Hand-piecing VS Machine Piecing

I have been doing considerable thinking about things — things having to do with our way of life. I have been caught up in the “green” movement as of late and have noticed that AW is sort of joining in. Of course, I don’t have a wind turbine in my back yard — the HOA would frown on that — but I have been trying to concentrate on recycling, reusing, repurposing and that sort of thing. I remember my mother telling me a little poem that was popular during the depression — or was it World War 2 — have no clue — but I remember the poem well — “Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without”. I think that is pretty pertinent to today, don’t you? Maybe if the last couple of generations had paid more attention we wouldn’t be in the shape we are in, trying to back track and undo and all that.

So, what does that have to do with quilting? Well, obviously, it could bring to mind using worn out clothing and such as quilts but what I was really thinking about was how our foremothers did things that we don’t do anymore and wondering if we are better off for it? I read an article recently about keeping in shape by keeping house. It told about how women used to never have to go to the gym because they didn’t have all the labor saving devices that we have now — they hung out clothing and beat rugs (ok, I never saw my mother beat a rug), they prepared food without the aid of food processors, huge mixers, etc. I mean, life was a little more hands on, wouldn’t you say? Ok, about the quilting.

I started thinking about how we quilt these days — fancy machines, fancy cutters and self-healing mats, long arm quilting machines and all sorts of rulers, guides and gadgets to help us out. Now, don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade my Bernina for a needle and thread any day but I remember my grandmother and my great-grandmother (yes, I knew her well, she lived to be 103) sit and hand piece quilts to the music — or the preacher — on the radio. So, this morning, not feeling too perky, I decided to try it out. I mean, my first quilt block, sewn at the knee of the aforementioned great-grandmother, was hand sewn with a needle like a dagger so surely I could get the hang of it. So, a couple of scraps, a couple of needle jabs later, slight frustration with the fiddliness of the whole thing (but not any worse than with the sewing machine) I produced a completely lovely four patch. It lined up! The corners met perfectly! It was soft and unstarched, unironed and it was beautiful (more than the first block sewn about 54 years ago). I was more than surprised at the outcome. I figured that it would have to be ripped out, it would be crooked, it would be SOMETHING! It was, it was perfect and very satisfying.

So, now the question has to be — how do you relinquish all the new-fashioned gadgetry for the old-fashioned satisfaction of producing something so good with so little. How do you put aside the need for instant gratification of producing a quilt in record time for the feeling of accomplishment with only a needle and thread. How do you slow down?

We have a lot in our lives and most younger women don’t know any different but for those of us who watched our mother’s mix a cake with a wooden spoon or watched our grandmother’s quilt a blanket with only a needle, thread, and thimble or watched our neighbors plant lantana in empty coffee cans to decorate their old victorian porches (a particular habit of the same great-grandmother) I have say that “new” is great and I wouldn’t trade it but I an appreciate it so much more by knowing “old”.

So, now, the question is — do I actually REALLY try my hand at handpiecing an entire quilt? Hmmm…maybe I will try just one more four patch and the answer will come to me.

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4 responses to “

  1. Nice post! Yes, I think it’s important not to lose touch with the past and the way they did things. Especially when it comes to crafts like sewing and quilting. Of course, there’s no way I’d ever give up any of my labor-saving devices (but you already knew that, right?). I try to be green, but I keep back-sliding into a sort of beige area.And, no, I can’t imagine either of our mothers ever doing any rug-beating. Mine wore out several carpets with enthusiastic vacuuming, but beating? No way!

  2. Nice post! Yes, I think it’s important not to lose touch with the past and the way they did things. Especially when it comes to crafts like sewing and quilting. Of course, there’s no way I’d ever give up any of my labor-saving devices (but you already knew that, right?). I try to be green, but I keep back-sliding into a sort of beige area.And, no, I can’t imagine either of our mothers ever doing any rug-beating. Mine wore out several carpets with enthusiastic vacuuming, but beating? No way!

  3. Thanks! The hardest part about the hand piecing is the sitting still. My mind doesn’t sit still and when I try to do something quiet and “relaxing” I just feel like I should be up “doing” something!! No, I wouldn’t give up things either — well, maybe the entire kitchen but that is another post. As far as being “green” — yeah, you have company in that beige area. I really feel that it is important, now if I could just remember to take the reusable bags to the grocery store!

  4. Thanks! The hardest part about the hand piecing is the sitting still. My mind doesn’t sit still and when I try to do something quiet and “relaxing” I just feel like I should be up “doing” something!! No, I wouldn’t give up things either — well, maybe the entire kitchen but that is another post. As far as being “green” — yeah, you have company in that beige area. I really feel that it is important, now if I could just remember to take the reusable bags to the grocery store!

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