I'm occasionally asked to write something for a special project at AQS and this is always a delightful task. I did, after all, begin my career as a writer before becoming an editor.
The 2011 Kentucky Visitor's Guide will have a very short piece by me in it about Kentucky's quilt heritage. This topic has been admirably covered by others, including Jonathan Holstein and Shelly Zegart, and I make no claim to improving ground they have so capably made flourish; I'm just reporting.
What I do want to say, though, is that researching that super short article has reminded me once again of how accomplished 19th and 20th century quilters were. With very few tools, bad lighting, not a lot of time and questionable fabric and thread, they created quilts that would stun us today, even if made with the very latest in everything quilting.
Take a look at Kentucky Quilts 1800-1900 (Pantheon Books, 1982) to see what I mean. Whether your taste is what you see or not, you must be impressed with the creativity, artistry and workmanship in those quilts. In the 21st century, we have embarked on a campaign to make quilting as quick, easy, fun and painless as possible. I can't say if this is good or bad, and I don't mean to. I just think it's astonishing, when we take the time to look back, at what our foremothers made happen with needle and thread, unsupported by an almost 4 billion dollar industry.
We should give thanks every day that we have so much creative and artistic support, from fabric manufacturers to thread makers to tool creators to teachers and, yes, publishers like AQS. The list is becoming endless, and that, in itself, is cause for celebration. Quilters have never had it so good.
Take some time to really examine the much older quilts we are lucky to have available to us, whether in books, in exhibits or in person. My hope is that you will have an epiphany similar to mine.