Speaking of Our Patchwork Heritage
January 21, 2009
I still buy a lot of knitting, sewing and miscellaneous craft books. I tend not to need a book for a specific pattern; I use books as sparks. I choose the ones that make me want to go in the direction the author is going. Once I get that spark, I’m off to the races, and the thing I make usually turns out to be different from the thing that inspired it.
This would explain my collecting Japanese books and magazines, when I can’t even read the instructions. They show possibilities. If I don’t bring them home, I won’t have them handy when I am searching for the right idea and need to sit down with a teetering stack of inspiration. The quilt that inspired Carrie’s quilt (aka My Life’s Work or at least it seemed like it at the time) is a simple concept, easy to describe: a large-scale log cabin with crazy big prints and found fabrics. But I needed to consult that specific picture again and again, to imitate it or even to NOT imitate it.
This all brings me to Alicia Paulson’s book, Stitched in Time: Memory-Keeping Projects to Sew and Share from the Creator of Posie Gets Cozy. (Ann. I do believe Alicia is trying to challenge us in the Long-and-Impossible-to-Remember Subtitle Competition! Upstart!)
Normally the phrase “memory-keeping” would send me screaming from the room. I have an unreasonable horror of scrapbooking as it is generally practiced. All those smiley pictures with happy sentiments expressed on stickers, stencils, etc. — I am afraid that glossing up one’s mementoes, making them chirpy and shiny, obscures the real memories. (A game I play: “Think of a Memory of One of My Babies. Now Think of One That Is Not In a Snapshot.” This is a really hard game. I worry that photography replaces memory. But I keep taking photographs.) To me, the messy memory, the blurry memory, or even the wrong memory is worth more than a packaged, generic image of happiness. Life is complicated! That’s what we like about it!
Ahem. But Alicia’s book is not about this tarted-up kind of memory. So it’s giving me crazy sparks. Look at that apron up top. An old recipe card! That’s a concrete touchstone. It conjures a lot, without saying “GRANDMA ROCKS” in Cartoon Sans. (My grandmothers were wonderful, rich characters whom I think of, wistfully and with awe, every day. However, they did not “rock”.)
This project, the Farmboy photo frame, is the one that got me going. Simple, beautiful execution of an idea (photo on fabric) that could so easily go cheesy if you’re not careful.
I warn ya, this book could lead me to stitch up a raft of small photo quilts. Despite my best intentions, they may be sugar sweet. People may be smiling. (It does happen.) First I have to figure out the mysteries of inkjet printing onto fabric. But now I have a direction, and a picture to stare at. Thanks, Alicia!
Aaaaaaiiiiiiiiieeeeeeee! Run for your lives! Photo quilts are coming!