I have always loved antique quilts. Baltimore Quilts, Civil War Quilts, English, Australian, American, Welsh… it has never really mattered where they came from, it is the story that they hold in their stitching which has intrigued me and fascinated me. It is these quilts which drew me to quilting in the first place. But truth be told, I don’t make as many of them as I would like to.
I have been looking closely at the Chester Criswell Quilt for a while now after seeing a modern interpretation of one made by Michelle Law (pictured below). I thought, in the greatest quilting tradition, that I would give it a crack.
Now the original Chester Criswell was a wedding quilt, made by family and friends to celebrate the wedding of Mary McClellan Criswell and Jesse Jackson Smith; and I imagine that the quilt was made with much love and with stories behind the blocks. Which brings me to now.
I have started my version of Chester Criswell, and it has a story behind the blocks. But it is the story of what is happening to me as I am making it, why I am making it, and what is going on around us – more broadly – now. Back in the dark ages of my undergraduate degree I was studying history, specifically women’s history, and there was quite a lot of information we were able to gather from the letters and diaries which women kept, in many cases sending them “home” to the family so that they would be able to keep in touch with the everyday. This project isn’t that, but it is an attempt to pay homage to the stories of the women who have come before me.
The format for this is still kind of evolving in my mind. But I think that they will come in the form of letters, to my mother, to Wilma. Contrary to popular opinion I don’t really remember her (I was only just 14 when she died), but the older I get the more I miss having my mother with me, and the grief has changed.
This is not a wedding quilt. It is a quilt for me which will have my life stitched into it. My sorrows and joys. My stresses and frustrations. And I for one am curious about how this journey is going to go.