Post #9 On conviviality

Conviviality is a good word to describe the jolly companionship that quilting can bring. The definition I like best in the OED entry for the word is “fond of feasting and good company; jovial” because it is an apt description of quilting gatherings with friends.

There was one such occasion this week when three of us got together to celebrate a birthday by spending a day sewing together. Catherine Knox had made a bespoke quilted case for her Quilter’s Ruler, complete with appliqued motifs, and generously showed  us how she did it. She said she wanted to “try out” her latest design on us and I believe that Karen Davies and myself rose to the regal occasion — Karen with much more style and good taste, as is obvious from the photographs below.

A case for a Quilter’s Ruler would not be complete without a Queen, even if she is in the style of a paper doll (my rather rude portrayal of a queen).

Of course a Queen must have a Crown and a Castle.

We did not manage to finish the Quilter’s Ruler cases, which still need to be bound and mine quilted. The Crown decorates the flap. The cases are different widths because Karen’s is for a long Ruler and mine for a large square Ruler.

Hopefully these pictures tell the story of what fun we had. I was again struck by the generosity of my friends – Catherine Knox for sharing her ingenious and quirky designs with us and Karen Davies for hosting the “sewing bee” and letting me choose fabrics from her stash (what delight!) and even lending me a sewing machine. (I had come with the intention of handstitching a tree I am working on, but when I saw Catherine’s Ruler case, I just simply had to make one of my own.)

Of course we stopped for tea and a delicious lunch. Most convivial.

Quilting has a long tradition of this conviviality which is very well portrayed in the movie How to Make an American Quilt. The Quilting Bee originated in America in the 1800s. “For women in rural communities and frontier areas the ‘quilting party’ was a ritual of great importance. Life was too harsh to allow much socializing for mere companionship… the quilting bee gave a woman a chance to dress up a little, to spend a day in company with her friends and to work at something to be used more gratefully and remembered longer than last summer’s pickled beets. It was an occasion for a great deal of talk and even of competition, for only six or at most eight people could work at a frame at once… It is easy to imagine why the quilting bee was a potent emotional occasion. For a woman who had been isolated all winter there was a chance to meet her friends again.” (from The Perfect Patchwork Primer by Beth Gutcheon.

Some things don’t change. Despite our electric sewing machines and longarm quilting machines that have replaced the hand stitiching and the communal quilting around a frame and and despite our city or town lifestyles, the companionship and emotional succour of stitching with quilting friends is still alive and well. And that’s my grateful musing for this week.

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