What constitutes an heirloom?
I created this foundation scrap quilt more than a decade ago and it is not particularly well-made. Nevertheless, it is a precious object. Why? Because I made it? No, not just that. Because my older son uses it? Not just that either…
I made it when C. was still a boy – during his elementary school years — and the blanket has been on or near his bed ever since. I’m happy to report that of the three quilts he could have chosen to take to college, he chose this one (I didn’t make the other two).
Making things for household use is an essential aspect of the quilting tradition – we all know this. And clearly, sometimes blankets were and are made in the thick of a domestic life crowded with other concerns. And, while functionality ALONE perhaps shouldn’t render a quilt valuable, maybe usefulness combined with sentiment ought to.
Jude Hill‘s Contemporary Boro class was a wonderful meditation on the value of use. She went so far as to say, ‘if something has a use but we don’t use it, it’s useless.’ The tendency to have a closet packed with clothes we don’t wear is a symptom of this, isn’t it?
Implicit in Jude’s statement is the converse — ‘if something has a use, and we use it, then it has value’.
I thought about this poorly constructed quilt of C’s in a different way after reading Joe’s recent post (on his blog ‘manhandled threads‘). He reflected on a tattered quilt that easily could have been designated a ‘cutter’. He wrote that he “found this cloth to be filled with a gentle whispering. and, listening to these murmurings, can no longer bring myself to malign its nature further. this cloth deserves love and honor for its own sake. not for what i or anyone else can turn it into.”
His thoughts were in mind as I selected a slightly contrasting red thread to repair the binding – so as to let the repair show, celebrating the clumsiness of the quilt in a way, and acknowledging that it is a thing that exists in time and is used. I am not averse to repurposing things, even very valuable linens (see what Karen Ruane does in this regard for truly respectful, inspired use of heirlooms), and yet, I am glad to think that the ‘gentle whisperings’ of this poorly made blanket might give it a certain status.
Have you had cause to look at (and cringe perhaps) an earlier creation? What sorts of thoughts were engendered?
About the quilt: It is twin-sized and foundation pieced on 48 muslin rectangles… some scraps attached by hand; others by machine; some top-stitched, others not. Almost all of the fabric came from a friend’s studio up in Maine (if you or anyone you know wears bow-ties, check her out — Lisa Eaton at bowties.com). She makes wonderful neckwear with holiday prints and other themed-prints, so the patterns were scaled for small scraps and fun for a young boy’s bed. The 48 rectangles were machine pieced and then I used black thread to quilt with a large stipple (ugh!). The back is flannel, and the binding a non-bias cut binding.
The learning curve issue is perhaps worth noting here, too. If I were to make another scrap bed quilt, foundation style or otherwise, I would bring a different expectation and a higher level of skill. I don’t love making blankets and (not counting crib quilts) have made very few — the size is a challenge both for my work space and my attention span. But I am gathering fabrics for another blanket for C (my other son already has two), and it will be interesting to see how different my approach and results are from this very early project.