April 22, 2017
Is Quilting a Dying Art?
My lush purple throw was inspired by this vintage fabric
which I rescued before it went into a skip at my local charity shop some years ago. The chenille was donated to the shop by a volunteer who had helped with the manchester for many years after he retired from his position as a fabric rep for a top home decor fabric house. He brought in a huge garbage bag of fabulous chenille fabric samples in many shades and designs. The only problem was that as he had stored them in his garage from the late 1970s they absolutely stank! You know that awful dusty musty headache causing smell which makes everything near it stink?
The then manager of quilting supplies asked me if I would like to have a look at the contents of the bag before they threw them out as there was no way they could have them in the shop as it would taint everything there. She dived headfirst into the garbage bag and produced sample after sample of the richest embossed chenille I have ever seen in about six different shades. A sort of apple green, rose pink, softest blue, mid chocolate and gold.
I asked her if I might have six pieces of each shade and also if she could let my friend know as well as I knew she would also adore the luxurious fabric. Am not sure how many pieces she was given but it was quite a bit as she made a quilt and cushions from it.
I finally managed to get them to accept a dollar a piece and went home and threw the lot into the washing machine. Now normally one does not wash this quality cotton chenille but there was nothing else to be done the smell had to go or the whole lot would be unusable. I then draped the samples carefully over our clothes horse and the next day was delighted to find that the smell had totally gone. I think in the end it was simply the accumulated dust of thirty years.
Over the years I have shared these gorgeous pieces with various friends who love fabric I just wish I had the nerve all those years ago to ask for the rest of the bag as I should think the rest was thrown away. I cannot bear to think of it but I barely made a dent in the garbage bag after all. Oh well at least some of it has been restored and used lovingly by a few choice people! Think about it though, all those years the chap volunteered at the charity shop in the Manchester section and his own donations were thrown out, it is heartbreaking!
I wonder what else is being thrown away of our history? Below are some of the hand stitched vintage embroideries that I was fortunate enough to buy one day last year
whilst these ones below were some from two bags full that were being thrown away on the same day.
Then we have this Jacobean beauty exquisite work I know because I did something similar in high school and it required skill and precision and many many hours of work.
Better not forget this gorgeous rose embroidery. it looks so cute with my small Japanese vase which was also a bargain at three dollars. but it has nothing on the beautiful rose embroidered cloth.that was going in the bin.
I try hard not to think about what is being lost of our crafting heritage, if I thought about it too much I would just cry the way I did when I mentioned it last year to the manager in charge of retail for this charity. He said, repeatedly,
but it only has value to you, because you want it.
How narrow a view of the rapidly declining handicraft history of the women of our country and how insulting to the memory of those women or young girls who sewed whilst listening to the radio. Often listening for news of their loved ones away at war. They sewed to keep busy, they sewed to provide beauty in their austere homes, they sewed to stay sane.
No wonder it is becoming a dying art form, it is hard to embroider and watch television at the same time so the vast majority of today’s young women have no understanding of the quite pleasures to be obtained by sitting quietly, often with their children at their feet as they exquisitely stitched the heirlooms of the future. Heirlooms which are becoming lost as our op shops and the very people who inherit them have no understanding of their value in our society. We will be a poorer society for their loss.and if anyone ever again says that they have no value, their value is only to me because I love them then they had better look out. No tears next time, but a quiet rage instead, a rage at the death of common decency. These painstakingly worked pieces meant so much once to someone, and I will never know their stories but I will honor their memories by washing the stains out of these pieces and I will go on repairing and lovingly using them. It is the very least I can do.