TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Memory Quilts by Donna Hussain

Ski Sqaw by Donna Hussain

Only a few quilters are able to make a living selling quilts that they have made. They may win prize money in quilt competitions or make quilts on commission, but the money they earn usually supports their quilting hobby rather than paying for groceries. Quilters can earn money teaching quilting, selling quilt fabric and supplies, writing books on quilting, or giving lectures to quilting guilds. However, these activities are usually part-time and not very remunerative.

If not for money, why do quilters quilt? They quilt because they love the texture of fabrics. They enjoy the process of quilt making that enables them to create beauty while playing with color and design. Their quilts are decorative and utilitarian, cherished gifts when given to family or friends

In addition, many quilts are made to record memories: a wedding, a birth, a graduation, or a new job. One of my friends made a quilt for her son out of T-shirts with logos from bike races in which he competed. Another friend sewed a quilt to commemorate her father’s military service in WWII. No occasion is too trivial to be the theme of a quilt, says Mary Lou Weidman, the author of Quilted Memories. How about a quilt to record a first touchdown, a fun day at the beach, or shopping with a friend?

Mary Lou’s book inspired me to sew a quilt about my family’s annual ski trip to Squaw Valley. Since I can’t draw, I got the outline for my skier son from a drawing in a resort brochure. A photograph of the family gave me outlines for my daughter-in-law and younger grandson.

Cutouts from a magazine helped me draw the other figures. Note that I put myself on the ski lift wearing the same ski outfit that I’ve worn during every ski trip since 1983. My husband sitting next to me has a broken arm, a memory of a fall that wrecked his ski season. The idea of using buttons for snowfall came from Mary Lou’s book as well.

The inspiration for my quilt Forest Light came from a photo I took of dogwood blooming in the forest in early spring.

The making of this quilt was quick and easy. For the background I used strips of green and brown joined together at random, then cut on a forty-five degree angle for placement between the vertical tree trunks. I learned this technique at a quilt show by studying one of the quilts on display. Indeed, one of the main reasons I go to quilt shows is to make notes on color placement, scale, construction techniques, border designs, embellishments, and quilting patterns.

In Forest Light I fused tree leaves to my quilt top. These were cut from a fabric patterned with leaves. I generally favor appliqué over fusing because I fear that fused fabric will lift over time. However, I planned to machine quilt parallel wavy lines across the quilt surface to simulate wind so I knew my fused leaves would be secure. In nature dogwood blossoms are small, delicate flowers, not the large blossoms on my quilt. One of the joys of quilting is that a quilt maker can create an imaginary universe.

Forest Light by Donna Hussain

Several years ago a speaker at my quilt guild warned us that the quilts family members generally fight over when a quilter dies are memory quilts: the ones that incorporate grandmother’s handkerchief, lace from a niece’s wedding veil, or fabric left-over from dresses sewn for grand-daughters. My two children have already agreed to share future ownership of Ski Squaw. They each will have six months yearly to hang the quilt in their home.

California quilter, Donna Hussain, has exhibited in major quilt shows around the country, authored books, and is a regular contributor to Fiber Focus. Click on name to see all of her past articles. The photo shows Donna with her husband, Pascha.

1 comment:

  1. WOW, I would LOVE a photo of Donna's wonderful quilt for my book I am working on. So glad to see it in this blog! Loved reading every word and more of the posts here.
    Mary Lou Weidman
    Thanks so much for such a fun blog


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