LIVINGSTON — A group of quilting enthusiasts gathered at the Livingston Parish Library Thursday to learn about the age-old art of quilt making.
The dozen women, led by Becky Guillot, president of the Livingston Parish Quilting Guild, received an overview of the history of quilt making and were introduced to the basics of the hobby.
Class participants said they wanted to know more about quilting because making quilts brought back fond memories of their mothers, grandmothers, aunts and friends who made hand-crafted covers they remember fondly from their youth.
“It’s a pleasure to put together something as beautiful and useful as a quilt,” said Guillot, who is retired from LSU, where she worked in personnel. “Designing the quilt cover gives one a great deal of satisfaction, and when the quilt is finished, there’s a feeling of satisfaction and joy in knowing that a project has been completed.”
Quilt making is a connection to the past and a gift for the future, she said.
Guillot said she has made quilts for her two children and for her three grandchildren and they’re gifts that will last for a lifetime.
Guillot told the quilting class that she learned to sew in high school in Plaucheville, a small rural community in Avoyelles Parish. Almost all residents of Plaucheville are descendents of the Acadian people exiled from their Eastern Canadian homes more than two centuries ago, she said. Quilt making was an essential chore in such rural communities , Guillot said.
“I want to learn how to quilt because my mother used to make quilts,” Suetta Burneysaid. “This is something I always wanted to do, and I know that I will finish my first quilt with what I am now learning.”
Sandra Richmond, of Walker, said she has just started quilting but wanted to learn more about the art. “My grandma quilted, and I am interested in keeping up the tradition. I’ve just retired and now I have time to learn how to quilt. I just didn’t have the time before but I’m here to learn.”
Guillot led participants through the basics of quilting, and demonstrated different squares, or designs, that go into creating the top of the quilt.
Squares can be cut and sewn in a variety of ways and she demonstrated, for example, how to make pinwheels, which are a common quilt motif.
She showed them how to stitch together the squares.
Each participant was equipped with scissors, needles, thread, thimbles and rulers.
She admonished them to make their stitches neat and flat so that there is no “bump” in the finished product.
Guillot uses patterns from books which she said are available at three quilt shops that serve the Baton Rouge area.
Quilts also need a backing and a center called batting, a layer of fiber that can be cotton, polyester, wool or other fibers.
To complete the ensemble, the quilter lays the backing on a floor or very large table, places the batting over the backing, and then the top. Guillot showed participants how to pin the three layers together.
Once the quilt “sandwich” is assembled, the quilting stitching across the entire quilt begins, she said.
Before modern sewing machines were available, this time-consuming stitching was done by hand, usually on a quilting frame, Guillot said, adding that her grandmother would stitch the quilts from a frame suspended from a ceiling.
Quilting in rural America gave women time for fellowship and probably much gossiping, she said. The quilting bee remains a staple of earlier, more carefree times, Guillot said.
Guillot said she uses what is known as a longarm sewing machine to make the final stitching much easier than completing the task by hand.
She said commercial firms offer stitching services and will complete the final stage of the quilt.
Carefully choosing fabric for the top is critical, Guillot said.
“I’m a fabric snob … and look for good, high quality fabric for my patters,” she said.
Since the cost of fabric has risen considerably over the past several years, Guillot said a queen-sized quilt can cost as much as $400.
Another cost, she said, are the gadgets a quilter has to assemble, such as special rulers for quilting.
“Don’t forget to get a ripper … no quilting kit is complete without a ripper. If you quilt, you will rip,” she said, laughing.
Guillot said that estimating the value of a quality, well-sewn and designed quilt is difficult.
The expense and hard work that goes into making a quilt is rewarding, Guillot said.
“It looks like quilting can be a lot of fun,” said Sarah Watson, a novice quilter who attended the class.
“But what’s important is that it reminds me of my grandmother. We have pictures of us as kids cuddled up under quilts my grandma made. It’s important for me to continue this great tradition. I’m determined to finish my first quilt.”