Discussion, Life

Why I Quilt

It’s been a while since we had a good discussion here, and I’ve been spending a lot of time this fall thinking about quilting and my goals. I am taking a class for the first time since I left college, and it is prompting me to dive in a little deeper and think more about my current actions and future goals. I guess I just feel ready to talk about some of what I am working through and one of the first and biggest topics that I’ve been pondering is why I quilt.

Woodland Creatures - Whipstitching

Woodland Creatures Baby Quilt – Hand Binding

Beyond the straight forward initial answers that come to my mind, “I quilt as a creative outlet. I quilt to create physical hugs for friends and family. I quilt to be a part of a caring, generous community of like-minded creatives.” and so on, I quilt because there is a healing aspect to the process of cutting up perfectly good fabric into small pieces and sewing it back together again.

I have had a few days in the past month when it has been really, really noisy in my mind. I sometimes call it monkey mind where thoughts jump and swing around with energy that I feel like I have no control over. Sometimes I can slip into a distortion where my mind can play an event over enough times that I become convinced of something that is no longer related to reality. I have learned a few things over the years that help me when I get into these states of mind and I am ready to calm down: I can take deep breaths, I can meditate, and I can quilt. And usually the thing that I can do the most easily on my own is quilt, and then I can calm enough to start breathing deeply or consider a guided meditation.

On a related topic, I’ve been thinking about what I believe and want other quilters to believe. I want you to believe that you are creative; that there is no such thing as failure; that you are doing your best work right now; that the secret to success is to show up, try, learn, modify, and repeat; but most importantly, for people who believe that they do not have enough time to quilt or do some kind of hand craft, I want you to believe that you can accomplish big things in repeated, small amounts of time.

I treasure the sanity that quilting helps me cultivate, and sometimes it is good for me to step back and appreciate all that it offers.



These are a few of the reasons I quilt. Why do you quilt? Do you do any other form of handcrafting (knitting, embroidery, weaving) or crafting (scrap-booking, baking, coloring) and are the reasons that you do those crafts differ?

I also really like to color and I find it can be like a combination of mindful meditation and the zen like state of “flow” that I can achieve when I am quilting. I can’t always achieve the state of flow when I am quilting, but doing something that is repetitive and requires concentration like quilting or coloring can be another great way for me to find a state of inner calm.

I really look forward to hearing from you, and as always in these discussions, be sure to read the comment because so many of you are very generous with your thoughts.

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37 thoughts on “Why I Quilt

  1. Cindy says:

    Quilting for me is a stress reliever as I can lose myself in quilting. I also like the challenge of trying different ideas to see what works and doesn’t, I’m a bit of a perfectionist but I don’t let that hold me back. I also do scrapbooking, more digitally than actual paper and I do some painting.

  2. I find peace in the act of being creative. I believe we are made in the image of the Creator therefore to be creative is our natural state – whatever the medium, be it paper, fabric, garden soil, wood …. Repeating patterns and tesselating shapes fascinate me so patchwork and quilting have become my ‘creative home’ ☺ Thank you for sharing with honesty and insight Yvonne, and for hosting a discussion for this encouraging, heartwarming community.

  3. Nancy says:

    Thank you for your honesty and sharing your thoughts on why you quilt. I am learning to quilt, I’ve been at this about 3 years. I quilt because I can. I have been losing my eyesight the last few years but I can see midline at this point and can see to sew a straight line. I have an urgency to create while I can. The feel of the fabric, sound the rotary cutter makes cutting fabric and the hum of the machine as I sew all feed my other senses. Why I quilt….. because I CAN.

  4. I hope you won’t mind….in my blog post today I am going to direct my readers here to ponder your post 🙂

  5. jayne says:

    I never thought I was creative until I started quilting. Through the years I’ve learned that by quilting I can not only explore creativity, but I can totally ‘zone’ out. It is my meditative therapy. It centers, calms and completes me. I have often looked back and wondered what my life would have been had I not quilted. Quilting is more than creativity. For all the reasons you stated and so many more.

  6. Wanda Bamberg says:

    I was not going to quilt. As a little girl (in the 50s) I saw my grandmothers cut up tiny pieces of fabric and it all looked just too tedious for me. But I did love the quilts they made. I used them as they were used in olden days. When I was about 55 I decided to repair one of those quilts that I had just about used to death. I know! Quilters don’t even want me to think the “repair” word! Sorry. But I did it well, matching colors and fabric patterns in the Sunbonnet Sue dresses the best I could. It turned out great so I did another one…bow tie…about that time my mother was declining so I could make lap quilts for her and my aunt and others. I have figured out that quilting is in my blood. And with needle pricks sometimes my blood is on a quilt.
    I LOVE all aspects of quilting. Choosing fabrics, using my stashes the way quilters used to do and not letting myself buy anything unless I must just because I love the challenge. I love cutting pieces and having an idea in my head, not knowing exactly what the finished quilt will be but just starting with what I know and following the elbow brick road. They generally turn out good and pretty, fun and interesting. My creativity seems to be tangled up in the whole thing. I love the learning part and asking questions of older women who have quilted forever. I relish the conversations and suggestions they share.
    I am slower now, stitches aren’t quite as even so now I am learning to modify so I can continue to quilt.
    Thank you so much for sharing yourself with us. You are a treasure as you are. The more I know, the better I like you. ❤️

  7. Rita Long says:

    I have been drawn in with quilting since I was very young. The older woman next door shared some of her quilts with our family. I loved being wrapped in one of her creations. As the years have gone by, It gave me a place of my own among kids and everyday life. I have enjoyed seeing the faces of my children and grandchildren over the years as I have given them their own quilt that fits them. Now as I’m older, quilting still gives me my own zone. I now venture into new designs and love working with all the colors. I share my quilts who appreciate a personal gift to wrap themselves in.

  8. Quilting to me is like painting with fabric. When I have finished a flimsy, there is such a sense of accomplishment. When I have completed a quilt, there is a general warm, fuzzy feeling – knowing that my creation will be used and loved.
    As to other crafts, I embroider and sketch, both intermittently. Quilting is now my first love.
    I have also fallen in love with fabric – acquiring it, organizing it, imagining the possibilities. It is not just for quilts as I make pillows, table runners, coverings for seats, curtains …
    I quilt because it will be my legacy.

  9. Thanks for your post. For me, I think quilting helps me bring order out of chaos and it gives me a sense of accomplishment. I also love slowly creating items for others to enjoy in a world that is often dominated by mass production and instant gratification.

  10. Paula S. Pike says:

    Yvonne, thank you for such a mindful blog. I quilt because it is my mental therapy. I’m like you, it feels magnificent to take a whole piece of fabric and cut it into little pieces to be sewn back together again into a living, breathing piece. I love coloring, crochet and painting. I think that if more people allowed their creative mind to just go for it, the Universe would be much more happy and peaceful.

  11. slmrn1 says:

    Thanks Yvonne. Appreciate your sharing. Lots of food for thought and I believe, that in itself to be fulfilling.

  12. Rochelle Summers says:

    I was never considered artistic as a child and my drawings/colorings were very primitive. No encouragement given. We did learn to embroider and made embroidered quilt blocks, tea towels, pillow cases, dresser scarves, etc. I embroidered quilt blocks for a quilt for my first child. I was drawn to quilting all through my early adult life but sadly lived in a small community without the means or opportunity to learn to quilt.

    In my mid-40s my sister one year younger got married and my older sister and I collaborated on a sampler quilt for her. It was the start and I took off doing sampler quilts for so many of my family. Quilting was actually the thing that kept me sane during a very stressful job cycle. I was a piecer and planned to stay that way following patterns that were increasingly more difficult. Then a friend invited me to join an art quilt group. I can say it was and still is an intimidating experience. These ladies are very artistic! Some have been doing art quilts for 20 years and the progression of their work is intimidating if I let it be. But it has challenged me to explore new techniques. I have invested in a line of art products and have abandoned the previous rigid belief that quilts must be made only with fabric and thread. It is rewarding to have an idea come to fruition and challenging to remember that not every attempt is a success. I try to look at unsuccessful projects not as failures but learning opportunities so that I can try again. Even successes bring new opportunities for improvement.

    Mainly, I quilt because it makes me happy. Occasionally, I question if I should be making so many quilts, but I feel that those I can’t use, I can and do donate. And I try new techniques on my donation quilts because making the same four-patch over and over is boring.

  13. Lisa says:

    I haven’t been able to quilt much in the last couple of months. This is mostly because I haven’t been home much, and when I have I’ve been exhausted. All aspects of quilting….picking fabric…cutting fabric….sewing and quilting take me out of myself and bring me rest. I started quilting to stave off depression in winter and I found that I love seeing how colours work together in the final result. Lately I’ve been more of a fabric collector but I know that my sewing machine will be waiting for me when i am able to get back to it….and then maybe I’ll be able to share some of what I get done…once again.

  14. Susan says:

    Thank you so much for expressing your thoughts with such unusual, unvain authenticity (for the internet). Quilting offers a creative outlet, a distraction and refuge from our over-stimulating times. At the same time, it helps us to focus. I love handquilting, for it brings me unfailingly into my center while at the same time letting me process the events around me. I love making something that can be a comfort for loved ones after I go.

  15. hsoliday says:

    Thank you for this conversation, Yvonne. I love the legacy of quilting – my lovey as a child was a quilt my grandmother made for me, so I truly love gifting baby quilts to others. But I also quilt for other reasons, creativity, color, and the simple joy of creating something. I quilt by machine, but enjoy those last stitches of binding by hand. I struggle with anxiety, so the mindfulness of the practice is part of the joy of it for me as well. Sometimes it is nice when the problem in front of you is only fabric and thread.

  16. I love hand stitching of all kinds. It has kept me mostly sane for years!

  17. davemelvanolan says:

    I love, love, love quilting and the ability to create. It matterrs not whether from a pattern, kit or or from my own design. In addition to quilting I know how to knit, crochet and cross-stitch. Just don’t give me one of those adult coloring books! They make me anxious and uptight. Lol Scrapbooking is another creative outlet. Why do I do any of it? The satisfaction of creating… to say that it is a sort of love language is about the best I can come up with. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  18. Well said. I quilt because it’s the only activity when my brain isn’t thinking of a million different things — I have to focus on what I’m doing. It’s my stress relief and my happy place.

  19. kittywilkin says:

    Yvonne, I love this post, especially the part about what you want your readers to believe. I also think it is so important to sit back and consider the “why” every so often, since the more we make and the more we dive into the craft, the better the chance the “why” might change. I’m glad that you find such solace and peace in quilting. I feel like many times, quilting is my “escape”, but because the creatures from whom I’m escaping are often clambering at the door (figuratively, if not literally), it’s not always the most peaceful activity. But it’s soothing anyway, and certainly restorative. <3 Happy making, friend!

  20. sue7oaks says:

    I started quilting because I love fabric and I needed something to make with it. I’ve always wanted to be great at sewing as well so that was another draw card. I keep going because I like to make things, it doesn’t matter what, and because like everyone else sewing time is a bit of zen time when I focus on the moment. Add to that the on-line community and it forms a great package of inspiration and camaraderie that has no exclusions and it is a total winner for me. I also knit which I love for opposite reasons – it’s something I can do while travelling or watching TV.
    Great thought provoking post!

  21. helen says:

    I have never thought about the geneticism of quilting, but reading those comments above, I must. I come from a british background so no great history of quilting. But ….. my maternal grandmother was a qualified tailor, the sort that learned to make a hand sewn men’s suit whilst sitting crosslegged on the floor. My mother dabbled at simple dressmaking and curtains, but was a wizard at knitting. That really was her thing. My paternal grandmother was a home dressmaker, not in the realms of my other grandmother, but a good basic sewist. So, in my blood too I suppose, and like Wanda above, my blood on the quilts.

  22. helen says:

    yes, I am same Helen as above, leaving two comments. But why do I quilt? When my twins were tiny a fellow twin’s mum suggested I may enjoy quilting. Now whether she saw my creeping stress levels and thought it would relax me or whether she saw my latent creativity and thought it would give me an outlet …. whatever ………. it worked on both levels. I quilt to express my creativity. I quilt to keep me sane, reduce my stress levels, lower my bp, whatever. I quilt because I love it, I have a feel for the fabric, I see quilts in the floor tiles, in everyday life, everywhere. I quilt to express my love for my family and friends. I quilt for the friendship this online community gives me, it fills gaps my “real” friends don’t necessarily fill, though many of them are scrappers. I feel out of sorts if I don’t quilt, or laterally knit, for a day.

  23. Kate says:

    I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one that suffers from “monkey mind”. It’s a large reason why I quilt now. I started quilting because I had seen my grandmother quilt and it looked like fun. But I keep quilting as one way to de-stress after a full day at work. It’s a way to calm down and feel in control. Plus who can stay upset and tired around all those brilliant colors and fun patterns.

  24. Kathleen McCormick says:

    I love quilting as a creative outlet. It is only recently that I really want to design a few things rather than designing with the fabric alone. I love that the process is really mine and the product is what I get to share with others. I do knit too and have dabbled in other things but quilting is my first love. I knit more so I have hand projects, although I do have my share of hand projects for quilting, but they sometimes feel less portable!

  25. Beth lamotte says:

    Many thanks for this beautifully said blogpost. The day before your post I was explaining what quilting meant to me, and how the creative process of it all quiets my own “monkey mind” moments to a friend who has been experiencing great stress and choosing destructive avenues in order to deal with her stress. I was so pleased to see your post and shared it with my friend yesterday. I wish I had a picture of her face as she read the post. Your words meant so much to her. You were able to put into writing what she has been feeling which is exactly what she needed to see. She has a creative side to her that we will be exploring, starting with her choice…quilting! Thank you for all that you have done for us and all that you continue to do.

  26. Such wonderful thoughts! Thank you for sharing!

  27. Lea says:

    Yvonne, what a great topic, and well written. I’m going to go back and read the other comments.

    Quilting for me is very relaxing and at the same time energizing. I used to do a lot of hand quilting and when I did that I completely lost track of time. But I enjoy everything about quilting (OK, maybe not basting) and get lost in the beauty, the creativity, the pretty fabrics, the color, the design. All of it.

    I believe that we are all given gifts to share with others. For me (and probably most quilters?) this is it!! 🙂 It’s something we make with our hands that can bring comfort, smiles and I hope some happiness to others.

    I understand what you mean about a chatting mind. I do that too. Sometimes more than others.. I guess we all do? I used to meditate every day but have gotten away from it. That helped tremendously! When I first started to meditate I could not stop my mind from going 100 miles an hour and I couldn’t sit still either. Eventually I learned to do both.

  28. For starters I love to quilt. I think I love to quilt because life is so stressful and complicated and quilting eases all that for me. I fond when I don’t make time to quilt that my stress level goes up and my attitude changes. I am pretty sure it keeps me sane. It also allows me to express myself and then share that with others. 🙂

  29. I quilt because it’s my outlet, my hobby, my life! I love the way fabric feels between my fingers as well as the colors that brighten my day.

    Lovely post! I’m very glad I stopped by! 🙂

  30. Love this post, Yvonne! One, it’s always so fun to know why a fellow creative loves their craft. Two, I too love encouraging other quilters that they are “killing it” with their creations. We are often too hard on ourselves. And three, it is so fun to take a moment to think about “why” I love quilting. Fundamentally, I love quilting because it makes me happy. Even when a project isn’t going well, I’m still in my happy place. If I’m happy, I want to quilt. If I’m sad, I want to quilt. There is something about the repetitive steps that I find very restorative and that bring me joy. The fact that I have a tangible and functional work of art that can be shared is the cherry on top 😉

  31. springleafstudios says:

    Even though I’ve been pretty AWOL when it comes to blogs this year, I always appreciate the conversations you initiate on your blog. I’ve been giving this very thing some consideration for a long while and have wanted to post about it myself. Not only why I quilt, but what my style is about. I’ll save my long winded answers for that post, but for the most part I quilt because I love the design process of combining colors, prints, and patterns into something beautiful and useful. I simply need to be creative.

  32. Kaja says:

    What a great post, Yvonne, and some interesting comments too. Like you I quilt for lots of reasons: it scratches the creative itch and lets me connect with something inside myself that seems to drive me a bit crazy if there’s no outlet for it, there’s definitely a meditative/mindful aspect to it, and there’s also something about handling the fabric, so that touch is an integral part of the process in a way it wouldn’t be with, say, painting.

  33. Interesting thoughts. When I think about why I quilt, and why I create, my grandmother comes to mind first. She was a devout German Lutheran woman who lived on the farm and worked with my grampa to provide for themselves and five children. There was NOTHING she couldn’t/wouldn’t do or make. All my childhood memories of her are of her literally scurrying from one task to another. And everything she put her hands on bore proof of her efforts. So I feel very comfortable saying that I make because I show my productivity. I also know this is why I don’t golf or play cards, or do much of anything else where there isn’t evidence that I’ve been doing it. There’s simply a very real need, likely ingrained in my DNA, to produce something that shows. I’m proud to follow in grandma’s footsteps.

  34. Jasmine @ Quilt Kisses says:

    It was wonderful reading your post and the other comments. I’m so happy that quilting brings you peace. I love quilting and being creative. I enjoy most of the process from planning to cutting to piecing to quilting to binding to finishing. There are more reasons “why” I quilt beyond the enjoyment of it. First, I quilt because it is therapeutic and combats depression. Second, I love the feeling of accomplishment. Third, I can serve and bring comfort to others with the quilts I make. Fourth, I also enjoy the beauty of the finished product and actually using them either as decorations or cuddle quilts. I’m sure there are even more reasons why I quilt and I will enjoy pondering this question even more.

  35. Although I’m joining this conversation very late I have had the advantage of reading how everyone feels about this common passion. First, you talk about monkey mind, it’s an expression we use in mindfulness meditation. So many think to meditate is to have an absence of thoughts and monkey mind jumps in, instead it’s about acknowledging thoughts without getting drawn into rumination, and then going back to the focus, either breath, sounds, movement etc. Needle crafts are meditative, which is why so many find it therapeutic for anxiety, stress and depression. I should say my husband has a masters degree in mindfulness practices, is a teacher, teaches others to teach, and is a mindfulness author. Looking back over my life I stitched most at the worst times, when I needed it most. I came to quilting in my late forties and it was then I began to develop my passion. I believe there is a genetic disposition too, for me a love of needle crafts has come down through five generations that I know of. I can’t tell you exactly why I quilt only that I need to, it’s just a part of me, it defines me, it’s who I am.

  36. Kristie Cook says:

    Just getting through my mound of email & found this! I can certainly relate to “monkey mind” – it is a problem for me as well. I definitely get lost in the process when making a quilt or anything else. Making is my therapy! If I didn’t have an outlet for it, I think the monkey would take over. 😉

  37. Sue Rostron says:

    I love quilting because it slows me down and is peaceful. Especially handstitching. I have been reflecting a bit recently about quilting as a Slow Craft, a term I just coined and really like, adapted from the Slow Food movement. I want to slow down and do my best effort and not rush things. It is a very different process making a quilt than any other activity in my life. I also like the unevenness and obvious touch of the maker’s hand in hand quilted quilts. I call handstitching my working meditation. The process is important not the product. Still working on that! And I also love machine made quilts for other reasons.

    I believe I love quilting for three main reasons. The main one is Mum had four children in five years so learning to stitch and sew with her was our quiet time together. I like to think my love of hand crafts also is genetic as I have Huguenot ancestry and they were craft people. Finally I like to quilt as it is kind of a reclamation for me. I find the quilting community at first glance can seem to be very white, straight and middle class (I am white and middle class). As a lesbian I don’t know where I fit in or even how welcome I am. So I quilt anyway because I need to be around people who love fabric and colour as much as I do and to honour all the parts of me.

I really appreciate the time and thought you take to comment, and I look forward to conversing with you. :)