This morning an old quilt was offered to the local upcycle goddess (me), by the local hoarder (my husband). I had been eyeing the old gal for a while, knowing her finest years were long passed. His grandmother made the quilt, so it was his choice, of course. Once the decision was made, I moved quickly, lest he grow nostalgic and change his mind.
Made with no regard to style, art, or even color, my grandmother-in-law stitched the scraps from the shirt factory floor where she worked by day, into large patch work quilts. She did the cutting, and pieced in the evening, listening to the radio, or television. Once or twice a year, she would gather with other quilters to quilt a few tops as a group, but mainly she worked alone. In the case of this quilt, she cut hundreds of narrow strips from factory remnants and flour sacks, stitched the strips together into blocks, then the blocks into a top. Using a thin cotton batting and a linen sheet, she quilted the three layers together in a utilitarian grid, on a homemade wooden quilting rack set up in the back bedroom. As I examine this one, I believe it to be all hand stitched by Granny Margie. We guess its age at 60-65 years. It is worn to rags. Around the outer edges are some salvageable areas. I have to work up to cutting into it, for several hours, even though I am ecstatic at the possibilities.
It is a heady moment, as an upcycler, to have the living breathing work of an upcycler from two generations ago in my studio. It is a rare privilege to take that handcraft forward with dignity, paying homage to the original maker. Vintage and antique fibers are delicate. Vintage quilts frequently have large unusable areas. I spend some time examining the piece, planning some repairs, seeking vision, artistic inspiration. I think about Granny Margie and other, finer quilts she made: the one for our wedding, the Little Dutch Boy from my husband’s childhood bed, the beautiful pink double wedding ring made for our oldest. Her artistry is still honored in our home.
From this quilt I believe some angels will arise. Primitive angels with simple cotton faces, country angels with honeysuckle halos. Christmas angels for gracing tree tops. Nursery Angels for watching over cribs. Heirlooms re-created for another generation or two.