Important Brown Dog Studio Tidbits

Saturday, May 17, 2014

...a piece of the past

Last summer I bought a darling friendship quilt. It was in pretty rough shape and my intention was to "cut the heck out of it" (a quote from family members who routinely comment on what happens to the majority of my finds!). 

I'm fascinated by the labor of love the quilt represents. I also have a bit of "quilt-envy," not having one of these in MY history! I admit that the missing portions around the edge shown in this photo are a result of my eagerness to harvest a few of the hand-embroidered signatures RIGHT AWAY. It was only AFTER I'd done a bit of cutting that I thought I might have enjoyed keeping it, despite its flaws, especially because the green and yellow pattern is so happy!

What I don't know...WHO were these women? WHY did they (all 90+ of them) make this quilt...was there an event, a marriage, a church fundraiser? WHO kept the quilt all of these years?
What I DO know...The date on the quilt is June 1932. SOMEONE loved and used this quilt, evidenced by the worn spots, many of which saw careful repairs. A great deal of care was taken to piece together all of the signatures into blocks that used (I think) feedsack cloth in dozens of patterns.  I can't get over how perfectly the background fabric of the embroidery has aged, whereas the stitching remains colorful.

I am utterly intrigued with the embroidery...the styles are so varied. Most women worked their first and last names, but about a dozen used the Mrs. title followed by a husband's first and last name. 

The styles range from over-the-top elaborate detail, hard to distinguish from modern-day machine embroidery, to a very simple running stitch. Most women chose to use a signature version of their name, whereas a few used block letters. I LOVE the women who added the very bold statement of a PERIOD to the end of their "signature," almost an "I was here" kind of flourish. 
I ask myself, how would I have been represented for the past 8 DECADES if I had been part of this quilt...were these women happy to contribute their time? Was this something they did routinely? Or did it signify sacrificing precious time in an already busy day?

I LOVE the names...oodles of Marys, a few named Grace, Anna, Maggie and Jennie...but then, Pearl, Edith, Harriette, Minnie (2!), Vera, Hazel, Ansty (!), Jessie, Doris, Martha, Thelma and Amelia...Sadly, I don't remember the first handful I harvested last Fall :(
I'm so happy to be able to offer these as a piece of wearable history...I don't think most of us will find our name to Sarah to be found! But maybe a mother or grandmother or favorite great aunt?

I think I might just choose a great old name as my own...which oddly enough brings back a sweet memory from my college days and may be the REAL reason I was drawn to the of my dearest friends and I always gave each other "nursing home names" and we were routinely "Pearl," "Mildred," or "Bertha". When we stumbled across each other on Facebook after a few years of scattered written correspondence , we were "old lady" friends all over again!
I've made a few dozen names for all of my upcoming "junk" shows. I still have over 50 names in reserve and will continue to add to the collection as needed. You will be getting the actual name, cut and encased in glass according to the size of the signature..."Frances" holds the title of the LARGEST of the charms...She really filled her allotted space with her name and I had to cut a wider strip of glass than I originally intended to use! I'm thinking about offering initials on request, keeping in mind that using initials will deplete the pool of old-fashioned names.
AND...I have odds and ends of the quilt reserved for some bunting and other surprises!

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