When people see me with my mini quilts I am asked, over and over again, “what are you supposed to do with them?” That question always takes me by surprise. What makes people ask that?
Is it because, here in Britain, fabric was historically quilted to use for warm clothing, or patched together for bedding, while the American tradition of quilt making passed down through generations, and continued into modern times, is not something we do here? Is it to do with our soggy climate? Do people think they will get damp or spoil? That a wall is not a place for fabric decoration? Is it because hand made items are not valued highly enough? Is it because they think quilts are not practical; that they need a lot of care? I wonder.
People ARE quilting here. Charm packs are being bought, droves of people are attending Quilt Festivals, paper pieces are being bought, quilt patterns are being followed and yet the only quilt I have ever seen in anyone’s house belonged to an American. So, what are all our UK quilters doing with their quilts? And why are non-quilters so puzzled about what to do with them?
I am assuming most quilts are still being made for adult beds and, given the time and cost involved in buying and making them, perhaps they are jealously guarded. Maybe a great many are never finished. I have noticed some being sold on ebay and Etsy but these are mostly baby quilts. These at least don’t take as long to make and are more practical to use but what happens to the quilt after the baby outgrows it? Is it valued and passed on, or put in the cat/dog basket, or (shock horror) thrown away?
I made this Tumbling Block quilt for my first born when I was in my twenties and it remains of huge sentimental value. I don’t have grandchildren so I don’t know if I would part with it for another child in the family. I think it’s unlikely. Every stitch in the quilt was a tiny step closer to the day my daughter arrived. I made it in green because I didn’t know if my baby was going to be a boy or a girl. I made a floor quilt for my son two years later, also from Laura Ashley fabric. I decorated the rows of six inch squares with large letters that said, ‘Rock Abye Baby on the Tree Top” followed by a row of trees along the bottom. The letters and the trees were felt and couldn’t be washed, so the quilt didn’t survive. I didn’t know how to piece letters in those days. I think of it sometimes and wish I could see it again. Now I take photos of what I make, back then I didn’t even own a camera.
I didn’t start making quilts again for another thirty five years and the quilts I make now are mostly decorative. However, they are as long lasting as any picture on the wall and, unlike pictures, they are washable. We are so spoilt now with the information we have at our fingertips whether it be on Youtube or Pinterest, or from blog posts or in one of the many books on quilting.There should be dozens of ideas out there, suggesting what you can do with a quilt of any size.
Here are a few of my ideas in a brief attempt to answer that question, “What are you supposed to do with them?”
The most obvious is probably as a Table Topper, a term which means more than the way it sounds. For example, you could put your table topper on a deep windowsill:
or use it to show off an object, or a vase of flowers on a small table, or lay it below a lamp, candlestick or other small seasonal display:
You could use it to display an antique doll or a much loved bear:
You could add some interest to a plain tray:
Or put one in a basket:
A really effective way is to put one on a quilt hanger. This works for tiny quilts as well as much larger ones. Small quilt hangers are fairly inexpensive but the larger, more decorative, ones can be pricy here in the UK. They are sturdy and long lasting though and don’t rust, so perhaps they are worth the money for the elegance they can bring to a quilt:
Quilt stands are harder to come across in the UK, and take up more surface space, but make a lovely addition to a hearth stone by a fireplace. If there is a sleeve on the back of the quilt you can slip it onto the split metal bar at the top, if not, you can tie it on with ribbon as I have:
Another lovely way to display a quilt is in a frame, either on the wall or propped up on a desk or cabinet.
A cheaper and fun, modern, way of displaying a tiny quilt is on an easel. These are easily found on Ebay in several different colours. They make wonderful gifts in a pair like this:
Another more modern idea is to attach your mini quilt to a framed piece of chicken wire. I found this one in raw wood on Ebay and painted it. It has two metal rings at each corner of the back for attaching to hooks on the wall. I haven’t hung mine up yet. It’s just leaning against my whiteboard. It’s a fun idea. As the quilt is tied on with ribbon (or could be secured with mini plastic pegs) you could have a seasonal change of quilt! A similar idea is to attach it to a tobacco basket but they are harder to find and quite expensive.
Other ideas are the more obvious over-the-back-of something, a chair, bench or sofa, or the top of the staircase or just propped up on the mantelpiece. I know that in America you can buy purpose-built quilt stands and quilt ladders but I have never seen those for sale here.
I hope these ideas are useful. If you can think of more, please tell me me about it in a comment below. It would be great to hear of others I haven’t thought of.
Until next time…