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What Quilts Mean: With Diane Gilleland, aka Craftypod

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Today I’d like to welcome my lovely friend Diane Gilleland to the blog – I’ve talked about Diane before, as the host of the various EPP blog hops I’ve taken part in recently and author of the new book All Points Patchwork (go get it now). Diane has become a very dear friend over the past year, so kind and supportive, and I am so pleased that she was willing to visit me over here and share this story of a quilt specially designed for a precious friend.

What Quilts Mean by Diane Gilleland


When I started this quilt, I didn’t think of it as being particularly meaningful. Back in 2013, I had a new book out called Quilting Happiness, which I co-authored with Christina Lane. And so I decided to make a quilt from the book and blog about my progress.


I chose my fabrics purely out of practicality. Normally I love light, bright colors, but I had a dark grey cat (Pushkin) who made it his mission in life to lay upon every piece of fabric that came into the house. And when he lounged, he deposited a fine grey patina. So I decided to stick to a low-volume group of greys for my quilt, since I knew Pushkin would quickly assume ownership and why fight a cat’s inalienable right to anything?


I’ve never been good at finishing projects that are purely for me, so this quilt crept along like a glacier for the next two years. It wasn’t just me holding things up – when I did work on the project, there was a certain, um… feline impediment. Each time I’d lay out my fabrics and get started, Pushkin would immediately jump up on the table (or my lap), flop right down, and begin purring.

“I AM HELPING,” he’d say (in cat-telepathy, of course).

“You know, I need to sew that exact piece you’re laying on,” I’d reply. Can I just have it?”


“Yeah, but I can’t do anything unless you move.”


“Well… when you’re right, you’re right.”


After a while, I devised some little tricks to get around the “helping.” When I was setting up to work, I’d lay out one nice, fresh enticing piece of fabric, making a big show of patting it and smoothing it out. (Smooth fabric = cat magnet.) Then, once Pushkin was fully settled in on that piece, I’d get out the stuff I’d really planned to work on. Or, when I was hand-quilting, I’d lay the quilt sandwich out on a big table, so there’d be space for him to stretch out while I stitched on another section. We logged a lot of nice hours this way, sewing and “helping” in companionable quiet.


I’d always envisioned that the first time I made my bed with the finished quilt, Pushkin would jump up, arrange himself regally in the center, and survey his domain (which included, of course, the quilt, the bed, the house, and the humans). Sadly, though, that never came about. Before I could finish the quilt, we lost Pushkin to that thing that claims so many cats – kidney failure.

As anyone knows, it’s a terribly sad time, losing a beloved pet-friend. At first, I thought I’d never work on that quilt again. But as Julie so beautifully put it in her post, grieving sometimes needs ways to shut down the mind while keeping the hands busy. So I found myself digging my quilt-in-progress out more and more – doing just a little more quilting, stitching on just a little binding. As my needle moved in and out of that grey fabric, I could feel my little helper’s presence, and it was so soothing.


Before too long, I had finally finished the quilt – the first thing I’ve made purely for myself in years. (I mean, you know, I was making it for the cat of course, but then inherited the right to use it.) I smoothed it out on my bed as I’d always envisioned. A bit of a sad moment, since I’d never get to see Pushkin resting there like a king. But I do love getting that little glimpse of grey each time I pass the bedroom door, and I love snuggling underneath it at night. A quilt that keeps my favorite helper close by.


I think quilts take on meaning precisely because they can take so long to make. They absorb all those days with their ups and downs, and become a kind of memory touchstone. Eventually, I’ll move on to another cat-friend and embark on a lighter, brighter quilt. But I’ll always keep my grey quilt nearby and Pushkin in my heart, ready to pull out and snuggle when needed.

Visit Diane on Twitter and Instagram, and at Craftypod, where she is currently sharing a free design from her totally awesome new book

What Quilts Mean: with my dear friend, Christa Woodman

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What Quilts Mean - Christa WoodmanI hope you’ll give a very warm welcome to the second guest in this series, one of my dearest friends, Christa Woodman. Christa does not have a blog herself, but if you’re a regular reader of this blog, I’m sure you’ll have seen her name pop up from time to time, as one-third of my beloved Mini-Bee, fellow pub knitter and general crafty co-conspirator. One of the first things Christa and I bonded over was a familiarity with Liberty fabrics (though few rival her encyclopedic knowledge of Liberty prints) and a love of vintage needlecraft books. She’s a lovely friend and ridiculously skilled stitcher, and I’m so happy to have her here today.

What Quilts Mean by Christa Woodman

This is something that I think about more and more – often sparked by conversations with Julie – and I love that quilts do mean more to us than just the pieces of fabric that they’re made of. We share a group of friends who knit and sew together regularly (generally at the pub, what can I say?). I met these friends as a fully-fledged knitter, but patchwork is a pastime that has developed and grown as a direct result of our friendship.

My real interest began a few years ago at the amazing Festival of Quilts. Julie, Karen and I went, way back in the early days of our friendship, when I was still a little afraid to ask if anyone would like to join me for a really long day out somewhere I’d never been and for what might have been a disaster, for all I knew. Ah, how things have changed! We’ve gone every year since and daydream about how, when we win the lottery, we’ll stay in a fancy hotel and go for the full four days of the event. For now we content ourselves with two, and I swear it’s better than Christmas – all the excitement and none of the stress!

What Quilts Mean - Christa Woodman

That’s how I started off, but what does it mean to me now? I have one project that probably explains my feelings the best. It’s a scrappy hexagon tote bag – a silly item to have such an attachment to, I know, but there is a meaning to me behind every aspect of it. It was inspired by that first trip to the FoQ and it’s been my long-running mindless project, on hand whenever I need something utterly undemanding.

What Quilts Mean - Christa Woodman

I can’t look at it without seeing and remembering. I can tell you where every scrap of fabric came from; bought, given or found. I’m sure I’ve sewn it on occasions that I’ve forgotten but I’ve certainly had it with me on lots of days worth remembering. I’ve stitched it at the pub with my dear Knitters, making each one pick their favourite hexie for me to sew in next. I did the same when visiting Gran in happy circumstances; on another occasion I sewed it at her hospital bedside as she recovered from a major stroke. I’ve sewn it with Grandpa (on the other side of the family) the day we had a picnic at the bottom of his garden. He was full of questions about EPP so I showed him how to do it. He got just a little sweary because it was so fiddly, but he always was a maker of things and he picked it up quickly. He has Alzheimer’s and didn’t remember a thing about it later on but I know he enjoyed that day, at the time. I still have the memory though, and those stitches to remind me.

What Quilts Mean - Christa Woodman

I’ve sewn it at home when I should have been doing other things; on my lunch break; on the train going for nice days out; and I’ve sewed it in the pub some more. It’s very nearly done. When it is, I’ll bring it with me to the FoQ, with Karen and Julie, to show a lovely lady from the Quilter’s Guild, who we met on our first visit, how I copied her bag.

Whether it’s hand-stitched and portable, or tethered to the machine, hours worth of thoughts and memories are hidden in the stitches we make, visible only to ourselves – and if we’re lucky, maybe to a few others. I love having friends who know what fabric I own (they made me buy half of it!), how much I worry over designs and decisions and how long I’ve spent stitching. I don’t think I’m imagining it to think that there are little traces of us that cross into each other’s work too: the lazy Sundays spent sewing in the pub just for the fun of it; the Emergency Sewing Sessions because one of us needed it; watching Pretty Woman and Dirty Dancing round at Karen’s. Julie speaks of the tears that soaked into the fabric of her quilt, well, there’s one or two of mine in the quilt I’m making for my Mum, as I thought of Julie and her family.

I never expected to end up in any form of quilting bee. I thought it was an old fashioned idea that wouldn’t still exist in this day and age, much as I might like it to. I love that it’s something that we’ve fallen into by happy accident, made up for ourselves, encouraged each other to ever more stitchy-madness, and discovered to be a modern tradition too. In a word – quilts mean friendship.

What Quilts Mean - Christa Woodman

Visit Christa on Instagram, where she shares her beautiful sewing, chalk signage and baking.