I am very fortunate to come from a long line of stitching women. My mother taught me to sew and knit, having learned from her own mother, and she from her mother, and so on. I’ve been thinking about how stitch itself is a tangible form of memory, a kind of mystery, handed on from one generation to the next.

I took a photo today of a bed cover that I made nearly thirty years ago, when I was a teenager:

It’s made from hand-pieced hexagons in the grandmother’s garden design, all paper pieced. I’ve only pictured a section of it here, but even in this small area I can see so many memories: fabrics given to me by my late grandmother, fabrics I bought with my pocket money, leftovers from my mother’s skirts, blouses and dresses, and leftovers from many clothes that my mother made for me.

I’ve been thinking about how patchwork is a literal ‘piecing together’ that could stand for a metaphorical piecing together of the past. As I mentioned last time, I also want to make a memory cloth honouring my ancestors, the women who stitched.

I began with these little squares, all scraps and oddments that wanted to be loved – new and old, shiny and matt, sheer and solid, natural and synthetic:

I hand pieced them, over paper, and left gaps between some of them. Sometimes we can’t know everything, and there are some gaps that can never be filled in. I’ve stitched them down to a background made from a hand-dyed vintage tray cloth covered with hand-dyed cotton gauze:

I think I’m going to embroider some sort of swirling leaf and berry motif over it. I’m waiting for the arrival of some silk and cotton threads, so this one is now resting temporarily until the threads turn up in the post.

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7 Responses to Ancestry

  1. Karen says:

    I love what your doing with this! Thank you for commenting on my blog, thats how I found yours!!

  2. jude says:

    oh terrific, piecing the past and connecting it to the present. yes.

  3. Sandra says:

    your bed cover holds beautiful memories, I made a quilt of my daughters clothes from the time she was a baby, todler and school child.

  4. Suzanna says:

    Thanks for showing us this. I'm looking for a way to make a cloth about my maternal line, where I learned about stitching, for my grandson, and seeing your approach is very helpful.

  5. Heather says:

    The voice of cloth is very powerful. Listen to the stories it tells.Lovely work!

  6. Kaye Turner says:

    Thank you all for such wonderful supportive comments. I'm planning a separate piece – the distaff side – for my maternal lineage. Coming soon, but slowly.

  7. EMBELLISHER says:

    What a beautiful project to honour your stitching ancestors.

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