What inspires you to make a quilt? Is it someone else's design, your own flower garden, or does fabric itself "speak" to you, causing you to cut it or use it in a certain manner of your own choosing? There are so many points of inspiration, one would be hard-pressed to name them all. Some folks create kaleidoscope designs by isolating one element of a photo and repeating it in a circular format. Some people, like me, enjoy adding words to quilts, often inked. Others like to feature portraits of people, dogs, or cats. Still others commemorate events such as horses running in the Kentucky Derby, or images from the Day of the Dead.
Flowers are a favorite theme as are baskets, either full or empty. The pure juxtaposition of shapes brings joy to some quilters who like Crazy Quilting. Existing tapestries, such as the Bayeaux Tapestry, cause quilters to want to reproduce the images. Old quilts forever remain an inspiration as we study their construction, fabrics and their placements, and special techniques and threads used to create them. Certain fabrics, such as chintz, invite us to cut them up and re-arrange the parts in a pleasing manner and appliqué the pieces using buttonhole stitch (broderie perse), as has been done in the past.
The sea, with its fish and coral reefs just under the surface, can provide good subjects. Landscape and seascape scenes are another source for design ideas. Greeting cards can offer motifs that can be adapted in a unique manner, especially when making postcard size quilts. Embroidery can often add another dimension to quilts as can hand quilting lines within appliquéd pieces such as roses. Layering fabrics is necessary for intricate piecework seen in Baltimore Album quilt reproductions.
Yes, there are innumerable ways by which we can be inspired to make a quilt. Family events such as weddings, anniversaries and births often provide a reason to make a special and personalized gift quilt. Personal quilts can often include depictions of the things we love in life and can serve as a "diary" rendered in cloth. Friendship quilts, with their inked messages of love and appreciation, are always appreciated by the gift recipient.
Quilts are about connections. They encompass images from the world around us or else they are abstract or simply geometric, made in colors and shapes that please the eye. Some quilts, with their many tiny pieces, make us wonder at the tenacity of the quilter who was able to finish the quilt! Another category of quilt is the mosaic: quilts composed of many tiny pieces that together form the shape of a rose, a person, etc. Death is not overlooked: there are quilts that record the process of the loss of life. So saying, I am thinking of the quilts of Deidre Scherer, in particular. Her work includes depictions of nursing home residents. We can celebrate the gift of life at any stage!
In general, quilts celebrate life, life as it is and life in an idyllic sense. Think of toile fabrics with their stylized country scenes of people enjoying outdoor activities. Patriotic quilts is another category. Some collectors seek to acquire red, white and blue quilts. Still others prefer red and white quilts, geometrically-pieced or else quilts with red embroidered motifs. Quilts warm the body. More often, they appeal to our color sensibilities and quiet the mind. Alternatively, some art quilts make us "think" or just wonder "why" the artist chose particular fabrics, subjects, or style.
Really, there is endless inspiration available. In the world around us, wildlife and birds, blossoms of all kinds, and mountains and streams offer abundant design sources. I hope that you will encourage yourself to make some original quilts based upon your own interpretations. While it is fun to re-create the designs of others, there is perhaps more satisfaction in coming up with a unique quilt of your own vision.
Here's to happy quilting!
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