Originally published at: www.johnwilmot.com/quilts/1.html
Double-knit Polyester Suits Quilt – 2001-2002
This is one of those stories that will date me. This quilt is made of my old suits from when I was a little boy–about the time I was in kindergarden. Since they are made of double-knit polyester and in intensely colored patterns, it’s obvious that they’re from the seventies. So you do the math.
I found the pile of these adorably small outfits when my parents moved. My mother had saved them all, but after years in the basement, they were mildewed and discolored. I was torn: Should I continue to save them indefinitely for no good reason, or should I secretly toss them? Aesthetically speaking, I’ve always found the seventies particularly horifying, and these little suits were a reminder of all that was bad about that time. On the other hand, they were my clothes when I was a kid, and they were adorable.
My solution, in the jargon of today’s huggy, self-affirming pop psychology, was to “honor my history” and to “respect” my mother’s feelings by saving them. But, I would “reclaim” the suits for my adult self by 1) using them in the practice of my own craft, 2) refashioning them into something more visually attractive than decrepit artifacts of a mercifully bygone era, and 3) transforming them from burdensome objects of nostalgia into something truly useful.
But then isn’t that what quilters have always done?
The backing fabric is another story. It’s a vibrant chartreuse color and used to be a sheet that my sister let her dog sleep on in the car. Eventually, It got so stinky, that she left it in my parents’ garage, where I found it and claimed it. After many washings, the smell went away, and now memories of my sister and her dog are part of the work as well.
That’s really what I like about homemade quilts: They’re personal histories. Sacred objects, really.