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Eleven Similarities between Genealogy and Quilting

Updated on October 27, 2012
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A lover of arts and crafts, Shasta Matova enjoys making artistic, applique, pieced, traditional, miniature, modern, and crazy quilts.

How Quilting and Genealogy are Alike

Many quilters, including Jen Mullen also like to study genealogy. There was also a thread on the Applewood Block of the Month newsgroup which showed that a lot of quilters are also genealogists.

It makes a lot of sense that quilters like to study their family history, because there are many similarities between genealogy and quilting.

Similarities Between Genealogy and Quilting

1. Both have historic roots.

In genealogy, you study history. In quilting, you are reminded of the history of quilting. I often think of other quilters from days gone past when I am quilting, especially when I am making a historical / traditional quilt. I think it would be interesting to see whether contemporary quilters are as interested in genealogy as traditional quilters.


2. Both require a lot of patience.

It is a lot of work, and the reward is mostly intrinsic. Generally, you cannot sell the work and get a huge profit. The money is in selling a quilt pattern, or a genealogy how-to, and not a finished quilt or a finished genealogy of your family, unless you have very famous ancestors.
Both require a lot of repetitious motions. Whether it is handcranking through pages and pages of microfilm to find your one ancestor on a census, or sticking your needle in and out of your quilt just to make one row of quilting, you have to be able to do the same thing over and over again.

3. Both let you choose what direction you want to go.

There isn't direct supervision on your task, unless you ask for it, so you can start and stop whenever you want. You can make lots of tops and never finish a quilt, or you can limit yourself to make only one project at a time. In genealogy, you can work only on direct ancestral lines, or you can focus on a particular family or location. You're the boss.
Both have large communities of generous people who can provide moral support. Both have lots of newsgroups where people can get advice from each other for free. People can also get products from each other, either by buying or sharing quilt patterns or genealogy charts.

Genealogy and Quilting have many similarities, and many people are interested in both.
Genealogy and Quilting have many similarities, and many people are interested in both.

4. Genealogy and quilting both take a lot of time.

Yes it is possible to make a small and quick Artist Trading Card or postcard and call yourself a quilter. And maybe you can write some names and dates about your immediate family and call yourself a genealogist. But generally to really feel satisfied in that hobby, you have really give a lot of your time to this endeavor.

5. Both can take lots of money, or a little.

In genealogy, you can choose your tasks so you only do the cheap or free things, like things that are available at the library, local cemeteries, and online. Or you can subscribe to big companies that can give you lots of information, and hire someone to do some of the work for you. Likewise with quilting, you can choose to recycle old material and shop at thrift stores and get free patterns from the library and internet, or design your own. Or you can shop at the finest quality fabric shops from around the world, and get collections of fabric, threads and quilting books and magazines. On average though, both are considered fairly expensive hobbies.

6. Both hobbies have trade shows you can attend.

There are quilting conventions that are held annually by several different quilting groups, such as National Quilting Association, and International Quilt Association. There are many genealogy conventions as well that are held by various genealogy groups.

7. Both can be turned into money-making occupations.

There are long arm quilters, and quilters who are commissioned to make quilts. There are also quilters who design quilts and sell patterns or books. Quilters also design fabric. There are genealogists who take cemetery photographs, or who take on research projects. They can also write how-to books or speak at seminars.

8. Both are very addictive.

It is hard to actually be completely done with either task. Even though you can finish making a quilt, generally you will have scraps over, and you will be making another quilt. Likewise with genealogy, even if you find your brick wall ancestor, you will then have the door open to find even more relatives.

9. Both allow you to pick up where you left off.

You can take the time off from either hobby and pick it up again later. I have alternated quilting and genealogy for quite some time, and there were times when I didn't do either because I was just too busy with work and raising a child.

10. The demographics of both hobbies are getting younger.

It used to be that only old people did quilting and genealogy. But now people in their twenties or even younger are picking up these hobbies and enjoying it. My personal experience shows that these are still considered old people's hobbies, but hopefully I am helping break these stereotypes. I took up both hobbies when I was in my twenties or younger.

11. The characteristics of people who pursue both hobbies are similar.

I think a typical quilter and a typical genealogist have the following characteristics: patient, generous, self-motivated, community-minded, persistent, have endurance, able to handle the fact that there aren't very many hard and fast rules, able to work without supervision, accept mistakes and be able to overcome or correct them, even if it means starting over or being willing to accept the consequences, not expect large rewards, paying attention to detail, while keeping an eye out towards the big picture, resourceful, ability to think and do mathematics, and decision-making skills.


What are your interests or hobbies?

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There are many similarities between genealogy and quilting. These are just a few. Our love for history, and the connection that a community of like-minded individuals brings help make both quilting and genealogy a joy.

Many people have even been able to combine their love for both quilting and genealogy by making album and signature quilts, heritage quilts, and other quilts that commemorate their loved ones.


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