Saturday, February 6, 2010

Quilter's Newsletter And Me

(This post is reprinted from my other blog, Catholic Bibliophagist which is about books, reading, and my library, a collection which takes up most of the available wall space in my house. It was originally posted in 2007 when I had just moved into my current home.)

Quilting is my other passion, and it's reflected in my library. Yesterday I was unpacking my collection of Quilter's Newsletter Magazine. I have issues going back to 1970. Though I've been fascinated by quilts ever since I was very young, I was not a subscriber in those days. In fact, I had never even heard of QNM.

I discovered the magazine in the early 1990s. At that time, in response to an unhappy family event, I took one of my earlier abortive attempts at quiltmaking out of my cedar chest and sewed it together. At about the same time I discovered an online quilting community, the Online Quilters, through Prodigy, an early Internet Service Provider. It was a heady experience not unlike my previous discovery of fantasy and science fiction fandom. Despite the strictures of an online environment, we Online Quilters used Prodigy's bulletin boards (and the US Postal Service) to swap quilt blocks and fabric squares; to place group orders for specialized tools; to give lessons and hold workshops; and to participate in co-operative projects such as group quilts and round robins.

Outsiders wondered how we could become such close friends of people we'd never met face to face. Actually, we did occasionally meet at quilt shows. We wore blue fabric stars (based on Prodigy's logo) to identify ourselves and held "show & tell" (a traditional quilt guild activity) in the parking lots outside the shows.

(Later, due to conflicts with Prodigy's restrictions on content and its erratic deletion of bulletin board messages, most of us migrated to GEnie where we merrily continued our online quilt life.)

A lot of my basic knowledge of quilting came originally from the Online Quilters, including the merits of Quilter's Newsletter.

The first issue of QNM was published in September, 1969. At that time there were few quilting books available, no quilt stores, and none of the specialized tools quilters now take for granted. One hundred per cent cotton was difficult to find having been replaced with polyester-cotton blends. It was the age of bonded double knits. (Shudder!) Bonnie Leman began publishing QNM just ahead of the explosion of renewed interest in quilting which began in the early '70s and has continued unabated to the present day.

I acquired most of my back issues in the mid '90s when my local quilt guilt decided to sell off its collection at the annual Trash 'n Treasures meeting.

And what a treasure it was! I managed to snag over ten year's worth. Paging through the early issues was a time-traveling journey back to a day when hand piecing was still dominant and templates did not include seam allowances. Rotary cutters had yet to be invented and it was still rather daring to assert that machine quilting could be a legitimate option. Wall hangings, (i.e. small quilts that are hung up for decoration) were looked down upon by a certain faction of quiltdom who felt that a quilt wasn't really a quilt unless it covered a bed.

Paging through my collection, I've watched the rise and fall of various techniques and styles of quiltmaking. (I recall at least two articles on how to make quilts from scraps of bonded polyester knit!) I've read early articles by people who are now big names in the field. Through the pages of QNM I've watched the quilting community grow from scattered, isolated people swapping copies of patterns published in the 1930s by newspapers like the Kansas City Star, to a large, diverse group of individuals ranging from those who consider themselves to be mere crafters to those who see themselves as serious artists. And they are supported by an enormous industry selling fabrics and tools that were undreamed of in 1969.

And occasionally the world of the Online Quilters and the world of QNM intersected. In the April '91 issue, p. 37, is a picture of Diane Rode Schneck's quilt, "Ugly Tie Contest." She made it with fabrics from our annual Ugly Fabric Swap. I can see the fabric I contributed, right there! The peach colored one with the little black locomotives.

Thanks to the Internet (and a current subscription), I now have a fairly complete collection of Quilters Newsletter. But I'm still missing quite a few issues between 1969 and 1972. If anyone out there has some that need a loving home, let me know.

1 comment:

Georgianne Holland said...

Hello Quilter's Newsletter Magazine fan... Bonnie Leman is my mom and I enjoyed reading today your QNM and Me post. I am glad to hear that QNM has had such a positive impact on your life, or at least on your quilting.

Bonnie is doing well and enjoying her retirement in Colorado. We all speak fondly of the many folks who she gathered together because of their love of quilts. Her Needle's Eye column helped her connect with quilters around the world and there still appears to be a bond between her and her readers.

If you would like to pass along a message to Bonnie, I would be happy to deliver it to her. You can reach me at

Best wishes to you and your continued love of quilting!
Georgianne Holland