You and Me and Quiltfolk, Too

posted in: Quilting, Work 55
Merikay and me, on Merikay's back porch in Knoxville. Photo by Leah Nash, courtesy Quiltfolk.
Merikay and me, on Merikay’s back porch in Knoxville. Photo by Leah Nash, courtesy Quiltfolk.


I never meant to be a quilter and I never meant to work in the quilt industry.

I was working as a freelance writer and performer in Chicago and then, not knowing what I was doing (in so many respects!), I made a quilt that I loved fiercely, a quilt that helped me heal from illness and heartsickness and that was it: My life in quilts began.

Those who know the American quilt landscape know why I stay. It’s the same reason we all stay: for the people.

Fine, we stay for the fabric, too.

But you know and I know we’d throw all the fabric bundles in the world into the sea if it meant we couldn’t keep the friends we’ve made in this quilt culture of ours. Some of the quilters and quilt industry people I’ve met are among my very best friends; many are people I’ve met at events. I’m happy to state the obvious: Quilters are remarkable people. When I think I stumbled into this thing sorta-kinda by mistake, I get quiet, because I might’ve missed it entirely if I wasn’t paying attention (and if I had given up on that first, awful quilt.)

There’s a publication out now called Quiltfolk. It’s not exactly a magazine; it’s not quite a book. The creators call it “a keepsake quarterly” and they’ve got it exactly. Quiltfolk put out its first issue last yaer; when Mom came across it, she said, “Mary, you gotta see this.” And so do you: Quiltfolk is unlike any quilt magazine you’ve seen, I assure you.

There are no ads. There is photography that will make you drool, except you’d better get it together because the paper Quiltfolk is printed on is way too nice to get wet. And, as you’ve probably guessed, the content is all about quilters. Quilt people. You, and me, and us.

Each issue focuses on quilt culture in a state or region of America, and that is a very, very groovy way to shape a thing. This is not a pattern magazine. There are a lot of fine magazines for that and we definitely want those patterns. But Quiltfolk offers a window on the world, each issue an investigation of the quilters who live in a particular area. The first issue was Oregon. Then came Iowa (there may or may not be a Fons person or two in there.) Issue 03, out now, takes you to flippin’ Hawaii.

Then, late last spring, I got a call from Mike McCormick, co-founder of Quiltfolk, about doing some writing for them. I said I’d think about it. (I’m kidding. I pinched myself and muted the phone so I could yip and jump and not scare the poor guy.)

In June, I met up with Mike, Rebekah, and Leah in Nashville, because Issue 04…is Tennessee.

We went to Tennesee! To investigate the rich quilt culture of Tennessee and write about it and take pictures of it! Could you die?? I just about did. This assignment was bliss for a quilt history nerd like me. You might remember when I was down there. I was vague about my trip because fans of Quiltfolk — a growing army at this point — know that when the publication’s next state or region is announced, it’s like Christmas.

Being able to write for Quiltfolk is an honor. I met Merikay Waldvogel, y’all. This woman is a legend. A quilt historian whose work over the decades has strengthened the roots of our world in incalculable ways. She’s a personal hero and she’s just one of the people we interviewed for Issue 04 — there’s so much more.

So I’m breaking my rule about outside links in the ol’ PG. Get Quiltfolk in your life and don’t wait too long: Issue 01: Oregon sold out long ago and Issue 02: Iowa is dwindling. Get ‘Hawaii’ and sign up for Tennessee. You know I don’t promote too much stuff around here; when I do, I mean it. Yes, this magazine is more expensive than your others; but to make this collectible object, a publication without ads, with deep reporting, and lush photography by a woman who has shot photos for National Geographic for Lord’s sake… You will never regret it. I promise you that.

My only regret about this whole Quiltfolk thing is that I didn’t come on as a writer one issue earlier. I missed freaking Hawaii. You owe me one, McCormick. I’ll forgive you if you slate Issue 10 for Alaska.