I have two links up above, one titled “100 Quilts List” and the other “200 Quilts List.” It’s been interesting to be able to say with some accuracy how many quilts I’ve made over my lifetime, but I didn’t start those lists when I first started quilting.
Those lists began because of my father’s journal of his paintings (this is one volume of five), which are a record of how he created them, colors he chose, inspiration, sketches. My friend Lisa also had a quilt journal and when she showed it to me, some time ago, I was in an insanely busy time of life and thought I could never do such a thing. But life changes, from busy to not-so-busy, and as an experienced quilter, I began to want a record of my work in this life that didn’t vanish under dust or dirt, or disappear into a student’s backpack, never to be looked at again. I began quilting in my twenties, some four decades ago, so that was a lot of quilts to account for.
And once I started my journal, I wanted it to be accurate, a habit that has come about because I am married to a scientist, and we are all about accuracy in this house. I started making a list, pulling photos from albums, and bugging my children to let me come and photograph their quilts. That’s my oldest son, Chad, above. We met one day at his work and we laid out the quilts he had in the conference room, so we could photograph them.
At that time, we had wooden lift-up garage doors, and I stapled a white sheet to the front, set up a table and gathered every quilt from what I had in our house to photograph. I pinned the quilts as straight as I could to the sheet and waited until the sun had moved off the door, so I could get an even tone (adjusting for the shadow). It took me about three days, and the neighbors were quite entertained by all my going up and down the stepladder, photographing the front, turning the quilt over (you see a back up there), and then a few close-ups here and there.
Another time, I drove to Arizona, where two of my children lived, set up a borrowed frame and pinned and photographed, over and over, with grandchildren watching, finally being allowed to wrap up in their baby quilts.
I started going through all my digital photographs, looking for quilts. Above are Peter and Megan the night before their marriage, holding a quilt I gave them. And from all these sources, I started compiling my list in a simple spreadsheet. Where I had dimensions, I put them in. Dates were critical, but I decided to keep it just to the year. Was the quilt labeled? Photographed? I noted that too. A couple of quilts are gone forever, but I remembered them, and tried to put them in where I could, numbering and re-numbering.
I decided to only include finished & quilted tops, but I know Thelma, of Cupcakes and Daisies counts hers by pieced tops. However you decide to count yours, I would encourage you to start writing down what you have accomplished. I guess the biggest pay-off came from me when I came home from Arizona with those frames and was able to photograph some of the larger bed-sized quilts that I couldn’t accommodate on the garage door.
This is Clay’s Choice. The first big quilt I’ve ever made.
My husband helped me put it up on the frames and I stepped back a bit to photograph it, then looked up from the camera to really see it. This was the first time I had seen my quilt off of a bed, all arrayed in its beginner-quilter glory. I paused and studied it–the white floral sheets, the solid greens, the Clay’s Choice triangles in a dainty blue print spinning around, each in their own block. I remember tracing around cardboard to get those shapes, stitching the blocks, and hand-quilting it over several years on a small portable frame. I looked at it, all the memories of the making, here, visible in this fabric concoction, never needing to be dusted, or re-done, or rewritten. This quilt, nearly 35-years old, captured all of that in its pieces, waving back and forth in the late afternoon breeze.
“Everything okay?” my husband asked.
Oh, yes. Everything is just fine.
13 thoughts on “A Record of Quilts–Making A Quilt List”
I am married to an architect, so our family has a similar obsession with record-keeping! Congratulations on your dedication to documenting all of your work–how satisfying that must feel and what a wonderful legacy you’ve created. I’ve kept a separate photo album of my projects over the years and recently went thru my digital photos and created a file of my work. My blog serves a helpful recording tool as well.
Those last two sentences made me tear up a little. When I first started quilting, I was really good about keeping track of everything in little quilting journals. Over the last several years, as it has gotten easier (at least you would think so) in this digital age, I have become worse at documenting stats and the little interesting tidbits about each quilt. I think I have become too reliant on my blog or flickr or instagram, but there is nothing like paging through a journal with all your quilts in one place.
Food for thought that’s for sure. I am just down at my mom in laws visiting her and she has quilts I made her father and sister in law before they both died. She asked me if I would like them back and I should have said yes.
Thanks for sharing this lovely post Elizabeth. Such a great legacy and one that will be cherished for many future generations. I have been so bad about documenting things . . . quilts, my kids lives etc. I’ve done better with preserving past generation family history than I have my own.
About a year after I started quilting I started a paper journal. I confess that now that I have the blog, I no longer keep up the paper journal. Now you’ve got me wondering if I should go back to that.
I just saw the logbook where F. Scott Fitzgerald kept a meticulous record of all of his writing: genre, publisher, payment, dates for editions, anthologies for the short stories, etc. There were pages and pages of neat columns with data that only he could have cared about at the time. You’re in good company, and someday your descendants will marvel over your creativity and output. I know I do!
I just love it how you give me goosebumps. Quilts are the best.
I admire you for taking all the time and effort to make such a comprehensive list of your quilts Elizabeth! It must make you very proud, and fascinating reading! I’m sad to say that I no longer have many of my earliest quilts but I suppose I could start with those I do have! Thanks for the inspiration, again!
It was my resolution this year to journal my creative life. I feel like so many ideas and projects from my past have gotten lost. I think it’s great you’ve done this for yourself. Keep it up and I hope I can too!
A wonderful post. I am married to a science teacher and now I understand why he is so methodical in his record keeping. Two years ago I began keeping track of my quilts by making Shutterfly books of my accomplishments. I can now say, “I have been published.” Your last two sentences said it all.
Great post! Thank you for sharing.
What a big job, and what a treasure to have your work documented!
Now that you have the frame to hang and photograph your quilts, you may like using these to hang your quilts, instead of pinning to a sheet. They are drapery rod clips from Target. Just make sure you get the bigger size, that will fit on the rod. We used them to hang Christmas quilts at our December quilt guild potluck, and they worked great!(http://Img1.targetimg1.com/wcsstore/TargetSAS//img/p/13/58/13581175_201307051130.jpg)
great photo shoots and very creative. I too use spiral notebooks for ideas and a record, but not as complete as yours. Thanks for sharing how you document your work.