My life as a quiltmaker (for chronological order, read oldest post to newest)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

46. Rug wool

These aren't quilts. They are made of tougher stuff than the lightweight cottons I often use, and they are made to withstand foot traffic, chair legs, or hot mugs of coffee on tables. The materials here hail from the wool clothing of previous generations. A motley collection of colors, a bit of order imposed by the maker, stitching: they are enough like quilts to satisfy me.

In making "East Meets West" with family linens and laces, I had begun to connect present with past. Looking through all of the old textiles I inherited because no one else wanted them, I felt I understood at least something about all those people who took the time to work these fancy fabrics, because I too have spent so many meditative hours making things that are unnecessarily time-consuming and elaborate.

My mother-in-law's mother was one of those people. She made incredible braided rugs, and when she died she left behind many bags of wool strips, beautifully cut, folded, stuffed and sewn, all prepared to be braided. My husband thought he might use them to make a rug some day. Although that may still happen, in the meantime I've snagged some of the wool. It's not in me to braid rugs by hand the way she did. But it's fabric, and I think it's clear by now that I have a really strong impulse towards recycling "good stuff" and a really good sewing machine that can easily zig-zag wool strips together. My "grandmother-in-law" spent lots of hours cutting up the usable parts of old clothing--been there myself!--and preparing it for a second life. I could neither duplicate nor throw away her efforts, and rugs like these--or table mats, chair cushions, and coasters--have been a happy diversion and a way to add a new chapter to the story and new life to old memories.

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