Combining colors and textures, the art of quilting is much like painting with fabric instead of using oils or watercolors.
"Quilting is a good combination of art and needlecraft," said quilter Pam Murray. "I come from a long line of artists and I’d always done needlework," she added. So her involvement in the craft is not surprising. In spite of a difficult early quilting experience, she picked up the quilting bug later.
"In the 1970s I made this one bench cover, a deacon’s bench, the whole thing was in one inch squares, made without the tools we have today. After that, I decided I’d never make another quilt as long as I lived."
Then about six years ago, she took a pot holder-making class. That got her inspired again. "I joined the quilt guild and saw all the beautiful quilts people were making and I thought: ‘I can do that!’ So the interest turned into a hobby, which turned into an addiction, which became an obsession," she said. But, she says, it’s still a healthy preoccupation. "I find that if I don’t quilt, if I’m not fondling fabric for a few days I get twitchy. Even when I have to rip things out, it’s still therapeutic."
Quilting is a creative and intuitive process. When she finds a pattern or fabric she likes, sometimes she speeds ahead with it, sometimes not.
"There’s something in me that’s not ready to put it together. It didn’t tell me how it wanted to be quilted right away. Others get done right away. I couldn’t stop until it was done," Murray said.
Murray enjoys making all types of quilts, trying a little bit of something new from time to time, learning each time she makes a quilt. She’s starting to design quilts and is now teaching the craft. "If you enjoy something, patience is not an issue. If you don’t enjoy it, all the patience in the world won’t help."
But, you do need time to work on a quilt. She suggests busy people try to work on a quilting project 10 minutes at a time. Carving out 10 minutes is more likely than a larger chunk of time. "You can accomplish a lot. Keep your handwork by your chair. Pick it up for a few minutes," she said.
Naturally, Murray loves fabric and has her favorite types and colors.
"Most quilters use 100 percent cotton, which I do." Because cotton shrinks, she pre-washes everything.
But that depends on what kind of a look you want for the quilt. For an old-fashioned look with ripples and puckers, she said, make the quilt, then wash it.
Old-fashioned has become stylish again, and interest in quilting keeps increasing. "Part of us wants to leave a legacy. We have a legacy of quilts in this country," she said.
Part of this, for her, includes a quilt top from her baby clothes, which she promised her mother she would hand quilt, not use machine quilting.
She’s fascinated with colors and shapes. Her plans for designing new quilts include one using the sacred symbols of the world. Also strongly influenced by Asian images, she made a quilt based on sodoku puzzles. Murray speaks some Chinese so she often uses Chinese characters such as "prosperity" and "peace" in quilts. Since she also teaches classes in "creating the life of my dream, I’m practicing what I teach."
Quilts provide a connection to the past that can be carried with honor into the future. Murray is currently working on a memory quilt for each of her four children made from some of her late husband’s clothing.
"I have two of the tops done and two to go. I usually have 10 or 12 quilts in some phase of creation."
Her advice to those who want to learn more and maybe start quilting: "Take a class and learn how to make a simple quilt. There are techniques to use, like any craft. Come to the Quilt Festival and be inspired."
Karlene Ponti can be reached by calling 509-526-8324 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.