My Love Affair with Quilts
I remember the day my love affair began. I can remember it as clearly as if it were yesterday…it began on a beautiful morning in Wisconsin, in June of 1975 . As it turned out, that day was marked by many soon-to-be events and this singular trip, changed my entire viewpoint as an artist and crafts-person.
When you’re engaged to be married, there are a series of soon-to-be events as a: bride, wife and daughter in-law. Forget the fact that you’ve just spent 4 weeks designing and sewing your bridal gown, veil and lingerie trousseau for the most important day of your life, your wedding. Never forget this fact… the second most important day of as a ‘soon-to-be’, is meeting one of the most important individuals in your fiance’s life, namely, your mother-in-law. On that beautiful morning my soon-to-be husband, was taking me on a trip south of Eau Claire, Wisconsin to meet my soon-to-be: mother-in-law.
There is an alluring quality of the Wisconsin landscape, that is as to difficult to define, as it is to describe all of the different shades of green you see throughout the verdant countryside. Quintessential country towns with names such as: Blair, Taylor, Pigeon Falls, and Whitehall are quaint farming villages harboring large thriving, Amish communities, remind you of a slower pace of life where there is a strong connection to the earth, and the people who work it. The Amish way of life hearkens back to the 1800’s with a collective steadfast adherence to eschewing modern-day conveniences and attire.
Villages where the hardware store doubles as a post office, and you can enjoy an afternoon sitting in the town’s square watching your kids play. There is something comforting in the fact when you leave the confines of any city or town in Wisconsin, you’re immediately transported into rural farmland, and are literally a country road from being in the ‘boonies’.
Instead of taking Interstate 94 to the small town of Hixton, Wisconsin; a route was planned that would introduce me to some of the most scenic areas he was familiar with, and we took the ‘boonie route’, turning south onto with highway 53. For many years, highway 53 was the major transportation artery that knitted together myriads of country towns in western Wisconsin. The construction of I-94 delegated this once vital carriageway, into a secondary route used by dairy trucks, farmers; and as I learned on that particular day, Amish buggies. Leaving the highway, we journeyed down narrow county roads that showcased the natural beauty of the landscape, and this tour reminded me… this was going to become my new ‘home’.
As we continued driving south, gentle rolling hillsides and farmland gave way to what they call in Wisconsin, ‘coulees’- a series of steep, forested valleys. Driving off the beaten path, we encountered small, unincorporated towns nestled on farming lowlands in an ever-changing, picturesque landscape punctuated by breathtaking vistas extending to the horizon, each time we reached the rise of a coulee.
We were driving through one of the lowlands when, I spotted Amish horse-drawn vehicles (which I had never seen before) and Amish farms, I discovered, could be easily identified by black buggies in the yard or next to barns. However, nothing could have prepared me for the sight of brightly colored quilts, in a dizzying array of colors, hanging on wash lines all around the countryside. Little did I know… we had accidentally come across Amish Wash Day. Large and small quilts fluttered in the breeze on long clothes lines, and I began to notice patterns of stars, blocks, and wide variety of designs that fascinated me. Entranced by the sight of the these handcrafted masterpieces on display, I had a burning desire to learn more about the Amish, quilts and the art of quilting in general.
My love affair with quilts and quilting began on this lovely day as we drove through the Wisconsin country side. Since that journey over 35 years ago, I have become an avid quilter, teacher, designer and collector of Amish quilts. On that particular day filled with serendipity, not only was a I soon-to be: bride, wife and daughter- in-law, I became a soon-to-be quilter.