I love quilts. When I was six years old, we lived in Pasadena, California, for a year. My mamma took a patchwork class, and made a beautiful quilt that we have at Engholmen, our summer house in Norway. Since Pasadena, I have loved the idea of creating something new of small pieces of fabric.
I have several books about quilts, and my favourites are those that show quilts with stories and histories. Some quilts I just love because they are beautiful and make me happy. Often, however, there is so much more to a quilt than the aesthetics. As certain aspects of American woman history is powerfully told through quilts, the stories can be sad, strong, harsh and brutal. But somehow, there is redemption in the piecing together of scraps to create a new, whole and precious comforters. For that is part of what a quilt is. You wrap it around you to keep you warm and comfy. I am fascinated by the idea of wrapping myself in female history and women’s stories.
When I was younger, I loved picking pretty, matching patterns in a shop. Now, when I do patchwork, I always use fabric with a history. Preferably our own family clothing history, as I know the stories behind the clothes so well. I find it extremely difficult to part with my kids’ or my own clothes – even if they are outgrown or damaged. The colours and patterns are full of memories.
I also enjoy “upcycling” old clothes from second hand shops. For one, it is definitely cheaper. Old fabric is far superior to new, because it is soft and “lived” and looks and feels ever so much better than chemically treated and stiff material in trendy colours and patterns – however nice.
I’m not a careful seamstress. I measure roughly, take silly chances that things will fit together. If not, I try to turn the problem into an asset, and more often than not, I come up with better ideas than I initially had! I race along the seams on one of my two sewing machines. They are a Husqvarna from 1935 that I use at the cottage. It only has backwards and forwards mode, and only one stitch length. It works like clockwork! At home I use a Brother machine, which was the first thing I bought for my new household when I moved to Oslo as a new student in 1991. It’s noisy and I have ongoing issues with the under spool. I love them both.
I thought I’d show some of the stuff I’ve made the last five years. I really, really wish I had time to do more, and that I could develop my skills further. I also wish I had the patience for a really, really spectacular piece. I don’t, however, and to be honest, speed belongs to the pleasure. In a few hours (or in some cases, a few days), a bunch of old trousers and blouses and sheets become transformed. By me. And as quilting is craftwork more than artwork, I can actually use the results, – and feel that I have contributed to the world in a tiny, little way.
The first two pieces are baby blankets, made for my children’s twin cousins. The next is a bedspread (now an un-ironed wall hanging) I made for my daughter’s fifth birthday. There is a blanket we keep in our living room made from four pairs of corduroys and a skirt. Today I finished making a picnic blanket, which one of our dear family friends is modeling. It is made from IKEA-scraps and a waxed tablecloth. Finally, are the bedspreads I made for the summer house bedroom…