Memory or Mourning quilts

Following on from the importance of textiles within our lives, I have become really interested in how textiles carry memory. The clothes we wear, fabrics and colours reminiscent of a time or place. A tear or damage can remind us of a particular incident, but also worn fabric reminds us of time passed.

When someone close dies fabric and clothes become poignant reminders of the person now gone. the smell left behind within fabric, favourite clothes help us to remember but can also jolt back memories when we didn’t expect them.

It is no surprise to me that there is a strong history (particularly in America) of using these ideas to remind us and help us to remember loved ones by way of quilting. Mourning Quilts were either made using fabric from the clothes of loved ones ribbons from a funeral service or simply by using embroidered words or names. The practice of making a quilt would allow the maker to contemplate and remember the loved one whilst the quilt was made and once made anyone using it could seek comfort from the warmth and protection it provided.

Quilts would often be used for laying out the body of a loved one, draped over a coffin or even as a burial shroud when perhaps a wooden coffin was not available.

The graveyard quilt is a more extreme reminder of loved ones already gone but also of those that will follow. This quilt was made to resemble a graveyard there is space within the centre to place named coffins as loved ones pass.

Elizabeth Rosemary Mitchel’s Graveyard quilt is explored within a book by Linda Otto Lipsett titled ‘Elizabeth Roseberry Mitchell’s Graveyard Quilt: An American Pioneer Saga‘ I have just ordered a copy of this book and can’t wait to read more about the story behind it.

The catharsis of making is really interesting and can be an important part of mourning, but this could also be useful as a process for contemplation. Creating a piece of work that has meaning but using the actual process of making as a way of fully exploring ideas.


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