Ecofeminism, Subsistence Living & Nature Awareness

March 12, 2009

A Thousand Stitches

Filed under: Needle and Thread,Paula Mariedaughter — Paula Mariedaughter @ 9:50 am

In my arms is an antique indigo blue and tan woven coverlet. I imagine a possible history because it has no spoken history. Sally, a dear quilter friend, moved from northwest Arkansas to Washington state several years ago and gave me this ancient blue and tan coverlet. I had never touched a woven coverlet before. This treasure smelled musty. It is in poor condition and has lost its provenance. But there are clues in the warp and weft to help me recreate the history!

I have finally aired it out enough to be able to work on it.

But, why would someone want to work on this tattered textile? It has huge holes and the sections sewing the 36 inch widths together have pulled apart and unraveled in many places. It is big: 72 inches by 86 inches, and it is heavy.

Woven into the bottom left corner is the information. “Property of L.S. Orleans County.” The next line of letters is missing most of the parts of the letters due to unraveling. My atlas tells me there is an Orleans County in New York state just west of the Finger Lakes region where my father grew up.

The warp seems to be a tan linen and the weft is a dark indigo wool. Since it was reversible, I had to choose which side to use as the right side. I chose the side where the indigo color is the predominate color. I am stabilizing the large holes using cotton thread and a appropriate color cotton fabric behind the holes. I have already used a thousand stitches, I am sure, in the eight hours I have spent starting the repair. The repairs look good. None are glaringly visible. My goal is to stabilize this fragile textile (or someone is going to throw it out someday).

I appreciate each of the unknown women who did not thow it out in the last 159 years. None are my biological ancestors, yet I have a lot in common with those women. I value the textile and the woman who used her life energy to create it. I believe a woman used her home loom to weave this coverlet about 1850. The intricate design of eagles, stars and wreaths would probably have taken years to create!

I hope to have it repaired by the end of the month to be included in the special exhibit (The Drama of Two-Color Quilts) I am doing for our guild’s biennial quilt show. I am speculating that two-color coverlets were one part of the inspiration women had for creating two-color quilts. Doing something to repair the ragged edges of the coverlet is the next challenge.

I have found the web site for the National Museum for the American Coverlet, but if you have other recommendations to me about learning more about coverlets I would appreciate it.

Why spend my life energy doing this repair? My needle is a magic tool humans have used for thousands of years. My sterling thimble was used by another woman before me. The work is tactile and direct. I can visualize the whole and I can use my needle and thread–simple tools– to make it happen. It is everyday honest magic.

1 Comment »

  1. I like this!
    I’ll look forward to seeing the coverlet in the upcoming quilt show!

    Comment by lila — March 12, 2009 @ 11:01 am

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