Quilting Gallery Blog

Joanna Norman and Forever Green Quilts

Guest Blogger Month at the Quilting Gallery

Thanks, Michele, for inviting me to share some of my quilting story and thoughts. Quilting is intricately connected to my personal values of family and community. My mother and grandmothers all sewed and did needle work. They got me started on needle point, embroidery, and cross-stitching when I was a young girl, but I didn’t make my first quilt until 2000. I had been interested in learning to quilt, but had not taken the time to do it.

Early that year, I went to spend some time with my Mom who was having a difficult recovery from surgery. I grabbed a pattern for a quilt featuring a yellow Labrador and the fabrics I’d bought, planning to work on cutting it while I was hanging out with my mom. Two days into my visit, she had a heart attack and I spent the rest of my time on that visit with her in the hospital. A long six weeks later, she passed away and I was home again, grieving. I pulled out the quilting project and started cutting. I cried many tears for my mom making that quilt, but it allowed me the time and space to work through my loss.

Yellow Lab Quilt

The next two quilts I made were for my daughters. In 2001 and 2003 we created our family through adoption. I had read about a tradition in rural China when a baby is born. Family and friends give 100 pieces of fabric from old clothing and put together a blanket to wrap the baby up in their love and good wishes. I decided to make a 100 Good Wishes Quilt to welcome my first daughter home. This quilt was filled with dreams, hopes and love from me and all the family and friends who gave me fabric. It was an absolute joy for me to make it and helped me through the long months of waiting to adopt my first daughter.

Good Wishes Quilt 1

Years later, I looked back at the journal I kept while waiting for her to come home. Unknown to me at the time, I began creating her quilt on the day she was born thousands of miles away in China! After my baby girl came home, I didn’t quilt again for almost two years. I didn’t think I had the time. But as it turns out, I needed quilting in my life. We decided to add to our family and while waiting for our second daughter to come home from China, I made a 100 Good Wishes Quilt for her. I had no idea how I would get it done with a 2 year old "helping" me, but I found that I could make time for quilting and it brought me such joy.

Good Wishes Quilt 2

I recently took a new path on my quilting journey and that is what I really want to focus on in this blog post. Again, at a time of major transition in my life, quilting has been there. I was laid off from my job as an adoption case manager about 6 months ago and was doing some pretty heavy soul searching to deal with missing my job and figuring out what to do next. I worked with a wonderful life coach, Jenny Ferry of Crest of Your Life. With her help I reconnected with my core values of family, community, quilting, creativity and taking care of the earth. That is when Forever Green Quilts was born. I made a commitment to go green with my personal quilting and my custom quilting work and to help other quilters do the same.

Switching to earth-friendly quilting has been challenging at times and quite fun too. I use organically grown cotton fabric whenever possible. Did you know that cotton accounts for more pesticide use in the world than any other crop? By using organic cotton and creating a demand for it, we quilters could have a substantial impact on pesticide use! Of course, using only organic cotton limits my fabric palette considerably, but I have enjoyed the challenge of designing for a more limited color palette.

There are eco-friendly ways to get a wider range of fabrics. For example, just like our grandmothers and great grandmothers, and the occasional grandfather, I use "repurposed" fabrics. That is the politically correct term for using old clothing, sheets, blankets, etc., in quilts. I shop at thrift stores for flannel shirts, jeans, and cotton blouses to use in my quilts.

Recently I actually used a pair of my husband’s NEW corduroy pants in a quilt. He’d put them in my sewing room so I could hem them, but I forgot that and cut them up and used them in a flannel quilt. Oops! Nothing is safe once you start repurposing fabric for your quilts. Don’t forget about your scrap bag and your stash. This is a great place to find fabrics with colors that you might not be able to find in organic fabric lines.

Scraps quilt are "green" and wonderfully traditional. There are also fabrics made with new materials such as bamboo and hemp. I particularly like the bamboo fabrics and bamboo is much easier on the earth because it can be grown without pesticides and grows very quickly. For more information about where to find organic fabrics sources you can visit my website.

Even if you don’t want to go as extreme as I do and limit your fabric choices to only organic and repurposed fabrics, you can select green battings to use for your quilts. There are several different battings available now that are eco-friendly. My two favorites are DreamGreen, made from recycled plastic bottles, and an organic cotton/bamboo blend from Fairfield. The DreamGreen works and feels like a nice quality cotton-poly blend and is medium weight. The cotton/bamboo batting is lightweight, very soft and luxurious. Another green batting option is to repurpose old blankets and use them inside quilts as batting. I have a review of other eco-friendly batting options on my website.

So much of what I do with Forever Green Quilts is not really new. It is a return to older habits and older ways and is also quite economical. Quilts for me are about family and community. Quilting has nourished and sustained me though sorrow and through joy. I want my quilting to do the same for others and for the earth. I hope you’ll consider going greener with your quilting and being part of an earth-friendly quilting community.

Green Quilt 1 is called "River at Dusk" and is made with organic and repurposed fabrics. The pattern is available for free on my website.

River at Dusk

Green Quilt 2 is called "Charlie’s Bar Mitvah Quilt" and is made with repurposed sports jerseys.

Charlie's Bar Mitvah Quilt

Green Quilt 3 is "Challah Cover" and is made with organic fabrics. This pattern is also available for free on my website.

Challah Cover

Green Quilt 4 is "Baby Stars" is made entirely with organic, naturally dyed cotton.

Baby Stars

Give-Away

So now you tell me … do environmental concerns affect your living choices and your quilting choices? Would you consider going green with your quilting? How do you quilt greener?

Post your comments and you could win a copy of my new pattern "Plaids and Pants". (Random winner will be chosen from all comments submitted by midnight on Feb. 19.)

Joanna Norman

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This post was published on February 14th, 2009. Post topics: Guest Bloggers, Quilt Gallery. Post tags: , .

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