July 8, 2017

Embroidered Memories

A short while ago, I received an email asking about the best way to clean this embroidered piece.  After getting some more info, I  suggested that vacuuming would be the safest and sent along the link to my post about how-to vacuum quilts.

I thought this unusual piece was worthy of being shared here, and the owner, Priscilla Friesen, graciously sent me the photos and story below to share here.

The quilt was made by Priscilla's mother, Lisbeth Koehn Friesen, and is a treasured record of family memories.

My family is Mennonite.  My mother always had a sewing project going.  There are other quilters in my family, but my mother did not do quilts.  Her projects were embroidery and handwork projects.  She cross stitched tablecloths, quilts, embroidered clothing, and created 78 embroidered carrying bags.  She did a major sewing project during each of her pregnancies. Mine was an embroidered tablecloth. 

This denim quilt is 45” X 65” with denim squares created from the jeans of my brothers and me.  Each square is uniquely embroidered with different themes or pieces of our clothing as abstract color designs. 

What was particularly unique was the time frame that the quilt was created.  The summer of 1967 was a very disrupted year in the life of the family.  Both my mother and father’s mothers died within a week of each other in July. My father’s grandmother died a month later.  The bulk of the initial squares were embroidered and stitched during the summer driving to and from funerals in Kansas, Minnesota and Ohio.  It was later that year that my mother’s cancer reappeared.  The more stark winter embroidered pieces were created during her cancer radiation treatments.   She gave the quilt to me as the oldest daughter before she died in l971.   It has hung in my home since.   

The embroidered red bird was the first piece.  The idea was taken from a magazine. 

One theme was the seasons as you can see in these four diagonal pieces representing winter, fall, summer and spring. 

The stark white embroidery on darker jean fabric were created during her cancer treatments.  Appliqué pieces of fabric came from pieces of the family’s clothing. 

My favorite square includes french knots on my jeans. 

I think this is a super clever idea for a take-along project.  It's really like doodling with needle and thread.  I, for one, always enjoy doodling - what fun this would be!  And in this case, it also served as a lovely way to hold the family close via needlework during tough times.   

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