Monday, March 10, 2008

"That quilt's a part of the family...."

"It's come down from eldest daughter to eldest daughter since.....oh, I couldn't rightly say when. Long before the War between the States." **Lewis Co. quilter**

In the hollows of the Appalachian Mountains, the tradition of native crafting has thrived uninterruptedly for over two hundred years. It is part of the lives of the people who make their homes in this impressive mountain range. The mountains sweep from New England to Alabama, forming a natural barrier between the commercial Eastern coast and rich farmlands of the Midwest.
Life in those hills has always been harsh....and eking out a living, difficult.. the average stranger wonders why the early pioneers stopped there instead of going on to sweeter lands.


The people who live there, seem to have been molded by the environment. Even in the difficult circumstance forced upon them, they remain proud and independent. The old ways and beliefs do not die easily. A sense of family runs deep, and collective memory traces its way back to the very beginning. They work, not merely to survive, but because this is what it means to be human. Work gives dignity within family and community. Charity is anathema, except for the help they give each other.
They do for themselves, making with their own hands that which cannot be bought in the store. The secrets of the old crafts have been passed generation to generation, despite the encroaching industrialization of the nation.
And for we, who do not live in the hills, a sense of loss and longing for something that has been torn away from us. And a desire to make a personal statement by means of an old craft.** For me that craft is quilting. It is my connection to what has gone before and what will come after, when I am no longer here.**
The gift of quilting is like the gift of music. You have to love it. You have to want to make something beautiful and lasting. Something that will 'speak' about the 'who' of your being.
Excerpts from "The Mountain Artisans Quilting Book", by Alfred Allan Lewis...published 1973 by McMillian House.

**To whom it may concern** I am not taking credit for writing this, that is why the Lewis Co. Quilter i.d. is by the quote. The remainder of the information is para-phrased, for the most part, as Mr. Lewis uses many additional description words in each sentence. If I were quoting him exactly I would have used QUOTATION marks.
The Mountain Artisans Quilting Book has become difficult to find, and my intention was to share knowledge of its existance with the quilting community.

17 comments:

Quilt Memories said...

I can relate to all you wrote. I was raised in the hills of Kentucky, times were very hard, but we all endured, didn't know any difference. I am very honored by my upbringing but am so very thankful I didn't have to raise my family the way I was raised. Tough times, but I think it made a better person of me! J

Pat said...

finn...you're funny :) maybe I'm the only one who admits to 'quilting voodoo' but I might not be the only one who practices it :)

paula, the quilter said...

It probably doesn't surprise you that I have that book. What your post brought to mind is the Foxfire Books series. I should go dig them out again and find the sections on quilting. Thank you, Finn, for making think of these books again.

meggie said...

Thanks for posting this Finn. It is a book I may never see, but it is interesting.

Norma said...

Anonymous is alive and well I see! We all need someone to keep us on the up and up.......so many thanks to those out there like Anonymous who provide that service. SHEESH!

My quilts speak for me, I am just not quite sure what they are saying. Maybe Anonymous knows?

Hang in there, Finn!

Libby said...

There is just something about things - anything - that is made by one's one hand that makes it sing, and surely brings a smile to my face.

Katie said...

Recently I watched a program on PBS that was about the history of "hillbilles". It was so interesting. They said many of the people had been forced to move from Scotland to Ireland by the English. From Ireland they came to these hills which reminded them of their homes. Here they continued their "clan" way of life. Very self sufficient, independent people who played an important role in the history of America. Made wonderful quilts, too.

Katie said...

Recently I watched a program on PBS that was about the history of "hillbilles". It was so interesting. They said many of the people had been forced to move from Scotland to Ireland by the English. From Ireland they came to these hills which reminded them of their homes. Here they continued their "clan" way of life. Very self sufficient, independent people who played an important role in the history of America. Made wonderful quilts, too.

Katie said...

I'm having an impossible time getting anything to post to my blog, so I guess Blogger just went wild and did my comments twice. Sorry. I usually post comments before reading the other comments. Our posts are not meant to be perfect grammar. I guess they would be something for an "editor" or use lots of red ink on, but that's not what our blogs are. Finn always gives credit where credit is due, as she did here. This wasn't a flaw of not giving credit; it was a type-o. SHEESH

QuiltedSimple said...

Finn - I for one am glad you posted the excerpts from that book - I think I need to find it at our local library - it definitely gave me something to think about. How often are people of the newer generations going for the latest fad, the hottest gadget, and forgetting about traditions.

Thanks so much for reminding me why I am choosing to attempt to lead the simpler life,
Blessings,
Kris

dee said...

we have this book in our Library and it was one of the first I ever read about quilting and crafts many years ago. It's good to see it still has relevance for people. So much of the handwork of women was becoming a "lost art"
I love seeing what you're up to-always interesting and HEY! you've been a victim of the Attack of the Anonymii. It's a large, and talented group-welcome!

Granny Lyn said...

As usual, you have taught me a lesson in quilting. These are the things that interes me the most, the lessons, the history, the love of quilting.
Thank you for the reminder to us all,
lyn

Pam said...

Thank you for sharing that. I have never seen the book and it look like it would be such an amazing book to read. The cover itself is so interesting. It is hard to imagine quilting something like that with the minimal of tools ( not like today!) and the poor light and minimal fabric choice. Great post!

julieQ said...

Our library has this book, and I have enjoyed it...many times!! I wish our library had lots more quilting books! The ones there are tattered from us all checking them out...our quilt guild has donated many.

sharon b said...

Thanks for reminding me about this book.. It was sitting on my shelf getting dusty.. I'm re examining it thanks to you.. You are such a gem in the quilting world to us all. God Bless.. and delete anayamous.... Peace be with you.. and keep quilting..

Kim said...

well I just bought one from AMazon for 71¢ lol. Looks like a great book :) Thanks Finn- enjoy the upcoming weekend

susan said...

omg! i had that book, was one of the ones i had to let go when i left kauai...only so many books and fabric and stuff to go. i loved that book! but as they say, out with the old and in with the new...not supposed to be buying new stuff but it just followed me right out the door dear :-)