Thursday, February 05, 2009

Red Cloth and Foochow Patchwork

This is the beginning of a patchwork quit. Notice the red pieces surrounded by other floral pieces and coloured pieces.

A Foochow quilt under construction. My "sister" can make several in a year using both new and scrap materials. Here you see the ubiquitous red pieces. All her patchwork are hand sewn.

Every Foochow grandmother in the past would collect all the clothes that her children and grandchildren could not wear and cut up square pieces and keep them in a basket and wait for the right time to make patchwork blankets or quilts. She also saved larger pieces of materials for the quilt backing.

The red pieces of cotton in a traditional Foochow patchwork are from the red cloth given out (these are appreciation and auspicious gifts) at funerals in return for the "white gold" that a mourning relative or friend would bring to the bereaved family. My grandmother and mother would have a stack of these red cloth in the cupboard at all times.

One of the uses of these red cloth has been for patchwork backing. But the style is going out as most Foochow funerals now provide only made in China terry towels. The "red' to fend off evil spirits is now in the form of red strips of cotton.

I remember very fondly how my mother and sisters would get together at least once a year to recycle all the old clothes and then lay out the square pieces to make several patchwork blankets. We did not actually follow the colour coordination suggested by western patchwork principle which is a very popular activity today. In the old days when life was slower such an activity was a pleasant one and it was often delegated to the grandmother. We made do with whatever materials we had. However if we had enough pieces of cloth we could come up with some kind of colour coordination. Nevertheless red seemed to be the usual colour that held the patchwork together.

AT times we also used the muslin cloth or belaju material as the edges and backing. But beige was not the preferred colour then as dirt and stains appeared too easily. Today it is hard to get muslin materials. The muslin material was also given out at Foochow funerals and we made full use of it for many things.

My family had in the past made many patchwork blankets and we continue to use them until they are very very torn and tattered. Somehow a great deal of emotional attachment results in the use such patchwork blankets. Perhaps it is because each patch is so recognisable from a dress that mother wore for many years and another patch is actually from a nightdress belonging to a sister. There are a few pieces which come from a sister's skirt! There are some pieces cut from a skirt belonging to another sister. Cotton materials somehow seem to be so ever lasting.

My sister recently bought a patchwork coat from Yunnan for just a few dollars.

I have kept some favourite old clothes for several years and I just could not bring myself to part with them. May be one day I will get down and do what my grandmother used to do - make Foochow patchwork blankets for loved ones. In that way I could still "keep" my clothes which I cannot bear to part with. (LOL) They make absolutely fine gifts for those who have special attachments to old fashion ways. And on second thoughts I might just keep them for myself and visitors!! This is the best recycling activity from my family for as long as I can remember.

I am just waiting for the sun to come out to catch a glimpse of some one's patchwork blanket drying a yard!!

2 memories:

Mumble jumble said...

I've contemplated on buying a sewing machine to make quilts.

I loved the quilt that auntie gave to me before I left to kl to study. I used it until it was so torn up that I could barely keep myself warm on rainy nights. I even had "pockets" on the blanket that i could poke my feet through.

I do however have about a foot left of it. Its on my dressing table.

unfortunately the smell of grandma's house has long left the blanket :(

I can't seem to find the same material of the big piece at the back. the blue and white material.

I Am Sarawakiana said...

You must look for flannels (made in China) from some old shops. Those sold in modern craft shops are perhaps more pricey.

You need to pre wash the flannels in case they shrink too much.

Have fun.

Yes it is often the smell of home that make us comfortable when we are away from home.


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