On Friday while I was flea market hopping, I found a tragic piece.
Many of you saw this when I posted it on Facebook. It made me sick. As much as I wanted to rescue the remaining pieces of this quilt, on principle I couldn’t allow myself to do it. To my way of thinking, paying the person who cut this gorgeous piece up would be somehow condoning their behavior. It would give them more money to buy another great piece and cut it up. Not gonna happen.
I’ve said before that if you own a quilt, you can do anything you like with it. I still stand by that. I might not like it, but it is your right. But if you are cutting up sound pieces just to make a few extra bucks, I will certainly think less of you. Any time I see an eBay seller or flea market vendor cut up a quilt to use for “crafts,” I am done doing business with them. (And it’s for this very reason that I despise being called, “crafty.”) To my way of thinking, the folks who do such things have no clue about the history, the artistry, or the effort that went into making such a piece. I liken such an act to adding glitter to the Mona Lisa. Yes, really.
Should you never cut up a quilt? Well, not exactly. While I have a huge problem, as you might’ve guessed, with cutting up a 160-year-old quilt to make a Santa Claus or a teddy bear, I do recognize that there can be extenuating circumstances. Cutting might be a means of a family retaining what they can of a worn family piece, for example. In these cases, though, the family is looking to extend the piece’s life, not accelerate it. It’s treated with reverence, not convenience.
There are certainly times when I will take a top apart, or use orphan blocks. Quite often, in fact. For example, I bought this piece Friday.
It is cotton (green plain blocks and block foundations) and wool (striped blocks), and dates to the 1930s. As you can see in the photos, it has some issues, issues that for the purchase price of $4.00, I was willing to accept. In its current state, it will never be used or appreciated, and is destined to live out its days in either a closet or a landfill.
I will most likely take the blocks apart and salvage the un-moth-eaten wool blocks by sewing them back together. I can see a pretty dynamic piece with all those stripes, can’t you? I am not sure what I’ll do with the green cotton but it will surely find its way into another piece. Green, 1930s cotton is always useful.
So is my taking this wool/cotton top apart the same thing as the flea market person cutting up an 1850s quilt? Not at all. Cutting up a finished quilt such as the one above, shortens its life, hastens its end in a landfill. No quilter ever made blocks intending not to finish them. By using what we can of an aging or tattered piece and reworking it if necesary, by finishing it and giving it a place to be seen and appreciated for a long time to come, we honor the maker and his or her work.
What do you think? Do you think it’s okay to cut up an old quilt?