One year ago today, my Mum passed away very suddenly, a few weeks after her 70th Birthday – way too young. My daughter came to me that day, tears rolling down her cheeks, and asked “what are we going to do with all her clothes?” My Mum lived next door, we saw her every day, and although she was a glamourous granny, she favoured jeans and t-shirts with a fleece on top around the house. She painted, and many of these clothes had paint splodges on them – very bohemian. My reply to this tricky question – “we’ll make a quilt”
Last July, I finally got around to it and decided to use her jeans to make 4 small memory quilts for each of my children (her only grandchildren). I had been thinking of making a jeans quilt with our family’s outgrown/worn out jeans before she died so this did seems an obvious thing to do.
My Mum was skinny – not a lot of denim in her jeans and I only had nine precious pairs to work with! I cut them up carefully, along the seams to minimise wastage, and proceeded to piece them back together in a meaningful and artistic way. I did a little internet research into jeans quilts and found the amazing women of Gee’s Bend in America who made quilts from overalls and scrap fabric and I loved the worn “lived in” knees used in their quilts.
So, after looking at a few images of Gee’s Bend Quilts, I scribbled my designs on the back of an envelope and set to work. I wanted to make each one different but include a little of each colour denim and an equal distribution of paint splodges per child. I managed to make four decent-sized quilts which, like the loaves and the fishes, seem to add up to way more than nine pairs of size 12 slim-fit jeans. I forgot to take pictures of this process except one quick snap of quilt number four. I made all four tops in less than a week so didn’t have time to lark about taking photos.
This quilt depicts the stone walls of my house, the brown jeans at each side are the quoin stones on the left of my front door and the right side of my hall window. The stones are sandstone and whinstone rubble in-fill, typical of older stone houses in my village. This photo is not the actual bit of wall depicted in the quilt, but it is my wall, decorated with my hand made upcycled Hovis bread bag bunting I put up for the Queen’s Jubilee and when the London 2012 Olympic torch changed hands right in front of us last June. My Mum’s house was attached to mine and built at the same time with the very same stones and presumably the very same hands – so the same walls enveloped us.
Here is the one snap of the Wee Man’s “wall” quilt pieces laid out on the kitchen table before sewing.
Now, I’m an artist who can handle a sewing machine to sew patches together, not an expert in actually quilting quilts. So today, on the anniversary of her death, I took my four completed quilt tops to a prize winning quilter – here in the Scottish Borders – Kay – so she can quilt them for me. For the backing, I am using some of my Mum’s stash of vintage Laura Ashley fabric – some dated 1976! and lovely 100% cotton batting which I purchased today from Borderland Fabrics in Jedburgh.
I will post pictures of all four quilts when I get them back in March. Then, I’m going to commission Kay to quilt my matrimonial quilt as well because the resolution I made to quilt it by hand last year has not held up. Sometimes you gotta admit defeat!
With the seams of the jeans, I also made two trivets – waste not want not and I love them very much – we used them on our Christmas table this year along with my Mum’s hand made Christmas napkins and my great grandparents silver-plated cutlery. I can’t wait to show you the finished quilts, keep in touch, Jakki.