Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Quilty Ethics Question

Okay, so I'm not entirely sure that it would fall under ethics but I still would love to know your opinions! If you hang around here any you may have seen the Sunbonnet Sue quilt I cut up for a friend. She asked me to make pillows for her family members and a couple of bags for her daughters and niece. Well, while I was working on it, I did a fabric run and ended up getting into a conversation with one of the ladies who worked at the store about refurbishing quilts (undoubtedly something she has done). She was just horrified that I cut up this quilt. Hello? Not my quilt, not my decision. I asked my friend 40 times before I did it if she was sure! Anyway! She started telling me this long list of things I could have done to have refurbished this quilt. Again, not my decision, but it got me thinking.

My hubby has several quilts that his great grandmother made. His favorite, of course, is the one that's in the worse condition. And, get ready to laugh, it's a Sue quilt. He asked me to look at it to see if I could salvage it. Let me just say, there are some nasty holes in this thing and they're not in good spots. It might be best to remove the Sues and reattach them to another piece of fabric. This whole situation goes along with what I was thinking before...

At what point is it no longer the original quilt? Say Great Grandma LuluBell made a quilt that has been handed down in your family but it is in horrible condition. You put hours of work into refurbishing it and end up having to replace a myriad of fabrics. At what point do you say this is just a quilty marriage of yours and GG LuluBell's techniques? At what point is it no longer GG LuluBell's quilt?
I don't know. And the lady at the store insisting that it stay a quilt; isn't it still the work of my friend's grandmother? And wouldn't she have wanted everyone to have a piece of something she made rather than having everyone in the family angry at one person because they got to it first?
I know this will all be personal opinions but I was just curious what you guys thought...

12 comments:

Jennifer said...

I think grandmothers are pretty practical. Why would she want all of her hardwork just put away so it didn't get messed up? Quilts are meant to be used. I think cutting up the quilt to make pillows is exactly what is meant to happen, once the quilt can not longer be useful as a quilt.

Linz said...

This comes down to personal opinion, and personal choice. She, obviously, thinks that the work should stay original, but sometimes, that really isn't a viable option. Not many people want to hang a ratty, holey quilt on there wall, and therefore, it would rot in a drawer. How is that valuing an object? And not everyone has the ability to restore - or the funds to hire someone to restore - a quilt.

In MY opinion, if the best way to share and display a treasured object is to rework it into something else, then that is okay. I ask myself - if in 100 years, my decendants wanted to find a way to keep one of my quilts as a keepsake by cutting it up and reworking it - would I mind. The answer is no. I would be delighted that someone still cares enough to not just throw it away.

There, I'll hop off my soap box now.

Flo @ Butterfly Quilting said...

I am a fairly new quilter, so maybe don't have the deep appreciation of old quilts...but I think it is WONDERFUL that an old family quilt could be shared by cutting it up and making it into something that several family members could treasure!

I know what you mean about the amount of work to "remake" a tattered quilt..I repaired an old quilt for my son..but he loves it and it has such special memories for him...isn't that what it is all about?

Great job!! I think it is worth it in the end...my personal opinion!

mblittle5 said...

I think it's wonderful that so many of her family can share in her quilt. I'm sure Grandma would be thrilled.

The Thompsons said...

That's a really good question. I'm not sure I have a good answer, but it's something to think about. I personally think it's cool that everyone in the family will have a piece of something special. If you "refurbish" a quilt so that it can be cherished in its own way then it still has value and will still remind you of Great Grandma.

Jamie Lee said...

It seems like a lot of work to go through to refurbish it. If I had a quilt that I made passed down through generations, I would love to see it reincarnated into something that can be loved and used rather than sitting in a closet waiting to be repaired or worse, just for looking at.

BijouxBaby said...

I think that for quilts that are in poor condition, repurposing them in another form is the best thing to do. If you have to extensively restore the quilt, I'm not sure what's the point of keeping it as a quilt. As for a quilt that isn't being used, as a quilt if you can think of something else do it with it so that it can be used and admired, then go for it. I think it's the perfect solution for a quilt that is being contested. Everyone should have a bit of it.

Almost 2 years ago, my MIL gave me two quilts that her grandmother had made for my husband and his brother. She told me to do whatever I could to stabilize them so she could keep using them. One of them is half shredded and I couldn't see how it could be repaired. A quilt restoration expert gave a talk at the local guild and when she saw the quilts, even she agreed that I should just lop off the shredded end and make it a lap quilt. My own mother pitched a fit and said that I should replace the missing sections. I told her if she wanted to do, she could do it herself. Hence, my MIL's quilts still sit in the basement, unused. My mother got one of them done over thanksgiving, and some work on the other, but not finished. Hopefully my mom will finish it before the end of the year.

If Toys Could Talk said...

I think you did the right thing. You presented your friend with some options and made sure that she was absolutely certain that's how she wanted to handle the quilt. She chose to have it made into something her entire family can treasure and enjoy, rather than keep a tattered old (and likely unusable) quilt hidden away in a cupboard or box.

As to restoration, I suppose I'm okay with it in theory. If you take a damaged heirloom quilt to a restoration specialist (i.e. someone who is trained and knows how to properly preserve heirloom quilts) and they are able to make some repairs then great.

I do have a problem with people who claim to "restore" an old quilt but don't use the original construction techniques or use modern fabrics. And I agree with other commenters who said that if the quilt is so badly damaged that you have to make sweeping changes to the original quilt and it looks totally different, then you aren't actually restoring it.

Bree said...

When my quilts are old and tattered and I'm a goner, I quite hope my great great granddaughter will slice it up and give it new life. I'd rather it be reformed into something usable, like a pillow, than stuck in a box somewhere because people are terrified of making the holes larger. But.. that's me. And I think I might have to embroider that on some labels so my poor great great granddaughter doesn't have to go through this difficult ethical connundrum in 100 years!

Lucy @ Charm About You said...

I think if it's your quilt (or your family's) you can do whatever you want with it!
I agree with you and think if you change it or do lots of work on it it becomes a collaboration :)

piece peace said...

I would say you were compelled to do as your friend asked. Additionally, if it is your, you should be able to do with it as you see fit. With all due respect to the restoration lady, her way is not the only way.

Cheryl's Teapots2Quilting said...

If you do major work to salvage the quilt, then, add a tag to the back that lists both her and you. Part of it is still her, but, also a part will be your efforts.