After much deliberation I finally decided how to present the Laura Ashley sample quilts that I wrote about on the blog towards the end of last year. These are tiny little pieces using up the very smallest scraps of the Laura Ashley fabric I have been given and adding elements to them to suggest a narrative which we can’t unlock but can’t resist putting together. For example:
I am very committed to the idea that we are all born storytellers and that this is how we make sense of the world, so when we see something like the little red quilt above, we start to make up our own story to explain why there is a spoon with the Mayflower on it: a present from an American relative? A souvenir of a special trip? A birthday present from a friend who knew about the spoon collection? A Daughter of the Mayflower? Or, with the one next to it on the right, why is there something that looks like the moon on it, with all the associations of moon and June and lunacy, and the tides and so on. And where did the lace come from and why has it been so treasured? We can’t help explaining the world to ourselves in stories. And, I can’t help telling myself stories when I am making the pieces. But really, the secret stories here are those of the viewer who makes up their own narrative as they look at the pieces, and, ideally, take them out of the album and hold them in their hands.
I really enjoyed making the pieces but wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. There were just too many of them to frame, and they weren’t sufficiently robust to make into a free-standing concertina book, so they had been hanging around for a while. Then I saw an episode of the Kemshalls’ lovely design tv on making collectors’ books – essentially coptic bound books with folded over pages to store small flat items like postage stamps. I scaled it up a bit to take the mini quilts. I used really thick handmade Indian paper which was hard to fold but lovely to sew and very stiff to give the book body:
I wrote some notes on the folded down flaps, to make it feel more like a sample book, or working document. The book at that point was lying fairly flat, but once I put the quilts in and decided to add the ties at the sides to keep the objects from falling out, it suddenly refused to be a closing book and turned into a free-standing object, which I really liked:
Here’s the binding:
It isn’t gloriously neat, but I like the handmade slightly tatty feel it gives. I use a very simple coptic stitch although I keep meaning to learn something fancier, and I use the linen thread sold for preparing horses’ manes for dressage events. It’s very cheap comparatively and gives a good effect.
I made the covers out of the embroidered linen that I made stuffed birds out of at Christmas for those who saw that post, and lined it with some unlovely 90s Laura Ashley fabric. I liked the creamy linen because it went with the nostalgic, a bit vintage feel of the album as a whole:
The curlicues are taken from Tim Holtz’s grungeboard shapes and painted with Golden Fluid Acrylics and glued on. The pounding the glue on technique that I learned at my bookbinding course last summer really worked to get the complex shapes to stick completely.
I now need to get some sort of perspex box or dome to fit over the finished thing, which will be tricky, I suspect, but I really like the finished piece, and like the way that it has taken on a sculptural form of its own accord.