Let me start my story by making a confession: I am not a quilter! Sadly, my needle skills are limited to being able to sew on a button, and maybe an emergency hem, in a real pinch. So, unlike my very talented colleagues, I have never actually created a quilt. I am, however, filled with great awe and admiration for anyone capable of creating such art.
I come from very recent immigrant families (I’m first generation American on my father’s side), so there was no long held family tradition of quilting. My first exposure to truly amazing quilting was probably during a visit to the Shelburne Museum in Vermont during a family vacation. While my very patient and understanding husband took our very impatient, and not understanding, young children for a romp through the museum’s expansive grounds, I completely lost myself in the gallery containing the museum’s vast and extraordinary collection of quilts. I remember actually gasping out loud at some of the incredible workmanship. HOW were such tiny stitches brought to life? The fact that actual storytelling through fabric was a thing just blew me away.
Cotton, 95 x 100 in.
Museum purchase, acquired from John Kenneth Byard, Silvermine Antiques, 1954-439.1
I was hooked. I visited every museum where I was able to take in the wonder of the quilting world. I was fortunate to be asked to join the Board of the Ridgewood Historical Society and got to see and work with their amazing textile collection. And do they have treasures! We recently unearthed a late 18th, very early 19th century piece of whitework quilting that is a wonder to behold! (You will be able to see it yourself at the show next June.)
Stuffed whitework, Ridgewood Historical Society
I am always struck by the histories of the quilts. Who were the women straining their eyes and cramping their hands and backs to construct these pieces? Were they made with love, or out of necessity? Who wore the original clothes some of the fabric was sourced from? How many generations of family members slept beneath the comforting weight of each quilt? If only the fabrics could tell us their stories!
Here's another confession: I am obsessed with fabric! While my mom wasn’t a quilter, she was a sewer, and made most of her clothes during my childhood--very fashionable, very European clothes in our middle class NJ suburb. Of course, there were leftover scraps from her beautiful fabrics, which she would then use to fashion the most amazing clothes for our Barbies! We’re talking couture knockoffs in brocades, wool crepes and suiting flannels for fall/winter and seersuckers and cotton chintzes for spring/summer. (Unfortunately, this set me up for ridiculously unrealistic expectations for the future. Especially these days! Raise your hand if you’re like me and have worn nothing but yoga pants since March 13??)
I was a voracious reader as a child, and discovered biographies one summer. It was an illustrated biography of Coco Chanel that really launched my fascination with the world of high fashion. I have been reading and researching ever since. I have been lucky enough to be able to channel my passions and obsessions into a project like the Northwest Bergen Quilt and Coverlet Show. I have learned so much from working with this group of amazing women. Keep reading along with our blog, and following our Social Media. Maybe we’ll spark a new passion in you too!
See you next June, Vicky