Utility Plus Beauty

“If you’re going to use something every day, why not make it beautiful?”   is the comment made by Quiltart list member Wendy Starm, in context of discussions  on various aspects of this area of quiltmaking, and many totally agree.  In the days before cheap industrially produced bed coverings of cotton, wool and now man-made fibre were available, in better-off  households a select few quilts of relatively fine design and higher standard of craftsmanship were kept aside for ‘best’ – (weddings funerals, special visitors etc)  compared to the other other more hastily constructed quilts for every day, which produced as quickly as possible for the required warmth, and therefore often showing fewer stitches per inch quilting, which was one of the main ‘rules’ or standards some members of the Quiltart list have become a little hung up about lately.

Anyway, Wendy’s comment prompted me to share this memory of a highly memorable afternoon I spent with an elderly lady, Marta, here in Montevideo some years ago.  Marta told me how for many years she and 7 or 8 friends used to meet every week from around 2 in the afternoon to 8 in the evening, breaking once for afternoon tea around 5pm   The rest of that time they organised into teams to  produce these very utilitarian scrap bedcoverings.  While some laid out the wool samples they got from local manufacturers,  others sewed on their machines and others pressed after that.  In Australia we’d call these ‘waggas’.  They were backed with either whole cloth or pieced large areas of wool fabric, but had no batting and were not quilted but tied here and there just to hold the two layers together in relation to each other.  (For the technical minded it was a bagged backing)   These ladies’ work began as their relief effort response to unusually severe flood damage and losses among very poor people in the mid ’60’s; but continued through many years because they found there was an ongoing need for what they produced.  As time moved on their work finally stopped as one by one they just became too old to go on.  She was left with a couple of these covers which she showed me, and this one I found especially beautiful.  I remarked how the cherry red patches really ‘sang’ in among the earthy neutrals, and her comment was an echo really, of Wendy’s above:  “We might have been making them for charity, but we always felt we had to make them as beautiful as we could for these needy people.”

2 Responses to “Utility Plus Beauty”

  1. June says:

    Marta is gorgeous, also.

  2. Alison says:

    She is a very gracious Lady indeed, and I spent such a pleasant couple of hours with her.

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