On Monday night I gave a talk to the Westbury Park Quilters on Album and Friendship quilts.
I have been doing some research on these on and off for several months, and one of the most intriguing quilts I have come across is this one:
The blurry black and white photo is all I have as it is a plate in Patsy and Myron Orlofsky’s comprehensive book about American quilts, Quilts in America (1975). The original was made by Elizabeth Roseberry Mitchell in 1839 and is considerably bigger than my copy at 79.5 x 80 inches.
What I love about this quilt is the inclusion of those coffins which are embroidered with the names of the dear departed in the original. As family members died they were added to the centre of the quilt. I can’t help imagining the scene: there you are lying in your bed with a bit of a temperature when Elizabeth turns up with her sewing basket and starts stitching your name onto a small, lozenge-shaped piece of fabric…
My version is much smaller than the original because it was just a demonstration piece. It is made with furnishing fabric and suiting samples and a little bit of silk for the leaves and flowers. The purpley fabric used for the gate was a real swine. I had held the whole thing together with super-heavy duty steam-a-seam and then top-stitched it. Unfortunately the heavy pile and the glue was just too much for the jeans needle I was using, The eye clogged up so much that I couldn’t rethread the needle when the thread inevitably broke. I used three needles just stitching the purple:
I cheated a bit with the leaves and flowers. I made the leaves from diamonds cut from a strip about half an inch wide as I was taught to do at school to make leaves from pastry to go on the top of pies. The flowers are squares stitched into oblivion so that they fray into circles, although I did start snipping off the corners and turning them into hexagons as I got into it:
The photograph below shows my samples and what I did with the leftovers:
I really enjoyed turning the leftovers into sorts of 1970s Danish style ceramic pots.
So, gummed up needles aside, this piece was a delight to make.