This quilt has hung, unfinished, on a living room wall for a couple of seasons. I am finishing it now. How often do I look at a thing undone and feel an unspoken but clear sense of failure? (like those dolls on the mantle — when?!)
What if I walked around assured that each thing was being finished in its proper time?
The standard 1/4″ black binding with mitred corners was the first idea. But it was too much. Not right at all. And, I didn’t want to use the machine.
I pawed through my bins and found an old cotton apron. Very old. Very soft. Not quite Emancipation Proclamation period (1863), but a lot closer than most fabrics I own. It was a little heartbreaking to tear through some hand darning. But I did. As I ripped one, two, three, four, five strips, destroying the apron, hearing that destructive sound, I thought about the tearing action of the slave trade. Entire cultures being ripped apart — not just families. Africans ripped from their homes, their continent, stripped of language, bearings, family, culture, dignity — and finally, their status as human beings. Rip. Rip. I am using a beautiful antique silk thread and starting on the top. A simple running stitch. You can see the edge and the fabrics below. I like that. You can’t tell from these photos, but the apron at some point in its life shared a wash with a red garment. The garment bled all over it. That felt right, too.
This is the first of the Middle Passage quilts and will have a certain cheer and unity to the design. It is meant as a ‘semi-before’ picture. Terrible things have happened or are about to happen — traders kidnapping men, women and children, chaining them in coffles and marching them to the sea. Barracoons along the western coast of Africa warehousing human flesh.
But, it will get worse.
The next quilt will be darker and more fragmented. African patterning less recognizable. That will be THIS side of the ocean.