Tuesday, 18 October 2011

June-September Journal Quilts

For this series of CQ Journal Quilts I have chosen to explore family history, specifically four generations of women in my family at similar points in my life.  These pieces all use text - a specific requirement for JQs in these months.

The first piece, 1968, relates to myself - yes folks the picture below really is me, taken from my passport photo, posterised, solarised and blue-printed in Paint Shop Pro, then printed onto Extravorganza, cut out and stitched down with a simple running stitch, which has also been used to emphasise some of the features.  It is appliqued to a piece of tie-dyed silk taffeta; the whole thing was then machine-quilted, very simply, using the same thread as for the applique, then bound with tie-dyed cotton.

The words round the edge were suggested by an idea from fellow CQ member Margaret Cooter, who created a piece of artwork using the last three words of popular phrases.  In my case I have used the last three words of favourite sixties quotations, plus one quotation from something written later about the sixties.

In 1968, I was a student at London University.  It was a heady time, with a rather strange feeling of a worldwide student community (I suspect for those of my contemporaries have to devote their energies to earning a living things might have felt different) and a real belief that we could change the world.  It was also a huge amount of fun, and a great time to be a student in the swinging sixties. 

The second piece centres on a picture of my mother in 1944.  She was then doing war-work in the Vickers Armstrong factory at Castle Bromwich in Birmingham, making Spitfires (she told my brother about the Spitfires, me about the partying that went on in off-duty hours); to hear her talk it sounded like a bundle of laughs; it was only later that I found out about the long hours operating a capstan lathe and the fact that the factory was the target of bombs (one bombing raid had taken out one of the main sections).  This piece again uses a photograph (printed "straight" this time) on Extravorganza, layered onto pale fabric.  The background is a contemporary fabric of the sort used to make overalls and aprons; another contemporary fabric contains the text that describes her life at the time.  The poster is used with permission of the Imperial War Museum.  The whole thing is quilted very simply, with the addition of the outline of a Spitfire.

In 1926, the year of the General Strike, my grandmother, who is the subject of the August JQ, was 23.  She was a miner's daughter, married to a policeman, though there doesn't seem to have been any sense of divided loyalties; though having to police pickets and demonstrations publicly, in private my grandfather sympathised strongly with the miners' cause; he also helped support her sister's family through the hard times of the twenties and thirties.

Unfortunately, I have no early photograph of my grandmother, though I do remember her as very young-looking well into her fifties.  The drawing here is a combination of later photographs and my own memories - though not the best drawing I have ever done it did succeed in capturing something of the look she had.  The other pictures are all taken from contemporary sources, and again there are some details in print about her life at the time.

The final piece centres on my great-grandmother.  My research into family history began with her, and I have included the family record from the 1901 census as well as a tinted photograph from a couple of years earlier, at around the time of her wedding (again printed onto Extravorganza)  The census entry means the piece goes back a further generation, including my great-great-grandmother.  Both were quilters, and they quilted professionally.  My great-grandmother died young, in the flu epidemic of 1919, but her mother went on to quilt for the London market in the 1920s, in common with many other women from her home town of Maesteg in South Wales.

Both census entry and text are printed onto commercially-treated cotton, with hand-painted silk chiffon layered over to give an antique feel.  The whole piece is hand-quilted, including a characteristic Welsh spiral pattern (which unfortunately doesn't show too clearly at this scale.

One annoying feature.  The commercial fabric I bought came in sheets, and unfotunately none of the sheets in the pack were straight, as a result of which it distorted when being taken off the backing paper, and no amount of gentle tugging could make it straight again - unfortunately I had not more left and it was getting just about to the deadline by then so I had to go with what I'd got.  But I shall be exploring similar themes again - and next time I'll get it right, I promise!



Vicki W said...

These are wonderful pieces!

Linda said...

It's great to see these pieces together with a longer description of the history behind the pieces.
One of the things I love about family history is people that you normally only 'see' through the veil of grey hair an wrinkles come alive when their stories are told.

Julie said...

A great way to commemorate your family's life, Sandra. I enjoyed reading the (hi)stories and seeing your younger self. :-)

sweetypie said...

I like them, very well thought out,and interesting,love the antique look

Sharne's Bit 'n' Bobs said...

WOW! What a lovely way to record your family history. I dont think we will ever understand how much our parents went through in the war.

Fenland Textile Studio said...

I love your journal quilts. They are such a powerful memory of the past.