Friday, May 31, 2013

The Found Quilt: The Year of the Snake Cloth

Last summer I found this entire Dresden Plate quilt in the leftovers of a late summer camp that a homeless woman and some of her friends had taken up in a park in my neighbourhood. This kind of temporary housing is common enough in the summer around here, a fall out of all of the usual problems that leave people homeless, but mostly because the nearest legal campground has become too expensive for poor families to live at all season. This quilt was truly left behind, no one was coming back for it by the time I got it.
As you can see, I am mending it by reinforcing the worn parts- the top and bottom edges- with applique and cloth woven into the surface. I am adding reverse applique where I need to pull out lumps of unsecured cotton batting- those are most of the dots you see below. The cotton batting is mostly gone about half way up each plate applique, and so I am resurfacing both the front and the back.

This is my year's project, and it struck me in January that last year's project- the hybrid boro dragon robe I wrote about in earlier posts- ended up featuring the year's animal, the Dragon, because I found a shirt with dragons on it. So I decided to continue the pattern, making this year's project the Snake Blanket. A colleague who was born in a Year of the Snake confessed that where she grew up in China, people prefer to be identified as 'Late Dragons'. The first two snakes (or 'late dragons') are silk strips, appliqued.

I have a real love for snakes. We have a lot in our yard, because when we began to naturalize the plantings throughout the yard we were also creating good habitat for them. We added a lot of flat rocks in safe sunny spots. Soon we found them overwintering in piles of brush we created for birds/bugs, and so built a hibernaculum- a pit full of scavenged rocks, covered in logs, brush and leaves. So snakes are part of the web of life that just appears here with the slightest little bit of ecosystem restoration. Maybe the Snake Blanket is a map to a mended landscape.

In this blurry photo you can see the mix of bits from the original maker and my own, which are, today, probably more 'exotic', certainly more eclectic, than the quilt's creator had access to. The easy mingling of these types of cloth, each with a very different history, fascinates me as always. It is a trace of time I guess. Continuity and change all at once I guess.

And so I am busy learning about and pursuing stories of snakes. They get a rough ride in a lot of mythology, but are also important. I so far only know one story where the happy ending is that all the snakes were gone. Or so they say.


  1. it is really coming along!

  2. late dragons...oh...that is just so great.
    i'll have to try it with friend Marti who has seemingly unreconcilable anxiety about
    snakes. maybe just changing to Late Dragons might do the trick...

  3. Hi, Wendy. I do just love what you are doing on this worn quilt. I've got to get back to working on my old quilt(s). There's something very satisfying about bringing the old ones back to life. I like the snake idea, too. The design creates interesting movement.
    best, nadia

  4. Marvellous work you are doing. And I like snakes! They get a bad rap, but if you look at Indian mythology, the nagas are interesting snake-like creatures, and of course there is the oroborus, the snake with it's tail in its mouth, which some say is a representation of the universe. And snakes are symbols for regeneration, as they shed their skins. Have you found any bits of shed snakeskin in your garden? It is amazing stuff.