I lived in Lewisburg Pennsylvania for two years when I was the Stadler Poetry Fellow at Bucknell University— smack in the heart of Pennsylvania quilt country. I saw quilts hanging on clotheslines when I walked to Market Street and when I drove to the grocery store; I found old ones piled in every antique shop and new ones hanging in boutiques; there were quilting notions and fabric in every craft store.
Surrounded as I was with examples of this rich American craft tradition, I decided to learn more. I went to the library.
And for an entire semester, I filled journal after journal with notes on quilts: whitework and Baltimore Album quilts, pattern variations like Orange Peel and Drunkard’s Path, traditional color schemes and quilting cultures like Gee’s Bend, messages coded in colors and patterns that guided runaway slaves to safe houses on the underground railroad. When I left Lewsiburg, I had a steamer trunk full of quilts I’d scrounged from flea markets and antique shops, and I could even guess at dates based on fabric patterns (one of my favorite quilts is made out of Civil War-era shirting, though I think it was made some time later).
Around the same time, my mom, who is a school librarian, started taking quilting classes and began quilting as a hobby. We never looked back. This weekend, for her birthday, I am taking her to the Wisconsin Quilt Expo, which begins today, where quilters from all over the Midwest will gather to learn from one another and share their work– from traditional, hand-sewn designs to modern, machine-quilted “paintings.”
A few of my favorite winners from last year’s show:
I can’t wait to see the fabulous quilts on display at this year’s Expo, but all this got me to thinking about how my own interest in quilts and quilting was incubated by the American Craft collection at Bucknell’s Bertrand Library
I’m sure there are other quilters out there who are inspired by library collections, who use libraries to research their latest projects, and who show their creations in libraries. I want to know who you are, and I want to share your work on the Library as Incubator Project!
Quilters, consider this a formal call: If your craft has been incubated by libraries–whether you use your library to research historic patterns or techniques, to find inspiration in other kinds of art, or to show your work– we want to know about it.
Librarians, we also want to know about the quilting tradition in your community, good books or collections of resources about quilting or quilt history, and whether you have organized quilting programs or shows at your library.
Check out our quick and easy submission guidelines to send your work, or drop us a line on Twitter or Facebook–we’d love to hear from you. And stay tuned for updates as I continue my quest to showcase how libraries can incubate the art of quilting. Happy stitching!