Here's one I found on Etsy. Link here.

But I am fascinated by the idea that randomly sized and shaped pieces can be stitched together to create something unique. I love the idea that a machine couldn't do this: not easily, anyway. I love that you can see the hand of the maker, but not necessarily because of fingerprints or sloppy workmanship, but because of the way someone's brain had to work to figure out this random pattern. It's improv in design. So cool!

So, this weekend I dumped out all my red fabric scraps, and set about making a crazy quilt inspired Schultüte  Why am I combining a German first-day-of-school tradition with an American quilting tradition? I don't know! Because it's a smaller amount of area than a quilt? Because I thought the Schultüte were getting a little too easy? Here's what I've got:

You can find this schultüte here on the WyseWorks Etsy Store.

I think it came out pretty neat. But it turned out to be A LOT of work. Fitting together all those random pieces together was NOT easy. I was also really determined to avoid breaking it down into quilting squares. (That probably would have made it easier, but I was didn't want grids and repetition, right?) I'm not sure I'll do it again. Well, maybe I will because I only used up about a third of my red fabric scraps. And there are a lot more scraps in other colors. We'll see. For now, it was definitely a challenge and a new way of thinking.

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