The crone cloth

I’ve been planning a large cloth for about a year now. It still hasn’t got much further than the only-in-my-head stage, although I have planned the arrangement of quilt blocks together with rough sizes. This square cloth will be the same height as me – 66″ – and will be based around the imagery in this song by Carolyn Hillyer:

I want to somehow preserve the essence of the imagery without making it too literal or too figurative. I want the cloth to be an opportunity to embrace what it is to be female, and also what it is to be a ‘woman of a certain age’. When I was young, I worked with menopausal women and found their symptoms mildly amusing – the mood swings and hot flushes – and it’s only quite recently that I’ve begun to realise that, at some point, this will happen to me too. The crone, in pagan circles, is the post-menopausal woman, the wise woman; the woman who has seen it all and who knows the things young women don’t. While youth is lost, wisdom is gained. These are the things I want to explore, through cloth and stitch, in the crone cloth.

I’ve also been thinking about stitch as language, as a form of communication. As so often happens in this virtual world, at the very moment I am thinking about it, a blogging colleague is writing brilliantly about it.  Dee and Serena have written eloquently about this recently.

So I’m setting out to explore some non-figurative expressive marks, starting with the symbols and designs found in prehistoric art. It fascinates me that the spiral (to take just one example)  appears all over the world at the same time in prehistory. It seems that while verbal languages vary wildly, signs and symbols are capable of saying the same thing the world over, bringing time and space together. I’ve made a small sample using an ancient design:

This is about 10″ or so square, just small scraps stitched directly to calico backing. I really like this direct applique technique for patchwork. It enables spontaneous piecing without the need to measure and cut too much, and offers a way of using those tiny scraps that we all collect.

I used quite a fine wool thread for the couching: useless for sewing with because it breaks so easily, but it finds itself completely comfortable as a couched line. I think there’s a lesson in that too. Everything is at home somewhere.

So today, to the drawing board. I’ll be back next week if there is progress.

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17 Responses to The crone cloth

  1. chloe says:

    I’m so excited that you’re using spirals and other man-made symbols: I think they’re fascinating, and like you say, they are such an ubiquitous part of our collective history that we tend to overlook their significance to us even now. Really looking forward to seeing more of this piece… 🙂

  2. A fascinating subject and beautiful study, lookingf forward to seeing more of your progress on this.

  3. Loralei says:

    I love circles- the circle of life, never ending personal quests. When I first saw the image, I envisioned painting on cloth, then I started thinking about different colors and weights of fabric instead. This is exciting- I am looking forward to seeing where you go with it..

  4. arlee says:

    OOOOOOOOOO, i’m doing GIRL, you’re doing Crone, we need a Mother now!

  5. Penny says:

    I’m definitely in the crone category – not sure how wise I am – but I’ve definitely learned a lot through the years. Love your words and exploration in this posting. I’m definitely a spiral person, perhaps in another life I was the one drawing them during prehistoric days. I only hope that I was also the one who first thought of putting it in stitch!

  6. serenapotter says:

    yes I love that blogging can connect and make us feel so powerful working together in way. like we’re all in a large secret…well not really…society of creative women…with tools, vision, and power.

    i’m honored at the mention….Judy has talked about this in the past some too.

    I really am only stealing my mom’s ideas and what she’s told me when i “interview” her about quilting and her life.

  7. serenapotter says:

    you know looking at this again
    and thinking on it.

    the individual stitch
    has always felt like a braille of motherly love for me.
    when i sleep under my mom’s quilts i rub the stitches until i fall asleep.

  8. I find when l am stuck on what to do next..spirals always appear in my work.I have lived all over the world and as you say…the spiral is every where! I work as a Doula (birth partner) and it is a word for wise woman or sage…so at 59 in a few days time..l am definatly a crone!!

  9. Rachel says:

    One of my projects took ten years before I got from head to first stitch, so you’re way ahead of me!

  10. Nanette says:

    It’s heartening to hear of your slow process from head to stitch and Rachel’s as well. I’m also planning a large cloth, Ibut don’t know yet what it looks like, or where I’ll start, but I have a sense of it waiting for me. I’m putting aside pieces I’ve plant dyed, pieces I’ve thrifted or been given, and pieces of fabric I just like. It will be my wrapping cloth for when I die….so definitely a crone cloth…I’m already a crone, a comfortable place to be.

    and I keep seeing this cloth story blogged and talked about, it’s bringing together the process for me….oh and I use spirals all the time too.

    I like your thoughtful exploration too, makes me think maybe that’s my next step. Look forward to following your progress.

  11. Sweetpea says:

    Oh my, I shall be watching this project define itself with great expectation…perhaps it will be of some help in my crone-ified areas… :>/

  12. MoF says:

    Even a crone can still be creative. At this time of year woman to crone seems particularly apt as we approach All Souls Eve. As a crone looking forward to the next great adventure I anticipate that this quilt will keep me interested for some time to come.

  13. karen says:

    are you excited? I get so excited when I start a new project. I love the doodling at the bottom, it looks fascinating. and yes, Las Vegas…Grand Canyon too….I am so excited!!

  14. blandina says:

    This is a very inspiring post.
    I never thought of myself as ‘crone’ but I guess that at 58 I am one too. I love the idea of a large cloth, one that you are not in a hurry to finish, one that you come to as you would come to an old friend.

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