Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wedding revisited

Shortly after I blogged about finishing my daughter's quilted petticoat for her 18th century wedding, I planned to write about another wedding dress, but some mini-crisis happened and I never got back to it.  The subject of wedding dresses and quilts became a thread on the Quiltart e-mail list and reminded me that I should write about it.  So you'll hear more of Ireland later. . .

About three years ago Lynn, a friend who has seen quite a bit of my work in local shows, approached me about making a quilt for her out of her wedding dress.  --It's been hanging in my closet for 35 years and I want to do something with it.--  Now I thought a bit before I took this commission.  First of all, any of you who have seen my work know that white does not play a prominent place in my work.  In fact, I don't think I used it at all before Lynn's quilt.  I asked if I could add other colors and she thought for a while and then said that would be okay.  She also added that her mother had made her dress as well as the dresses of her bridesmaids and she thought she had some fabric left over from their dresses.  --Ah,  I said, and what color were those?--  --Off-white--  Hmm.  This was going to be a challenge, but for some reason, I felt ready to take it on.  After all, a sonnet has some ironclad rules to it but instead of becoming a straightjacket , the restrictions can be a source of powerful beauty for many poets.  And Lynn was leaving me complete freedom to choose the design, trusting soul that she is.

So I agreed and spent some time just letting ideas percolate.  Almost immediately I had two colors in mind to add--a unique teal and a mauve hand-dye, both from Bali, I believe, that I had recently bought at the Lancaster quilt show.  These seemed to be colors Lynn would like.  I wanted a curved shape in the colors and began playing with possibilities and finally got a shape that worked for me.  I was also beginning to get a sense of the whole quilt.  The dress was simple and as elegantly beautiful as Lynn, and I felt that the quilt made from it should also have an elegant simplicity about it.

I wanted to make a sample and that meant cutting into the dress.  It took a couple of weeks for me to work up the courage to make that first cut.  Did I say the dress was made of linen--linen that has a life of its own, that wiggles and squirms its way out of square at every opportunity?  But I got a sample made to my satisfaction and Lynn got  a preview of the shape so that if she had reacted with any semblance of horror I could go back to drawing board.  But she liked it as she had liked my color choice.

So the quilt grew slowly on my working wall as the amount of fabric available from the dress grew smaller.  I breathed a sigh of relief as I cut my last long piece that I would make it.  And here it is, although it is a difficult quilt to photograph, and I was not taking as much care as I should when I made these photos:

Part of what you cannot see well is the change in texture between the vertical pieces, since I alternated Lynn's dress with narrow bands of fabric from the bridesmaid's dresses, which were a different weave from hers.  I also decided to create texture on the two side borders to add interest without adding color, even though those curved pleats ate up the fabric quickly and were more challenging than I had planned because of the orneriness of the linen.  Lynn's mother had made seventeen covered buttons as the closure for the dress in the back and those are the dots on the curved pieces with just enough left over to put two buttons in each corner.
From Lynn's hesitation about adding color I got the feeling that she did not want much color in this quilt.  I also kept the quilting simple in keeping with the original.  I finally titled it "Alteration," for obvious reasons and as a reference to the Shakespeare sonnet line, "Love is not love, which alters when it alteration finds."  The final quilt measures about 45" x 60".

Lynn was pleased--always a crucial element in a commission.  And I learned much.  I doubt I will seek out linen ever again for a quilt, but I have learned never to say --never--.


Anya said...

If I ever want something made of my wedding dress, I know who to go to... (or is it "to whom to go"?)...Anyway, your work is lovely, Madalene, as always.

Barb R. said...

Madalene, thanks for sharing this beautiful work. Using the pleats was brilliant - I know it took a lot of extra fabric, but it was so worth it! It creates a beautiful texture and depth, but also adds "color" because of the resulting shadows.

Barb Ramik

Martha Ginn said...

Nice job, Madalene! And I know it took lots of courage and confidence to rework an heirloom. You have captured the elegance and grace of the dress and your friend must be pleased.
Martha Ginn