Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Block That Was Saved . . .

Sometimes the textiles we acquire seem to have a mystery about them as was the case with that piece I talked about earlier in an earlier post - that one that might have been from Laos, my best guess.

This one is an antique block - 18" in red, green and chromium orange, ca. 1860. My sense of it is that it is from Pennsylvania or Ohio, though it is just a strong guess. Something happened to this block that enabled me to get it for $2, an unheard of price for a block of this type. It is all part of the mystery.

First, if you notice, there is a stamped signature on the block: S.A. Farmington. And the piece was not quilted or stitched. That is MY work. This block was slashed in seven places, and I strongly suspect that it was slashed intentionally. From my experience, this does not speak of an accident. Notice how each of the four green stylized design elements has a diagonal cut going through it. You can click on the photo to make it larger to see the stitching better. On the central part, there are three more cuts diagonally. These cuts were definitely NOT unintentional. When I think through how it would have to been folded to cut in the the ways it was cut, I realize it would have had to have been folded in a way you would not fold a block.

So why WAS it cut? Was someone perhaps angry in the family and cut up the block out of spite? Or perhaps did a person die and the family each cut a slice in the block to show the spirit being torn from the piece? I may never know the reason for it being cut, but something made me want to repair it. It was NOT an easy mend, but I took my time, did the smallest stitches possible, and so it doesn't look so bad. My quilting is a little large, but then I am quilting through 4 layers of cloth. That's right. I stitched accidentally through a piece I had cut and left underneath the quilt block after layering it with batting and unbleached muslin. One thing is that this block is made of very good, heavy cotton typical of the time.

The turkey red print appears to be hand printed rather than roller printed, and the green is the Eli Walker green, with the chromium orange center.

If it was meant for a soul to escape through the holes, I imagine the soul has long since escaped. And if it was cut in anger, it is time to mend that anger. I haven't done more work on this yet. I was going to do a double or triple line of quilting around the design elements as would have been done during this time, and perhaps use a grid to quilt the block. Then I was intending to frame it and display it. I love the design, and it will be enhanced by the quilting. It certainly isn't going to devalue the piece since it was damaged to begin with. I honestly believe that people treasure things more in the future if the pieces are in decent condition, especially people who are not as aware of quilts and textiles as some of us are.

1 comment:

Sue Spurlock said...

Appreciation of and stories about all of these colorful pieces--wonderful--I really like the handwork of some of the more detailed pieces