To be honest, I didn't feel very good last week, and I kept making excuses for my tired achy body (like the change in the weather and a couple of vigorous yoga sessions) and a sudden runny nose (probably pollen), but there was no explaining away the sore throat that set in. I think I caught a cold! With all the Covid protocols and my general carefulness because of my auto-immune syndrome, it's been years since I've had a cold, but as I started feeling much better over the weekend, I decided that's just what I had. So not a lot done, but I did feel like going ahead with this simple 7 day sketch challenge. I have a habit of jotting things down that I see on the internet on small pieces of paper which quickly get buried, then magically reappear. That's what happened with this challenge which I decided I wanted to do because I had the perfect key and lock for the first drawing assignment. I had a good time with this one, some things drawn from actual items like the keys, some drawn from memory like the vases and veggies. Just something to do while recooperating in front of the TV. No sewing at all, or bookmaking either, in the studio.
|All that's left of a beautiful antique quilt
Now for the heartbreak. This is really difficult for me to write about because of my love and reverence for antique quilts and how disturbed I get when I see them cut up to be made into clothing. A part of me understands that some quilts are indeed so heavily damaged and of little historical significance that finding a use for the undamaged parts can give them new life. But it still pains me when, as recently happened, I see a well known and respected member of the quilting community, someone I myself like and appreciate for her skills in creating traditional handquilted quilts as well as beautifully crafted machine quilted art quilts, getting excited about the prospects of cutting up an old quilt and making it into a jacket. The quilt, or what was left of it, was given to her by someone who did not know who had made it, but because of its poor condition (stained and torn and supposedly chewed on by a dog) decided to pass it along saying, "Do what you want with it."
|Teardrops are quilted into the wide sashing. Hearts form buds.
As you might imagine, this quilter's many followers on Facebook gleefully backed her thoughts to repurpose the good parts as a jacket (I could envision them high fiveing in their enthusiasm), while I commented, "You are breaking my heart. Please don't do this." Well, that brought down the wrath of her followers, all but one who said she would do what I had said when challenged with if not that, then what: study it, gently mend what could be mended, and store it to lovingly preserve it. There were multiple cries of "her quilt, her decision!", and "the quiltmaker would be so pleased to see her quilt be "saved" this way". Well, maybe, but I think she also might be horrified to see what had become of her quilt she had so carefully made, probably for a special occasion or gift. And I feared that this current owner of the quilt was becoming a terrible role model, setting off a new round of antique quilts being cut up. Sure enough, when the finished jacket was posted, several people commented that wow, they were going to get those old quilts out of the closet, or ask for grandma's quilts back so they could turn them into clothes. I shuddered.
|Quilting from the back
This particular quilter is very gracious though, and instead of piling on me like her fans, she offered to send me what was left of the quilt so I could study it and perhaps figure out a way of preserving the remnants and I gratefully accepted. Then in a lengthy e-mail, she explained her reasoning which included "This quilt was so heavily damaged – and not particularly well made or well designed, or of historical value, in my opinion – that I didn’t have too many qualms. . . To me, repurposing old quilts as coats or pillows is not disrespect. When I wear this jacket, it will be to honor the maker, to bring attention to the beauty of old quilts (even the tattered ones), and to give the quilt new life. . ." She also noted that she is the caretaker of many family quilts dating back to her great grandmother. With only seeing the small portion of the quilt she shared in a photo on her posting, I could only take her word for it about it, and decided that she had a point about this not being a family heirloom and pretty much discarded but for her interest in it. I'd know more when I received the part she did not use.
And when it arrived, I was stunned that she would call this not particularly well made. The applique is well-done to my eye, and while the quilting is not dense with tiny stitches, it is well-thought-out to fill the spaces around the applique (I believe there is quite a bit of clam shell used) with even, if not close, stitches. Even the binding looks perfectly applied. Granted, the design itself lacks the sophistication of many of this kind of quilt with the heaviness of the sash or vine border, but the coxcomb flowers and leaves with the distinctive split down the center are beautifully done. I believe this is a quilt from 1850-1860 when this design was popular, and the use of green fabric achieved by overdyeing yellow with blue, or vise versa was common. Some of the new aniline dyes produced a more colorfast product and the overdyeing process often resulted in some greens fading to blue overtime, as may be the case on this quilt. But newer theories and research have posited that there may have been a fad of using blue for stems and leaves instead of green. (I have such a quilt in my collection.) I'll have to take a closer look at the applique to see if I can spot any green lurking where the fabric is turned under. I can't get a good sense of the layout of the whole quilt from this small section, nor how large it originally was, and while the green and blue fabric appear to have held up quite well, the red floral is very worn and faded everywhere. To turn this into a wearable seemed a bad idea to me from the outset and even more so now that I had the quilt in hand. Too old for it to hold up under the abuse a jacket would give it.
But it was out of my hands, the jacket made and proudly shown off, again to the rave reviews and delight of her followers. I'd decided to reserve my feelings about the outcome until I saw how she had used the quilt, thinking that with her knowledge and expertise, she might indeed make a beautiful showpiece of the good parts of the quilt. Instead, I was appalled at the result. I realize that it is tricky to place pattern pieces to best advantage, but in my opinion, this is awful and ugly, no homage to the original maker.
I think it would have been much better had she figured out how to get the coxcombs on the front and the sashing/vine on the back. Oh my heart is thoroughly broken over this. I just have to feel lucky that I now have a piece of this quilt, which I will study and notate and add to my collection of antiques. Every old quilt adds a little bit to our knowledge of the history of quilting. Every single one, whether amateurish or masterful deserves our inquisitive respect. In my opinion, this quilt did not receive the respect it deserved. Perhaps you have a different opinion. I'd be happy to hear it.