A big medium


Villages quilters create exciting art in cloth.

Of the 3,000 clubs in The Villages, the Quilting Guild of The Villages, with its 23 chapters and more than 1,200 members, is one of the two or three largest. Additionally, hundreds more Villagers quilt but aren’t affiliated with the guild. That’s testament to how exciting and satisfying quilting is as an art form.

My wife, Dale, a master quilter with more than 75 awards from quilting shows in Florida, explains that quilting began thousands of years ago in the colder regions of the Far East, where people discovered that clothing could be made much warmer by sandwiching insulation—cotton, wool, even paper—between two layers of cloth and stitching them together.

From that humble beginning, quilting spread across the world to include creating blankets, pillow covers, wall hangings, table runners, place mats, and an elegant application called wearable art, involving jackets, tunics, vests, skirts, dresses, and other fashion accessories.

In America, quilting began by making warm bedcovers we now call “quilts.” Early examples were simply random scraps of any cloth, in odd shapes and colors, pieced together and sewn to a layer of insulation and backing. Through the years, distinctive period styles emerged in these patchwork quilts. But it wasn’t until the 20th century that true quilting creativity became widespread.

In the early 1900s, quilt patterns showed up, first printed in newspapers. In the latter half of the century, new technology and equipment arrived to permit the edges and points of pieces to meet with more intricate precision and beauty. Also, new dyes, inks, paints, and textiles were introduced, allowing advanced quilters to use cloth to tell a story the way a painter does on a canvas. They were able to take photos of trees, flowers, sculpture, and designs from other art forms and convert them to hand-cut pieces that, when sewn together, became as beautiful and representational as anything painted on canvas.

Villagers can learn basic quilting skills through classes offered at nearby quilt shops. Advanced skills can be achieved by joining a chapter of The Villages Quilting Guild (qgotv.org) and taking classes at modest cost. Dale, who is a past president of the guild, is among many teachers who gives classes at guild chapter meetings. They can help anyone who knows the basics of quilting to experience the excitement of creating beautiful art in cloth.