Monday, March 1, 2010

Quilting in the Genes

I've wondered if the propensity to arrange tiny pieces of fabric in different patterns might not be some sort of genetic marker. Some natural tendency passed down through generations whereby those afflicted try to make sense of the world by controlling, albeit in a minor manner, the creative chaos. Highfalutin' phrases for this simple question: is quilting genetic?

In my family, I thought I'd not gotten any quilting genes but then again,  I possess two very ragged family quilts. Both from my grandparents' generation (1920s-30s), the first is a ragged kid's quilt made from Ruby McKim's Birds pattern. The pattern, scanned from the 1931 McKim Studio catalog, is shown at right. My dad, who had worked on the quilt as a kid, proudly gave it to me when he realized I probably was going to be a quilter forever.

The other is, at first glance, a totally white quilt. Odd, since there are appliqued blocks which if viewed in a strong light, show as a typical Rose of Sharon quilt. And that's what strong dry-cleaning fluid will do to old quilts! Mom told me that quilt was made either for or by her mother. But that's it--the extent of the family patchwork legacy--two very faded quilts.

Some lucky people come by their quilting talent in their family and you can trace their heritage. Joe Cunningham out in San Francisco is one such gifted quilter. His website is . Joe's own work ranges from the traditional to the contemporary and recently he sold his handmade quilt Bend in the River to the deYoung Museum. That's why he's grinning in the photograph!

 There's an exhibition at the AQS Quilt Museum in Paducah KY that also displays Joe's work plus quilts made by his mother and grandmother. These are wonderful and I am envious that Joe can truthfully say he comes by his quilting genes naturally.The Dresden Plate quilt is by his grandmother Minnie Rose.

Joe's mom Janice made this indestructible, bright-as-the-day-it-was-made polyester double-knit beauty.

Thank you to Joe for letting me write about him and his family quilts. So, go rifle through the quilts in that old trunk and see what your own quilting DNA might be!