Folk Fibers Blog

  • The Spirit Piece

    In quilting folklore "humility blocks" are often mentioned; an out of place color or odd placement in the patchwork design is an interpreted idea that since only God is perfect than making a perfect quilt is prideful. The opinions are divided if humility blocks are intentional mistakes as an exercise in Biblical decorum, or happy accidents. Quilt historians who have researched the origins of the humility block legend sum it up as a myth. The idea probably got started when people noticed an odd placement of a fabric piece or a change in color and wondered whether it was done on purpose; when infact it could be an expression of economic solutions or a happy accidents. The humble block may also be an idea carried over from the Native American beadwork. It is common practice to intentionally string a wrong-colored bead into an otherwise perfect pattern. This is called the spirit bead. Every piece of beadwork must contain a spirit bead, as attempting to create an object of total perfection has always been considered bad luck. 

    However the humility block is Interpreted, I am here to tell my story. In my opinion, quilts resonate and make deeper connections when the handwork and imperfections are visible. Any abstract element in a quilt evokes a warm homespun quality that draws you in and begins to tell the story. When making a quilt I always incorporate what I call a "spirit piece", it is intended to transcend the overall design. The pieces are special to me and hold a great deal of meaning, sometimes bold and sometimes subtle. The photos I show here are of my recent flying geese quilt. The quilts design is abstract overall but only one triangle in the entire quilt is cut from a floral pattern. Even more, the floral fabric was a gift from my friend Shauna Alterio from Somethings Hiding in Here. Shauna was so kind to share with me a box of fabric scraps left over from the making of their Forage Bow-Ties. Everyone who sees this quilt in person is drawn to that triangle, because it's different than all the rest, yet it fits right in, perfectly. The spirit piece is the gateway to telling the story of the quilt, and all that went into making it. 

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  • Comments on this post (2 comments)

    • Ann Tilley says...

      I’ve always loved this idea too. When I couldn’t get the velvet corners (yeah, velvet…) on my latest quilt to all line up, embracing the imperfection and handmade-ness helped a lot! Thanks for sharing your process

      On June 23, 2012

    • Haley says...

      I love the idea of the spirit piece. Your quilts have an amazing voice.

      On June 06, 2012

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