Sunday, June 18, 2006


By Christina VanGinkel

With quilting bees from days gone by, to computer-generated sewing machines that will create fancy stitching on your quilts of today, quilting is a hobby that has endured throughout time and one that is appealing to both men and women of all ages.

With so many different types of quilting, it is hard for someone not to encounter a form that appeals to them. The history of quilting alone is extensive enough to keep someone reading for eternity. When you start to realize just how important quilting and the quilts that were produced were and are it is just amazing.

Quilts have been created to tell a story. They have been created to keep track of an historical event. Quilts have been used as wedding gifts, as a gift to a newborn child, and as a final gift given to a loved one being put into the grave, referred to as a burial quilt. They have also been created as a form of bereavement, to be given to the survivors of a loved one, to mark the life and memory of the lost life. Many family members of soldiers who have lost their lives in the current war, taking place in Iraq, have been the receivers of just such this type of quit, created by volunteers wishing to honor the lives lived and lost. The largest quilt ever made is actually just such a quilt, and is the NAMES Project quilt, in honor of many of the victims of the AIDS epidemic, now referred to as The AIDS Memorial Quilt. Quilts have also been created as a form of artistic impression, in much the same way as a painting, and in my humble opinion, many are as beautiful if not more so than those paintings considered to be top pieces of artwork.

If you are a quilter yourself, or a quilter wanna be, shopping for supplies, including fabric and accessories, can be difficult, especially if you are not located near a large fabric store. As with many hobbies and activities that people participate in, the Internet has made it abundantly easy to shop, even when people do not have local access to a store.

With quilting though, not being able to feel and see certain products can be a hindrance. Swatches are a great way to deal with this issue. Many online companies sell swatch books of all of their fabrics, allowing you to see and feel every single fabric choice that they have available. Other companies will make available individual swatches, at a cost per swatch. While most will charge you for these swatch books or individual swatches of samples, most will also refund you the cost through applying it to your next purchase. Another way to deal with this issue is to learn how certain brands of fabric differ from others. Some fabric is clearly quality made, while other fabric brands can only be described as adequate or less so.

Quilting software is an advancement that the age of the computer has made available to those interested in designing their quilts. If this is something, you are interested in, keep in mind that many software programs are available in what is referred to as a Software Demo. These programs are available in a somewhat limited format free, and allow you to load and use the software with limitations to see if it is suitable for your needs, before you actually purchase and pay for the full version. There are also shareware and freeware programs available. Knowing what you expect to achieve with one of these programs will greatly increase the chance that you will get a program that does what you expect.

If you are just starting out, the purchase of a sewing or quilting machine may also be something you need to do. Features vary greatly from machine to machine, so comparison is your best tool. Also, consider the warranty that is offered with each and the availability of service. If two machines are almost identical, but one can be serviced locally and the other would have to be packed up and shipped in order to receive service, you surely want to consider that. If you know someone who has recently purchased a machine, ask him or her, what swayed their decision and if they would now change their mind in their selection, now that they have the machine they chose home.

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