by Susan Behuniak-Long

.I didn't know that when I first looked at an Amish quilt and felt my heart pounding that my soul was starving, that an inner voice was trying to make sense of my life.

......................................................... I thought I was going to learn more about Amish quilts, but the quilts were only guides, leading me to what I really needed to learn, to answer a question I hadn't yet formed:

Is there another way to lead a good life?

Sue Bender, Plain and Simple: A Woman's Journey to the Amish

In an age in which the inexhaustible power of scientifc technology makes all things possible, it remains to be seen where we will draw the line, where we will be able to say, here are possibilities that wisdom suggests we avoid. I am convinced that any philosophy of technology worth its salt must eventualy ask, How can we limit modern technology to match our best sense of who we are and the kind of world we would like to build?

Langdon Winner, The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High [echnology

The ubiquitous nature of technology indicates a society driven by the pursuit of speed, efficiency, and production. Technological innovations are developed, sold, and embraced in the name of progress. The acclaim, how.ever, is not universal. Scholars are producing a body of literature that questions whether technology can truly buy us time, release us from boredom, and unleash our creativity. ~ These critics are not technophobes; rather, they are raising the question of whether technology, in eliminating the traditional way of doing things, fails to fully replicate all the social functions of the previous method. A substitution of technique may result in a loss of social patterns and community values. Are we aware of the point when this occurs? Do we know where to stop the advancement of technology?

Given the social import of these questions, it may seem odd to seek answers through the study of quilting. Quilts are, after all, anachronisms of a prein.dustrial world. Painstakingly cut, pieced, and sewn, they move in slow motion as the rest of the world reels ahead in fast.forward. But this is precisely the source of their value. In a highly mechanized world, quilts stand as statements about social values and technological limits. While we grapple with the task of defining technological boundaries, quilters use a needle to stitch the line beyond which technology should not tread.

Like a quilt, this essay is constructed of three layers. The first section examines the degree and kind of impact that technology has had on the craft of quilting. While quilting may appear to be an act of resistance in the face of technology, quilters have, in fact, integrated elements of technology within their work, and indeed, technology has transformed the meaning of the activity itself. The essay's second layer applies theoretical critiques of tech.nology in the workplace to the craft of quilting in order to illustrate the political dimensions of technology. The essay's third section returns to the question of what is lost when one technique is substituted for another. As applied to quilting, the answer also indicates what is preserved by the prac.tice of this craft.

How Technology Touches Quilting

It is important to see quilting not as outside of the technological world, but as a part of it. It is the rare quilter who is impervious to the impact of technology; both the theory and the practice of the craft are influenced, even shaped, by technology. First, the political significance of quilting has changed as the activity has evolved from an economic necessity to an art form, a transformation rooted in the industrialization of textiles. Second, technology has also changed the practice of the craft through the introduction of new quilting tools, machines, books, and methods.

.Technology and the Meaning of Quilting

The history of American quilting is inextricably bound to the history of technology. Prior to industrialization, quilting was a necessity. Little girls learned the craft at so young an age that many had completed their first quilt by the time they were five. But this was no childish hobby; it was work. Needlework was taught through use of the "stints""the assignment of a specific amount of work to be done each day."3 Young white girls labored for years to complete twelve quilts before work on their marriage quilts began.4 Black women (and men) bound in slavery sewed late into the night, producing quilts to cover their families.5 Women who relocated to America's frontier depended on their quilts not only to warm their beds but also to cover windows and doors and shut out the cold and the blowing dust.6

In that preindustrial age, women labored to weave and dye fabrics, collected cotton or wool to make the batting, and sewed until their hands cramped too badly to hold needles any longer. Such labor elevated the value of each item produced. Fabric was so highly valued that frugality demanded patchwork over the more wasteful technique of applique which layers fabric over fabric. While quilting did serve as a much.needed outlet for creativity7 and political expression,3 and while it did provide occasions for social contact through the quilting bees,9 quilting was also oppressive in its attempt to answer the urgent need of survival.

With the rise of industrialization, quilting took on new meaning. The mass production and low cost of fabrics, clothing, and bedding might have freed at least middle. and upper.class women from the oppressive needle. Instead, the bondage continued in a new form. The creation of quilts was used to further the development of new standards of femininity. No longer were large quan.tities the goal; now the quality of the quilt was highly prized. Elaborate designs, extravagant use of fabrics, and tiny and profuse quilting stitches became the marks of quilting excellence. The model wife or daughter was one who sewed, quilted, embroidered, knitted, crocheted, and tatted items worthy of admiration. Not so coincidentally, she was also a woman who sat quietly, modestly. and Datientlv. and selflessyv en~a~ed in the repetition, monotony and routine of the women's sphere. ~ Her role was to create a home that was "a warm, comforting and beautiful sanctuary away from the harsh world of trade and commercialism." Quilting (and femininity) was encouraged with the marketing of patterns and the prizes offered by contests. ~ ~ It was in to the cult of the feminine that needlework also became "the expression of femininity" itself.

Perhaps not so ironically, some women were able to spend their days creating delicate objects of beauty because other women continued to labor out of necessity. Whether bonded to a master and his plantation, or to a master and his machine, slave women and factory women experienced a different effect of industrialization than did middle.class women. Some slave women suffered under the demand from northern mills for more and more cotton. Other slave women worked as "sewing women" who crafted quilts for their masters' houses. Use of women as "living machines" was also employed in the textile mills of the North. Describing their circumstances in such terms as "white slavery," and "slave labor," the "mill girls" made clear how their oppression connected them with the black women of the South.~3 Working twelve.hour days, six days a week, lodged in crowded boardinghouses with strictly enforced rules, exposed to unsanitary working conditions and deadly epidemics, and devalued even more by pay cuts, the mill girls struggled to reform this oppressive construction oftechnology. Thomas Hood's "Song of the Shirt" movingly captured their plight:

Oh men, with sisters dear!

Oh men, with mothers and wives!

It is not linen you're wearing out,

But human creatures' lives!

Stitch stitchstitch!

In poverty, hunger, and dirt,

Sewing at once, with a double thread,

A shroud as well as a shirt!~5

In the wake of further mechanization and labor reform, the position of textiles as a product of industry, rather than of home, was solidified.The 1940s witnessed yet another change in the meaning of quiltingits loss of significance in the public realm. During World War II, women left their homes to enter the work force; their new occupations left them little time or inclination for quilting. Even when the women workers were displaced by the returning troops, quilting did not regain national prominence. While quilting was still practiced locally, interest in it faded until a national revival in the early 1970s.'6 Certainly contributing to the resurgence of enthusiasm for the craft was the preparation for celebrating the Bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence. In 1976, communities and individuals alike honored the occa.sion by creating commemorative quilts depicting the history of the nation, a specific community, or a concept illustrative of two hundred years of liberty. ~ 7

However, this rebirth was not a mere replication of the past, but a "reinven.tion" of the meaning of quilting. Once regarded as utilitarian artifacts of the past, quilts were reborn both as women's art and political artifacts.~8 While changes in the art world and the feminist movement served as two of the catalysts for this dramatic transformation, the technological world provided the necessary environment.

While quilts have always been displayedon beds, sofas, walls, dolls, and even people their first display as "art" came in a 1971 exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art, "Abstract Design in American Quilts." Organizer Jonathan Holstein presented quilters as fabric artists.~9 While this elevation of a "common" household item might appear to be unique, it is a rather com.mon phenomenon of popular culture. While Jeff Ferrell suggests that eco.nomics guides an item's passage through the four stages of degradation and rehabilitation (new, old, used, and vintage), technology plays a role as well. This process, "being more social than physical," is related to the item's scarcity as well as its age.20 The quilt became valued again only when quilts became rarer and symbolic of an age distant enough to be regarded with nostalgia. Part of the charm of butter churns, washboards, spinning wheels, and quilts is that they are no longer necessary. They are also from a distant enough past that ownership of the item is indicative of good taste rather than of a financial inability to acquire the latest in technological devices.

But the art world's elevation of the quilt was also related to the quilt's changing status within the feminist movement. Painfully aware of how had been used to confine women's lives and choices, feminists tended to regard quilting as another symbol of women's unequal status in society. However, with the maturation of feminist discourse in the 1970s, feminism expanded to include a recognition and celebration of women's difference. Rediscovery of women's history and women's voice was furthered by the rediscovery of women's quilts. As Carolann Barrett writes, For me, quiltmaking blends and integrates feminism and spirituality. In the best sense, both feminism and spirituality seek to increase our awareness of ourselves and our sisters, empower us to our finest and strongest, connect us with each other, honor our differences, and appreciate the mysteries of life. All of these aspects can be present in our quilts.22

However, such a joyous reunion of women and craft was made possible not only by changes in gender roles, but also by changes in technology. Freed from the needle, women could embrace quilting as their history, their voice, and their art. Quilts, no longer a necessity, no longer used to enforce standards of femininity, could only now become a banner of feminism.

Technology and the Act of Quilting

While technology shapes the meaning of quilting, it also influences the act of quilting itself. Although the end product can appear remarkably like its ancestors, most quilts are crafted today in a dramatically different way than those made prior to industrialization. Quilts of yesteryear were designed with paper templates, constructed with homemade fabrics, cut with scissors, pieced by hand, layered on a wooden frame, and quilted or tied by a handheld needle. It was slow, painstaking work.

Enter technology. Quilters can buy a book or a magazine for inspiration, or use a computer to help them envision the plan. If the pattern needs to be reduced or enlarged, the copy machine makes this fast work. The fabric shop offers an abundance of manufactured bolts, and special fabric can be ordered from a catalog (just call 1.800, have your credit card number ready, and ask for Federal Express). Now fabrics are washed, dried, and ironed using the latest in appliances and cut using the cutting mat, rotary cutter, and "ridded ruler. One can save time by cutting several layers of material at once. Quilts are chain pieced or strip pieced in assembly.line fashion on the sewing ma.chine. Once the top is done, quilting lines are traced using precut plastic stencils and the latest in chalk/pencil/pen. The top, batting, and backing are connected with hundred of stainless steel safety pins. Those who opt for quilting snap a walking or darning foot onto their sewing machines and begin quilting. The technologically advanced use a "state of the art" quilting machine to complete a full.size quilt in two hours or less.23 Edges are bound by machine. The finished product is often signed on quilt labels, using an.indelible pen to record the quilter's name and city and the completion date. That is how many modern quilts are done.

Of course, being of an individualistic nature, not all quilters have adopted the technological approaches described above. Even so, contemporary methods, tools, and machines have brought to the forefront a concern shared by most quilters of the past and the presentthat of time. Time is a consideration of every quilter. The more time spent on one quilt, the fewer quilts produced. Even within communities for whom time appears to stand still, there is recognition of temporal limitations. The Amish quilts, distinctive in their use of large pieces of fabric, are illustrative of a time.saving piecework tradition. Eschewing the wasteful, whether it is wasting fabric in appliqueing or time spent piecing, the Amish readily accepted the treadle sewing machine in the 1870s and 1880s. By the turn of the century, another group of people not usually associated with technology was also piecing fabrics on machine. The Seminole women used their sewing machines, along with strip.piecing methods, to develop a new form of patchwork that today bears their name.24

The conservation of time is also a dominant theme in instructional quilting books. Popular guides like Leslie Linsley's The Weekend Quilt, Anita Hallock's Fast Patch, Marti Mitchell's Quilting for People Who Don't Have Tme to Quilt./, Eleanor Burn's series, and Kay Wood's Strip Quilting series all emphasize shortcuts, use of modern tools, and machine construction. Even Georgia Bonesteel's Lap Quilting series emphasizes techniques to quicken hand qullting.

Conquering time constraints can also be accomplished by scaling back the size of the quilt. While wall.hanging and crib sizes are favorites, the miniature quilt is also gaining in popularity. A reflection of "the technological advances that have brought us ever.more complex devices in smaller and smaller packages, such as the computer chip and miniatured circuit boards in calculators and appliances,"25 the trend toward miniature quilts is also supported by a fast.paced culture with limited hours of free time. A real attraction of a miniature quilt is that the quilter might actually be able to complete it in weeks rather than in yearseven if making it entirely by hand.

Today's quilt, then, "comprised of spare time as well as excess material" is touched not only by human hands, but by technological innovations as well.26 The meaning of quilting has evolved, and the craft of quilting has changed, due, at least in part, to the ever.shifting character of technology. How technology affects the crafter's relationship with her quilt constitutes the next layer of this study

.Quilts and the Politics of Technology

Since at least 1867 when Karl Marx published the first volume of Capital, the introduction of technology into the workplace has been viewed as a political phenomenon. Something happens when a machine or device be.comes part of a production process. Time may be saved and output in.creased. New techniques may change the character of the product, and the value ascribed to the product may increase or decrease. Political thought, however, has focused on the impact that technology has on the relationship between the crafter and the product, and the ramifications of this changed relationship for society and humanity.27 Does the technology further the crafter's ability to create or does it "usurp the crafter's control over the form of the product?"2~3 This question is as relevant for quilting as it is for manufacturing since the focus is on whether the technology enhances or undermines a crafter's work. The theoretical concepts of connection and commodification, which occupy a dominant place in political thought, be.come animated in the craft of quilting.


Since quilting today takes place in a technological world, the question here is not whether technologies should be used, but how technologies are, in fact, used by quilters. In considering technology as a practice, Ursula Franklin distinguishes between holistic and prescriptive technologies. Holistic technolo.gies, exemplified by crafts, are individualistic in nature. The crafter is in control of the planning and creation of the product. Since the person works as an individual, changes in the original design can be made as needed or as desired. The worker specializes in a product (quilts), rather than in a process (cutting fabrics, piecing, or quilting). In contrast, prescriptive technologies are based on a division of labor, designs for compliance, and a mandate for precision and conformity. Because work is now divided according to special.ization in a process, the process demands that workers follow specifications. Under prescriptive technologies, "there is only one way of doing 'it'." That one way is determined not by the worker, but by the supervisor or boss who is now in control of the product. The price, then, of increased efficiency and"understanding the social and political impact of prescriptive technologies is . . . the key to understanding our own real world of technology."29

Within the world of quilts, manufactured bedcovers are clearly examples of both the strengths and weaknesses of prescriptive technology. They are made quickly and inexpensively and are often attractive. While they more than adequately serve their function of keeping sleepers warm, they fail to express the work of an individual crafter. The buyer's awareness of this lack of rela.tionship between crafter and product is evident in the casual use and disposal of bedcovers. Inexpensively bought, mass produced items rarely engender care and sentimentality. In their mundaneness, they have no meaning or value beyond their limited use of covering and warming a bed. A product of a technological process, they are mere function.

While it may be tempting to evaluate a quilt on the basis of whether it was made by hand or by machine, Franklin's distinction between holistic and prescriptive forms suggests that the determinative factor should not be the absence of technology, but rather the presence of a connection between the crafter and her work. It is therefore a mistake to assign all handmade quilts to the category of holistic and all machine.made quilts to the category of pre.scriptive, since a closer look reveals varied patterns in the relationship between quilters and quilts.

For example, Amish quilts are often prized as models of personal workman.ship, while quilts produced on sewing machines are devalued as technological products. Yet, an Amish quilt that is sold to the public is rarely the creation of one woman crafter.30 Instead, the quilts are made in assembly.line fashion with the work divided among the quiltersillustrative, then, of prescriptive rather than holistic methods. In contrast, a quilter who uses her sewing ma.chine to quilt relies on technology to preserve the finer qualities of holistic work. Freed of the demands of hand sewing, the quilter has more of an opportunity to explore her creativity.

Some women have simultaneously participated in both types of quilt tech.nology. Slave sewers, who quilted designs determined by their mistresses, were not only participants in prescriptive technologies but were treated as if they were indeed sewing machines.3i Yet, these same women, when freed from oppressive control, used fabric as a medium for expression,32 a paradigm of holistic technology.

The distinction between holistic and prescriptive technologies is also useful activity. The exam .engaged in a prescriptive technology even though they may have been with another woman, the mistress, in the creation of the quilt. However, when true collaboration occurred, both women were a part of holistic quilting. There is a tendency, however, to view collective efforts as a blending of women's expression rather than as support for the realization of one woman's expression.33 The quilting bee is a collective endeavor but the control is in the hands of the woman who made the quilt top. It is she who determines where the quilt lines will be sewn. While she engages in the holistic, her friends offer their prescriptive labor. The line, then, between prescriptive and holistic tech.nology wavers like a seam sewn by a child.

Quilting in a technological world demands that a quilter make choices. She can design her own quilt, use someone else's design for inspiration, or buy a quilt kit with preselected fabrics and pattern. She can sew by hand all, some, or none of the quilt. She can work alone, with others, or for others. In defining the circumstances under which technology will be allowed to enter the craft of quilting, each quilter sets her own boundaries based on her conception of what it means to create a quilt.


Technology not only affects the degree of connection between quilt and quilter, but also has an impact on the value ascribed to the process and product of quilting. Indeed, as Marx argues, connection, commodification, and technology are so closely related that the introduction of technology results in greater productivity and greater profit but less connection between the worker and the product.34 Before industrialization, the crafter, working alone, produced less and made less money but was intimately involved with the craft. Each of the three phases of capitalism witnessed a breaking of the connection between crafter and product in the interest of profit. During the first phase of capitalism, there is cooperation among crafters; during the second phase, labor is divided among workers; and during the third phase, machines are introduced and the factory system is established. Therefore, while technol.ogy plays a fundamental role in advancing the third stage of capitalism, the worker's control over the craft is already being threatened by the need to produce and sell more of the product.35

This picture of diminished connection and increased commodification is expanded by Thorstein Veblen's study of the "captains of industry."36 While Marx focuses on the worker's sense of connection to the product, Veblen adds had practiced the craft as an apprentice. Upon learning the craft and a modest savings, apprentices could purchase the labor.saving devices necessary to allow them to work as individuals. But as specialization and the role of technologies increased, the impact was felt at two levels. First, the worker's use of technology became guided by "a logic of masses, velocities, strains, and thrusts, not of personal dexterity, tact, training, and routine."37 Second, the master became the permanent employer since few workers could now afford the transition from apprentice to master. This new breed of employer ceased crafting to become business managers. Production shifted from quality to quantity; from workmanship to profits.38 Today's industries are controlled by financiers who may have no grasp of the industrial arts, and whose connection to the work is not that of crafter but of profiteer.39

Many catalog companies today market quilts by selling nostalgia. The quilts are usually not antiques but newly sewn replications. The ads hawk these quilts as "hand sewn," "handcrafted," or "folk art," but it isn't usually clear just who the workers are who made these quilts or the degree of connection they have to their craft. Lands' End, Inc. serves as a good example of a company that mass markets quilts by downplaying their commodification and exag.gerating their artistic dimensions. The August 1991 Lands' End catalog con.tains four pages on quilting that seem to deliberately obscure the distinction between the art of quilting and the mass production of quilts. Two pages display five quilts that can be purchased. They are of traditional designs (Bear Paw, Double Wedding Ring, Sunbonnet Sue, School House, and Sailboat), and they are touted as "handcrafted quilts." Yet these "Coming Home" quilts are also marketed as even better than those of yesteryear:

You spread Great Aunt Sabina's antique quilt on your bed and it's wonderful! But look . . . it doesn't fold over the pillows, it doesn't cover the sides of the mattress, it just sits on top. It was made for smaller people, smaller beds.

Today, people are bigger . . . and so are beds. Coming Home quilts are even larger than most modern quilts and completely machine washable (we urge commercial.sized washers) so they fit our beds end our rough.and.tumble life.styles. Imported. But Lands' End does not want to give the impression that these quilts are of lesser value. A buyer must believe that she is participating in the folk art tradition of quilting by making this purchase. Hence, Lands' End (along with Good Housekeeping) invites consumers to enter "The All.American Quilt Con.test" to "celebrate the art of the quilter. " Following the two page spread on the quilts for sale is an article, "Continuing the Thread: Quilter Kathleen McCady." It is introduced by the statement, "Just as we're committed to fine workmanship in our 'cut and sewn' business, so we celebrate it in fields once removed from our own."40

These four catalog pages market mass.produced quilts by portraying pre.scriptive technologies as holistic. These quilts look like the old, but they are better than the old. They are handcrafted, but they are mass.produced. Kath.leen McCrady is a quilter, but she is not the quilter of these mass.marketed quilts. Consumers can buy one of these quilts or enter their own quilts in a contest. These quilts are pieces of art, but they are inexpensive (the most expensive twin size is $139, and double size is $169).

The Lands' End catalog illustrates some of the concerns of Marx and Veblen. In the mass production of these quilts, the worker's control is gone. The profit made does not belong to the crafter. The inexpensive pricing of imported quilts by mail.order companies, such as Lands' End, L. L. Bean, J. C. Penney, Spiegel, and Domestications, raises the question of just who the foreign workers are who handcrafted these quilts, and what percentage of the profit they received for their labor. Sandra Hatch, editor of Quilt World, reports that according to MAQGNET (Mid.Atlantic Quilt Guilds Network), some of the imported quilts are made in China with forced prison labor.4~ If true, consider the sad irony of Chinese prisoners carefully sewing calico fabrics into Double Wedding Ring and Log Cabin quilts while fearing for their lives. This would be the ultimate perversion of an American heritage for the sake of profit.

It is indeed a clever marketing strategy to sell prescriptive products as holistic. A company can ride the tide of renewed interest in quilting but bank on the fact that few consumers have the time to engage in the craft. Given the recent "commodification of leisure," that is, the devaluing of free time as wasted time,42 it is a good bet that workers will not be quilters. Hence, the companies fill a need they helped to create. Hidden, then, behind these mass.produced and mass.marketed quilts is industry masquerading as folk art.

The buying and selling of quilts is always problematic, given that quilts reflect not only the time and material invested, but also the crafter herself. It is more than fabric, stitching and time that is being boughtit is, as author Whitney Otto describes it, someone's story. As a character in her novel How to Make an Am~can Quilt laments, "Anyone who could buy something like [a] quilt . . . [is] unabashedly immoral."43 Yet, like some other precious items Ralph Lauren collected antique quilts in order to cut them up to make designer jackets, vests, and skirts.45 Someone's story, cut apart, rearranged, and worn, is flaunted for fashion's sake.

Yet, it is ironic that the commodification that separates the crafter from her quilt may also preserve the quilt for future generations. A dramatic illustration of this point is the story of Harriet Powers, a gifted slave quilter who sold one of her distinctive quilts to artist Jennie Smith for five dollars. Powers's quilts reflected her African heritage in both their applique style and story depictions. Smith carefully preserved not only the quilt but an narrative describing the sale and the symbols in the quilt; both quilt and narrative reside today in the Smithsonian. The only other surviving quilt of Powers's was one commissioned by "the faculty ladies of Atlanta University," which is now owned by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.46

Even the quilter who does not sell her quilts is subject to the dictates of commodification. Prescriptive technology's penchant for standardization has seeped over into the criteria used in juried quilt competitions. To win an award, a quilt must conform to certain expectations of quality. While quilts are judged on technique as well as on interpretation, standards of "quality" seem remarkably similar to those imposed on the assembly line: uniformity, precision, replication. Quilters who seek recognition and approval of their work are sometimes painfully disappointed when their quilts are not as highly valued as they expected.47 A seam not straight enough, stitches not small enough, quilt patterns that don't fill a space, or "inappropriate" fabric selec.tions can cost a quilter an award. Yet, if quilts are a form of women's expres.sion, the imposition of standards stifles the voice of individuality.

But this is not the only implication of standardization. Rigid standards result in the assignment of a higher value to quilts of some heritages over others. For example, the traditional quilts of the American frontier favored the block setting.48 Striving for uniformity, quilters employed templates for blocks such as Bear's Paw, Ohio Star, Tree of Life, and Drunkard's Path. When the traditionally trained eye views the improvisational quilts stitched by African Americans, there is a clash in values. While the judge may view an upside.down block or a mismatched seam as a "mistake," the quilter may have welcomed it as "an integral component of craftsmanship."49 Gladys.Marie Fry suggests as well that African American quilts were influenced by the belief that a perfect quilt, or one with unbroken straight lines, would bring bad luck.50 Given that criteria, it is the Amish bars quilt that is of lesser value. Eli Leon's.comparison of the traditional frontier quilt with the improvisational African American quilt brings to mind again the difference between holistic and prescriptive technologies:

If the standard.traditional American quilt is properly executed, its final appear.ance is largely predetermined by the choice of pattern and fabric. The quiltmaker has only to cut and sew the pieces correctly and they will fit together to make consistent blocks and relatively predictable quilts. This emphasis on precision piecing and exact pattern replication, often yielding splendid textiles, is not conducive to improvisation.

The Afro.traditional quilter, on the other hand, when she is not measuring her pieces precisely, must make adjustments as she puts the pieces together if they are to fit, since each block may be different in size and/or shape. As she deals with the irregularities, drawing on a body of Afro.traditional techniques, she has opportunities to explore and excel in improvisational possibilities not open to the standard.traditional quilter.5'

The Chilean arpillera, the Panamanian mole, the Hmong patchwork, and the Japanese sashiko are examples of other quilting heritages that offer elements not contained within the standards of the traditional frontier quilt.52

What becomes clear, then, is that quilts are illustrative of the politics of technology. The connection between the quilter and her craft, as well as the value ascribed to her quilt, are shaped by the interplay between technology and commodification. Yet, while quilters are influenced by both of these factors, most are not controlled by it. Quilters keep on quilting. The craft may be practiced differently over time, but there are some elements essential to quilting that are maintained. In this way, quilts serve as artifacts of social values. What, then, does quilting in a technological world tell us about our values, our society, and ourselves?

Preservation of Social Values

So far we have seen that quilters are affected by technology. The meaning of quilting has evolved, the craft of quilting has changed, the relationship between the quilter and her product has been threatened, and the value of her work has been influenced by technology. Yet, almost in defiance, the quilter continues her crafting. Rather than resist technological forces, she bends them to her will.

In choosing whether and how to draw upon technology, she preserves the holistic nature of her work. Aware of how technology can be used, she sees its presence in terms of option rather than mandate, choice rather than com.mand. Freed from the needle, she returns to it, empowered to control it.

.Expression, rather than need, fuels the desire. Tools and machines are used to save labor, leaving more time for creativity. Rather than separate her from her craft, technology is used as an extension of herself, thus binding artist and art together. When mass.produced quilts are marketed as "just like" or "even better than" hers, she refuses to be drawn into competition. She is confident in the knowledge that her quilts are unique, that they represent something that a factory cannot replicate. She knows that in quilting, she preserves social values. These values are clear to the one who quilts, the companion who watches the quilter, and the loved one who lies beneath the quilt, stroking the patches and tracing the stitches.

Even if you are none of these, you too know the difference between using technology and being used by technology. Consider, for instance, the town and the shopping mall. Shopping malls attempt to replicate two of a town's functions, a sense of community and opportunities for commerce, but with an improved form of delivery.53 Malls offer parking, bathroom facilities, eateries, banks, stores, and social functions (like fashion shows, Santa Claus, art ex.hibits), all in a climate.controlled, security.patrolled, and community.extolled environment. The elderly engage in fitness walking, teenagers hang out, and the families recreate in the malls. The demise of the downtown stands as a testimonial to the success of the shopping mall. Offering such diversity and convenience, they have everything an individual or a community needs or do they? Are technologies interchangeable? Does the substitution of a mall for a town replace all the social functions performed by the town? If not, what is the social cost in terms of community values, patterns, and functions lost?

It is obvious that a town and a mall are not, in fact, the same. While a mall may improve on some of the town's commercial functions, it is an artificial town. It fails to create a real sense of community because as George Lewis explains, "Having the perception of a community feeling does not mean that it actually exists."54 Neither does having quaint objects from the past, like carou.sels and gazebos, recreate the old.fashioned town. Unlike towns, malls are not unique. They are mass.produced by architects and builders who fulfill their own vision of community needs. Malls are, after all, a "marketing strategy."55 The deliberative process focuses on what will draw consumers, not what will bind a community together or what will answer the community's social needs. Designed by an outsider, they are erected on the outskirts of town. Resistant to the natural forces of change, growth, or demise, they are also unable to adapt when consumerslacking any real sense of community, connection, or loy.altytake their business elsewhere. They have no way to evolve, no way to change stores into apartments, offices, parks, or schools; vacancies spread like an epidemic. The mall's strength is also its weakness.

Like towns, quilts are not a rejection of technology, time constraints, or convenience. These artifacts do indeed symbolize the impact of such consid.erations on our society. Instead of a rejection, towns and quilts are an affirma.tion of other social values: patience, connection, and expression. Shopping malls and manufactured bedcovers lack all these.

Patience may be a virtue but it is not celebrated in a technological world. It is ironic, but "despite all our time.saving devices, Americans say they feel more rushed than ever."56 There is little time to still the mind. Instead, car phones, laptop computers, miniature tape recorders, fax machines, touch.tone phones, and microwave ovens give us little excuse to withdraw from work and chores. Every spare moment can be devoted to some type of work. Quilting is one way to make time serve rather than master us. The quilter embraces what technol.ogy strives (but fails) to end: the monotonous, the repetitious, the endless hours of hand work. "With the immediate focus on the hand work, the mind has the opportunity to quiet down and rest."57 "Mindless," soothing work invites mindful, profound reflection. Some quilters claim that they find balance within the work. Quilting, then, is a reclamation of time, of reflection, and of self.

Connection is another social value. The act of quilting is the act of connec.ting. Pieces are stitched together, blocks joined, borders attached, and layers quilted and bound. A quilter has the ability "to see the whole in the pieces."58 Quilting also binds her to women of different times or different nations who have used the quilt as a means of expression. Teaching the craft of quilting binds generations, friends, communities. Quilter Radka Donnell describes quilting as "the work of touch."59 Quilts are touchable art that symbolizes the importance of connection. Quilts do not only cover people, they "hold" them. Donnell states, "Visibly and tangibly, quilts show us the innumerable and infinitesimal acts of women, acts we perform to hold ourselves together, to hold the elements of our lives together, to hold fast to the good life, to celebrate the persons we love and our imbeddedness in nature."60 Onondaga Chief Oren Lyons knows as well the power of touch and the importance of interacting with things:

Things have a way of understanding and knowing. There's a need of every part to be used and to be needed. There's an interaction and if that interaction isn't carried out.

What both Lyons and Donnell are referring to is love. Love is not frequently called upon to inform our scholarship or guide our use of technology. Yet, quilting is rarely done without emotion for the project, for the recipient, for the self. Quilts, then are not only the result of connecting, but are also artifacts of the social need for connection.

Expression is another value aff~rmed by quilting. "Quilts are one way in which women tell the truth of our lives."62 When sexism prevented women's participation in public forums like book publishing, newspaper reporting, and speechmaking, "their needles became their pens and quilts their eminently expressive texts."63 Some quilts are overtly expressive. For example, during the Civil War, theJacob's Ladder block was renamed Underground Railroad. Log Cabin quilts containing black fabrics were often used to signal safe houses on the journey to freedom.64 The blue and white Drunkard's Path quilt voiced the stance of the Women's Christian Temperance Movement.65 Today, the AIDS memorial quilt mourns the passing of loved ones, celebrates their lives, and rages at public policyrnakers who refuse to see the enormity of the loss. Stories are also told by the fabrics used in abstract pictorial quilts.

The meaning of some quilts is derived from their "type." Marriage quilts, mourning quilts, friendship quilts, and freedom quilts are crafted with obvious intent. Other quilts are not so transparently expressive. One must look for clues. Quilted gardens bursting with color that were made by women on the dusty prairie speak volumes about their lives, their needs, and their dreams.66 The plainness of Amish patchwork gives voice to the value of simplicity.67 What is a quilter saying when she chooses to make a Log Cabin rather than a Baltimore quilt? When she changes the color of the chimney square from the traditional red to white? When she stitches some parts by machine and other parts by hand? Carolann Barrett concludes that "Each gesture of pure intent is a statement of what is important to us, a confirmation of something in our world, whether positive or negative, static or needing change."68 Every quilt, then, is more than fabric. It is the preservation of a woman's voice.

Scholars who study the politics of technology are well aware that technology.elevates some values at the cost of others. Particularly sensitive to the impact of technology on democracy, scholars are striving to find ways to ensure that technological innovations promote rather than impede political and social processes.69 This analysis has been extended to include the workplace. Rather than allow technology to strip workers of control, innovative scholars and policymakers are striving to harness technology to serve democracy in the workplace.70 These scholars are engaged in the important work of identifying social values and finding ways to preserve them through creative uses of technology. This is work that quilters understand well.

A technological world threatens what quilting affirms and preservesthe values of patience, connection, and expression. Knowing that there is a social cost in assuming that all techniques are interchangeable, the quilter identifies what a technology can and cannot do. She does not resist technology, but she applies it in ways that will serve her values. Patience and thinking, connection and caring, expression and creativity are the values protected by her needle. Quilts stand as examples of how to use technology without sacrificing social values. In their setting of technological limits, quilts act to preserve the social fabric. .u . ..n.h..u . ..n.h..u . ..n.h..u . ..n.h..u . ..n.h..u . ..n.h..u . ..n.h..u . ..n.h.and west. Now as I resumed the same way, it brought me westward, and when I headed this stream, I went south\'97but when I found myself at that gate, I had no tub nor quilts.\par \pard \ri-3593 \tx365 \tqr \tx6506 \par \fs10 \f0 \fs23 \f0 \pard \qj \fi365 \ri-3593 \tx365 \tqr \tx6510 So. H. . 1. &. 9. . . . . . . . .! U" :& F& 1 1 8 = = = = = .> (> 7> N> ]> > > cC C C C G G :H BH cH gH oL V V [ [ ` ` .j j 3k Fk p p u u ׃ ڃ D O . " 6 > b j .. . . ... . . ... . . ... . ... . . .. . . ... . . .. . . ... . .. . ... . . .. . . . . . .. . . .. . . ... . . .. . . .. . . .. . . ... . . .. . . D k n M ݰ . . . . . . .. . . .. . . . .. . . . . .. .. 4. :. @. B. D. H. . . 5. 7. . . .. %. c. l. .. &. . . .. .. .. 7. X. a. . . . . ǽ᨞xmb . ..... ... ..... ... . . ..... . ...... . . ...... . . ... . . E.... . ..... ... . ........U.. ... . . ..... . ..... .G.. . . ......Z .. .G.. . . ..... . . ..... . . ... . . ... . . . . . . . ...&. . .. . . . . . .! .! 1! :! [! d! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ," S" U" =& F& ' ' Z, c, . .0 ¸ypjajZT . . . . . ... . . .... . . . . . .... . . . . . ... . .x.. ... . .x.. .^.. . .x.. .2 . . .x.. .B.. . .x.. .n.. . .x.. ... . . .x . . ...x. . . .x . . ...x . . .... . . . . .... . ... ... ..0 .0 1 1 1 1 3 3 8 8 9 %= .= ? .? A A YC [C cC C C G G G G .M .M ~uodZSM . . . . . ... . ... ... . ..... ... . . . . . .... . . ... . . ..... . ... . . .... . . .... . ... ... . ... ... . .... . . . . . ... . ... . . .... . ... . . . ..... . . . . ... . . ...M O O .R 'R T T IV RV Y Y [ [ [ [ .` .` d d Yh bh Pi Yi l l n n xr r t t /w ɵɛ|vmvdv[vT . . .... . . .... . . ..... . . .... . . . . . ... . . .... . . .... . . . . . ... . . .... . ... ... . ..... ... . . .... . . . . ... . . .... . . .... . . .... . . . . .... ./w 8w 3z