Sunday, 4 December 2011

I have been looking at books about

patchwork. Anyone who has been reading this blog for long enough will remember my views on patchwork. I see no point in cutting up pieces of material merely in order to sew them back together again. I do not sew. I am quite definitely allergic to sewing needles.
Knitting needles are a different story. My paws can manage those. I make things. Most of the time I make things for other people. There is always someone who needs something. That is reasonable. It also means I can do something useful once in a while.
The problem is, what do you do with the left overs? As someone nicely pointed out recently, if I knit bits I can perhaps knit or crochet them together. I have been thinking about this.
The problem now is that I need to think of ways to actually do it. I have to design something and put it together. I do not know what to design or how to put it together. I have resorted to looking at patchwork books.
There are plenty of these in the library. There are many more patchwork books than there are knitting books on our library shelves. Are there really that many more people who do patchwork? I do not know. The books are there. I am making use of them. They are a potential design resource.
It is not that which fascinates me however. It is the history. What I like is that the first quilts were made for much the same purpose as I intend. They were made to use up the pieces and turn them into something useful and warm. I like that idea.
You can look at a very old pioneer quilt here and it will almost certainly be made out of flour bags, hessian matting, the last remnants of a man's shirt and work trousers, a small snippet of a woman's "Sunday gown". I wonder what sort of bread was made from the flour in those bags, who wore the shirt and trousers and whether the Sunday gown was comfortable or uncomfortable to wear. I wonder who made the quilt too. It would, most likely, have kept someone warm in a basic "bark hut" in winter.
One of the books I have looked at is a book of two hundred and twenty five patterns from a quilt made and finished in 1863. The woman who made the quilt was waiting for her husband to come home from war. Every square is different. They have all been given names in the book. Some, like Water Lily, Wild Goose Chase and Autumn Aster are romantic enough. Others, like Widow's Pane and Sergeant Green's Badge, are a sad reminder of why the quilt was being made.
A quilt like that had more than one purpose too. It used up every last piece of fabric in the house. It was a sampler for further quilts. There would, more than likely, be some sort of social "quilting bee" when sewers got together and stitched the layers together. Sometimes they were wedding presents. They were used.
Not all quilts made now get used. Some of them are intended to be works of art and hang on walls. I suppose that is a use of a sort. Others get made and then stored in cupboards. I know several people who have chests and cupboards filled with quilts they have made. They have nowhere else to put them. One woman has just moved house. She now has an entire room devoted to quilt making and the storing of quilts. They do not get used.
One man I know rolls his quilts up in tissue paper and stores them in long tubular bags on shelves in his workroom. Occasionally he will change one "wall hanging" for another so as to give them all an airing. He has also made quilts for numerous friends - mostly as presents for their civil union ceremonies. His own is made out of scraps cut from old cloths once owned by his family. He uses it to cover his bed because, he says, that is where it ought to be.
"My family keeps me warm," he told me. I rather like that idea too.


jeanfromcornwall said...

I have made a couple of lap-rugs in mitred-square patchwork, to use up my sock leftovers. They are completely random as far as pattern goes, but I did a couple of little ones for the next door twins which are on Ravelry - if you like the look I will try and produce some instructions for you.

widdershins said...

Even though winter doesn't officially start here in Canada (and the US) until Winter solstice, (that was quite a shock when I got her and realised the official change of seasons is aligned with the planet!) the mercury is already below zero and the people who live on the streets in my city are also freezing.

A blanket drive happens about this time of the year. Some are obviously purchased from a store but others are obviously hand made works of art. Knitted, crocheted, patchworked. Their beauty may not last long on the back streets and alleyways, but hopefully their warmth will last the winter through.

The people, mostly women, who craft these blankets probably know that, but it doesn't stop them weaving beauty with their hands.