How to Make an American Quilt

This morning, I jumped in the car early and drove through blinding rain with one destination in mind — The National Quilt Museum in Paducah, KY. I had no prior plans to see it. When it was suggested to me, I scoffed for a second. But I’m trying to open myself to more right now. To be open. And sometimes…that means going to a quilt museum. Art is art, is art. We can be snobby and closed-off in our quest to define it. But art is in everything and all around. There are a myriad of disciplines that fall under the term ‘creative arts’… and even the businessman without an artistic approach is destined to know less about success.

Before I got to the museum, I stopped by the library and did a little research. I looked up ‘how to make a quilt’, in an aim to understand and respect the work that went into the pieces I was about to see.

From ‘How to sew a quilt (Quilting 101)’ by jessyratfink:

“I think it’s a skill that is useful beyond words… quilts are beautiful and functional and I consider them to be the greatest gift in the world. They’re family heirlooms, passed down through the generations until they fall apart. They’re an amazing way to use up scrap fabric, and a cheap first sewing project…We need more quilts in the world!”

There were some helpful numbered lists as well, with major tips like:

+ Choosing the right fabric

+ Cutting out your pattern


+ Binding

There were directions followed by directions — directions for each step of the game. They were all French to me. As I see it, the directions are geared to someone predisposed to quilting. If you’re looking at the directions for ‘how to make a quilt’, odds are you’re wanting to make one…and thus you’re really halfway there.

The directive that stood out to me the most, was this:

+When it’s time to quit the quilt’

I thought for sure this would be followed by something like, ‘When you feel you have captured the spirit of the quilt’…or ‘When every one of your mother’s favorite colors is represented’…

Instead, there was only this:

“You can quilt the quilt by hand or machine. Or you might choose to tie the quilt for a quick finish.”

Directions to explain something that comes straight from the heart. Directions I can’t even decipher, can’t even read. You can’t direct the end of something. It’s over when it dictates that it is. You don’t even know it’s coming; then suddenly, you recognize there’s nothing left to be done. Directions. So necessary, yet so incapable of determining an outcome.


Hours later, I emerged from the museum with a new attitude. I paid more attention in that quilt museum than I did in the LOUVRE! (My Louvre experience looked like this: walked in, looked at the scope of the place, took a set of stairs to investigate a section. After about 7 minutes, I looked over at Lisa, and asked if she wanted to go get a crepe. She did.)

I was instructed not to take any pictures — I took 45. (PLUS a video.) I cried. I read all of the bios. I shopped in the damn giftshop.

You may be wondering now….do I want to make a quilt? No, I don’t. Not ever. I do not EVER want to make a quilt. But I constantly want to be reminded that I don’t know shit about shit — to have my mind challenged and my eyes opened. And if anyone wants to make the trek, I’ll go back to the quilt museum with you.  Or hell — the Louvre, for that matter!


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