Our wild swimming group made its first patchwork blankets for Jackie when she got married, and then for Linda when she became seriously ill. We decide on a broad colour scheme and square size, and individuals either crochet, knit, felt or applique squares and add ons which they post or bring to a bee for stitching together. Yesterday, a few of us met at Castle Drogo to see the Grayson Perry and Louis XIV tapestries currently on display there and I was given the fabulous blankets made for me by my fish friends afterwards.
I once saw a fairly prosiac mainstream film called How To Make An American Quilt that resonated despite its shortcomings. I hadn’t previously considered heirloom quilts or the stories they carried. In this film, the quilt is stitched as a wedding gift for the heroine by her grandmother, aunt and their friends, to a theme. So our patchwork blankets continue that collaborative, individual and social tradition of such crafts.
Receiving such a gift after spending time examining, discussing and enjoying the tapestries Drogo added some extra context. The Char de Triomphe was created for Louis XIV, the Sun King, and took six people three years to weave by hand. It’s been renovated by a small group of experts over a five year period. The faded sun, with the ghostly face of Louis barely visible, is particularly poignant; the colours originally would have been vivid.
Grayson’s tapestry Map of Truths and Beliefs is machine-woven via a photoshopped computer map from his drawings, and represents the clash of the everyday and pilgrimages in a kind of modern altarpiece. Also on display is a lithograph of Grayson’s entitled Map of Nowhere, and based on the Mappa Mundi. I’m fascinated by Grayson, and adore his documentaries in which he manages to be erudite, eclectic, approachable and brilliant in drawing truths and insights from his subjects which he translates brilliantly into art with reference to artifacts from the past.
My beautiful blankets, and the muffler and bag, represent a map of friendships forged through a common love of water and nature. It’s about shared adventures, shared confidences, shared scares, shared perspectives. Some of those who made and sent squares are wild swimmers I’d only ‘met’ online.
There are all kinds of styles, interpretations, and approaches to both crafts and the world stitched in, with flashes of inspiration and unique embellishments abounding. I love them. It’s overwhelming to receive such a gift. My Mum was completely overcome when I showed her and spent ages looking at each element.
Kari’s square came attached to a piece of ribbon; she made it from sterling silver and copper. It features the MRI scan of my brain tumour, Hunt, replete with cerebral oedema. How Grayson is that?
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all who crafted my blankets. Cuddly maps of minds, friendships and aquatic adventures.