Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Quilts on Tuesday- Resourcefulness

Last week I showed you the quilt my mother made for me when I was four. I shared how she intended it to be a record of all the things I loved best at that age. That was only the first quilt she made specifically for me. The next one I received was when I turned thirteen. She figured, aside from being a bit worn, my old purple quilt might be getting a little babyish. She offered me a quilt to mark my life as I entered teendom. I had a yellow room and a fascination with rainbows so I wanted a yellow quilt with a rainbow on it. Mom said she could applique a rainbow onto the quilt top but I was not too fond of the look of applique. At the time, I think I regarded that as very old fashioned looking. Mom decided to go back to fabric paint to suit my fancy.

By the time I turned 13, my single mother had been working in a garment factory for many years. I don't mind telling you the factory owner was a scum who had no compunction about directing those under him to cut his workers' piece rates and make those changes retroactive so he didn't have to pay employees any more than minimum wage even if, like my mom, they worked hard to produce enough to earn more than that. What does that have to do with quilts? Well, while the workers were being cheated out of honestly earned pay, big chunks of fabric were regularly being thrown out as garbage. My mother had gotten permission from her supervisor to take as much of the waste fabric as she herself could carry for her personal use. She once made a queen sized quilt top out of only TWO pieces of those "scraps" from the factory. But I digress....

Typically, a quilt is like a sandwich. It has a backing layer of fabric, a decorative top, and batting sandwiched between those two layers. The quilting stitches are what hold all the layers together. My quilt was unusual in its construction. It was also made from factory scraps. The top was actually a plain yellow bed sheet which was tacked to the back. The back was a grid of individual 4 inch pillows which had been joined together. Mom had taken piles of scraps home, cut them into squares and hauled them back to work. During her lunch break she'd sit and sew them all together by making a pillow out of two squares, stuffing it with batting, then sewing up the final side before joining it to another already completed pillow.


When my 13th birthday rolled around she presented me with the quilt back and the quilt front which had not yet been joined together. She waited to add the front because for my birthday she was allowing me to have 10 girls sleep over and she wanted each of the girls to sign the quilt top before she completed the whole thing. You can see some of the signatures along the edge.

Historically, quilts have very often been made out of whatever leftover fabric women had from making garments or even from worn out garments themselves. Resourcefulness allowed for scraps that may have had no use otherwise to be made into something both beautiful and practical. The source for materials for this my quilt was unusual and there wasn't any hand needlework but I'd still say my mom's creativity and resourcefulness provided a nice warm quilt that appealed to my 13 year old eye.

18 comments:

furiousBall said...

see this is why i like doing stuff by hand in projects that involve the kids too, the items mean so much more than the materials in them.

G-Man said...

Well there certainly is a treasure under that Rainbow!!!!

Beautiful Quilt Trini...G

(M)ary said...

wow. i hope the garment factory is treating employees better now.

(M)ary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cheesy said...

Keep it out of the sun and you will have it forever! Wonderful story !

Cocotte said...

I love that your friends signed it - that's a big sleepover!

Kimberly Wulfert, PhD said...

Very sweet story! Your mother may not have made quilts often, but she sure knew the magic of quilts- having your friends sign it, using fabric being thrown out, and asking you what theme and colors would make you happy. The proof is that you are still sharing your teenager quilt with others.

Mona said...

That is a beautiful quilt.

Applique work is very much the in thing these days in India... some of which you will see soon ;)

& Sunday is your birthday YAYYY!

ALRO said...

i love stories like this...
Very nice!

Craver Vii said...

A warm story for the cooling weather. :-)

barman said...

Oh that is a beautiful quilt and the story is even better then the quilt itself. You are certainly a wonderful story teller.

Suldog said...

The question begs to be asked: How many of the folks whose signatures are on the quilt are still in your sphere?

lecram said...

If you still have all her quilts have you thought of exhibiting them? Add a story of each one as part of it. Just an idea.

S said...

Oh thats so cool!
I made my first quilts from my grandmothers fabric scraps and then from my own clothing scraps.
That's so cool that you kept it!
Now, if the little pillows are indeed two sided, couldnt you turn it around and use the other side when it gets worn out?

Curse those sweatshop owners. They should be forced to read about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire!!!!!!

Oh what's that? I think I hear the boss calling me now. "Get back to that sewing machine right now, missy!"

:P

Moosekahl said...

Darn you...that made me cry! on my birthday and all. I have the quilts my mom made too. That's been almost a year too. gosh darn it all anyway...where's a kleenex!

DianeCA said...

What a wonderful mom you had, and a fantastic living memory in that quilt.

Beach Bum said...

That quilt I'm sure will be cherished by your great-great-grandchildren and past that. Great story.

Cosima said...

The squares look tiny, and I can imagine how much work it must have been to stuff them and sew them all together.

Beautiful!