Make Some Macabre

This post is inspired by pumpkin chai entry (yeh, just spent like 50 ffff-bleepin’ dollars on TEA, Z. Thanks. ;-)). When I think of cozying up with hot spiced liquid autumn and purring lap kitties I think quilt. And because it is me, I think coffin quilt.

Yes I do.

I’m not referring to funeral quilts which are typically meant to adorn coffins during services. Those are lavish, beautiful works of art but designs are not morbid at all. Coffin quilts are morbid, at least by modern day standards. Although today the subject is considered distasteful, ghoulish and usually avoided, 19th century attitudes about death were more matter-of-fact. They kind of had to be.

Even with that in mind, the following example (courtesy Kentucky Historical Society) is skirting sinister. I love it:

“Shades of brown, 8 pointed stars alternating w/blocks of brown calico; center is graveyard surrounded by a picket fence, a trellis with climbing roses, angels in the corner and housing several coffins; the border of the quilt is another picket fence with more coffins; walnut hull dyes were used for the browns. The maker, Elizabeth Roseberry Mitchell, and her family were natives of Pennsylvania. In 1836 an infant son, John Vanetta, died. In 1834, the family move to Lewis County. In 1843 a second son, Matthais died at age 19. Elizabeth and her daughters Sarah and Elizabeth completed this quilt around 1843. Each casket on the periphery bears a relative’s name. As each died, the tag was moved to the cemetery. ” (Link)

So, family members each get their very own coffin appliqué parked on the quilt border. Just waitin’ around… To DIE. At which point their little personal pine box is permanently affixed to inner cemetery. Ah! Delightfully macabre!

Lots of contemporary examples of spooky quilt designs, some more elegant than others. I particularly like the Grave Rubbing Quilt Series by Susan Lenz. I prefer the designs that are purely gravestone (as opposed to the sentimental embellishments that seem a little forced to me). They are all beautiful though, delicate and ghostly, with the soft muted tones of a nice quiet cemetery.

You can read a little more about the process HERE.

If you are interested in doing your own grave rubbing but have never done it before please take a moment to visit The Association for Gravestone Studies website HERE for some Q&A.

I have tons of books on quilt-making, specifically crazy quilts. A dear friend of the family made my mother a superbly elaborate crazy quilt with gorgeous velvets and damask and satins and all of these tiny little embroidered details. I’ve been dreaming about making my own some day, either for curling up with good book or wall decoration. My carpal tunnel may trump any romantic notions I have about hand-stitching but it still appeals to me, at least in theory.

If nothing else, I will certainly have enough tea for that project.


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