In a box in the bottom of my studio closet was an old, tattered quilt made by my great-grandmother. The quilt is worn through to the backing in places and has stuffing bits showing through here and there. When I found it as a child it was probably in good condition – but I fell in love with it and used it for everything from cuddling on the couch, to wrapping up my cat like a baby, to making a fort over the grand piano. I didn’t understand that this was an heirloom to be preserved and instead dragged it from adventure to adventure in between stops to the washer and dryer.
Would my great-grandmother have saved it for good? Or felt that it was a useful item that would be wasted if carefully folded in the linen closet? I didn’t know her and I can’t answer that question. But I can see in the thousands of little hand sewn stitches that she took pride in her quilting and spent a lot of her precious time creating this work of art.
[My great-grandmother (center in flowered dress) circa 1946]
I’ve often thought about ways to give the quilt another life but have eventually returned it to the box each time. I found it again during my studio clean out and am finally ready to make the quilt into artists’ books. I like the idea that by creating artists’ books with the quilt it will continue as art – just in a different form.
To start out, I did some research. It turns out this particular kind of quilt is called a Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt. A pattern that was popular 1929-1939 since it could be made out of small scraps of fabric such as feed, flour and sugar sacks and bits of leftover dress material. For a generation of women making do during the depression, this was the perfect quilt pattern.
First, I cut the quilt into manageable pieces and now I’m scanning it 1/2 a piece at a time.
Next, I am merging the two halves in Photoshop. This is one of my favorite bits of magic with this software. In Adobe Photoshop (my version is CS3), File>Automate>Photomerge. A bit more editing to color correct the image and then cropping to remove the green edges and here is one of the raw images from which I am going to begin my artists’ book.