"Quillow Talk"

Spring is here, and that means flowers, Easter, and quilts. In case you are wondering why I think of quilts every spring, it is because of the Quilters' Heritage Celebration, which marks its 15th anniversary this year (2002). Rita Barber and her team put on the most amazing displays of quilts I have ever seen. They dazzle the eyes and lift the spirit. Shame on you if you have never seen this incredible display of human creativity.

For a few days in April Lancaster County is populated by quilt fanatics. Ladies, and a few men, appear wearing quilted vests and jackets. They roam the countryside looking for bargain fabrics. They trade stories, techniques, and enthusiasm for their "hobby." A celebration...indeed!

Quilts have, of course, become an international phenomenon. I remember enjoying a great show of quilts from America when I was living in Japan over 15 years ago. Now I see many unique Japanese textiles turning up in American quilts.

Beyond their beauty, quilts hold tremendous sentimental value, not to mention commercial potential. A quilt my mother helped my grandmother to make hangs in my home. I also have an unusual "yo-yo" quilt that the two of them worked on together as well. Behind every quilt, there is a story of creativity, meaning, dedication, and accomplishment, whether it be the work of a single individual or that of a group of people working together.

From the air over Lancaster, our patchwork farmlands sometimes even resemble a quilt, especially in the spring with our brown squares of newly plowed earth and green patches of growing crops. Needless to say, the Amish have made a tremendous contribution to the world of quilting through their special use of color and geometric patterns, long before there was such a thing as "modern art." The old grandmother working on a quilt for her daughter over a 100 years ago surely had no idea that quilt might some day be hanging in a major museum. Nowadays, of course, quilts are everywhere in Lancaster County. I like to think of this as the unofficial "Quilt Capital of the World."

One of the interesting new items that appeared a few years ago is the "quillow." I’ve heard different stories about where and by whom it was "invented." Like many great ideas, it is relatively simple. The quillow looks like a pretty pillow you would place on a chair or sofa. Some have Amish designs and quilting on them, others have pre-printed fabric of animals or country scenes. But when you reach inside the opening, you pull out and unfold a big quilted blanket. You can wrap yourself up in it on a cold night, or stretch it out over the bed.

Since the only part that really has a quilted design is the pillow top, these make relatively inexpensive souvenirs for those who are not yet ready or able to buy a large quilt or a wall-hanging. Most range in price from between $35 to $50. I have sent some to friends in Japan and Costa Rica, so they make ideal gifts of Amish Country.

Learning to fold the blanket portion back up and tuck it into the pillow pouch takes a little practice. Some of the local quilt shop owners make quite a production out of unfurling these quillows for visitors. With a little practice you, too, can dazzle your friends with a demonstration of your quillow dexterity, just like one of the world’s great magicians.

For information and to make reservations for classes for upcoming Quilters' Heritage Celebrations, just click here: www.qhconline.com.

Amish Country News Publisher's Message by Brad Igou (2002)

 

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