The (not) Wedding Quilt pt. 1

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.

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My quilt “Chester Criswell” is hanging in the Sydney Quilt Show at the moment and I couldn’t be happier. It’s been an absolute odyssey of a quilt – I started making it 6.5 years ago and just pottered with it over the years finally finishing the last block earlier this year. ✂️ The whole quilt has been hand appliquéd using the freezer paper technique. I matchstick quilted it with my domestic sewing machine. I used the patterns provided by @twobitspatches as part of a block of the month Sharon ran. 🧵 There is a lot of Cam @curlypops in this quilt. I made the middle block, second row from the top, for her, using her fabrics, in February 2013. I made another block for her earlier this year (far right second row) but I never told her that. When we spent the day together a couple of weeks before she died, Cam asked me how I was going to quilt Chester – she was so excited to see it. I told her I was going to “quilt the crap out of it”. She laughed, loving the idea of obnoxious machine quilting on a hand sewn quilt. I’m sorry she never got to see Chester finished, because when Cam thought she had more time left she wanted to try to come to Sydney to see the quilt show. She’s there though. I can feel her there. A lot of us can. 💕 So there’s my quilt, my Chester. I hope if you come to the show you get to enjoy him even though he’s a bit creased looking (that’s what a get for matchstick quilting – it’s the gift that keeps giving). I have another quilt in the show as well but I’ll try and take a photo today and share it tomorrow. 🌈 #chestercriswellquilt #chestercriswell #sydneyquiltshow #sydneyquiltshow2019 #sydneycraftandquiltfair2019 #sydneycraftandquiltfair #colourforcam #needleturnapplique #matchstickquilting

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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.

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