“And this was the first thing that really struck me about knitting—I could make whatever I wanted in any color of my choosing. It was a possibility as ultimately liberating as it was initially daunting.”
–Betsy Greer, Knitting for Good. 1
Do-It-Yourself or DIY is a simple sounding name for a movement rooted in a complex set of ideals centered in an artisan connection to making objects. Many people have long created simply for the self-expressive potential. The DIY ethos encourages individuals to take creative pursuits—whether plumbing, screenprinting, or home-sewing—into their own hands, rather than rely on experts, professionals, or commercial products. For many DIYers, the act of making is a political statement against mass production and in favor of anticonformity.
With the widespread availability of commercial bedcovers, quilting is not necessary, but quiltmakers purposefully carve time out of their schedules to quilt. Crafters of all kinds find satisfaction through the tactility permitted in craft practice. Knitter Betsy Greer realized that, as she handled skeins of yarn, the ability to touch objects was what she felt was missing in her daily experience. Quiltmakers call this same experience “petting the fabric.” Many crafters mention alienation from the process or the products they create in their everyday work lives. Crafting, whether quiltmaking or woodworking, reconnects makers and allows them to participate in every stage of a project.
Artist Jean Ray Laury used quilts as her primary medium for more than three decades. She encouraged her students to incorporate artistic principles; however, she also fostered experimentation and personal expression. With the demands of being a wife, mother, artist, and author, she became aware of the importance of handmade objects to her sense of self. Through her books and teaching, she encouraged other women in the same search.
One of the effects of the DIY movement over the last forty years has been the focus on creativity in design and materials as well as making quilts according to the individual’s perspective and expectation. New groups, like the Modern Quilt Guild, encourage makers of all kinds of crafts to break and bend the rules that originally discouraged them from attempting the craft.