It may seem strange, but I love quilts. If ever I see a quilt show, I will go. While you see lots of quilts in Amish areas, you don’t see many in Asia! I can assure you, I have never seen one in Cambodia. Though I do know there are two organizations which make some quilts to help women in Cambodia. Both of my grandmothers hand-made quilts for all of their kids, grandkids and special events. I have several which have been given to me by my grandmothers which I cherish dearly. Well, on my side of the family, I doubt quilt making will continue, but it is a shame because it is such a creative endeavour which is a part of my cultural background.
I am originally from Iowa and both of my great-grandparents were settlers who were pioneers in Iowa. They built their farms and community from their own sweat and had little or no money. To keep warm, they would take their ragged clothes and sew them into patchwork quilts. Most quilts you find today have been made commercially, or at the least with brand new materials specially made for quilt making.
I am working in Poipet, which feels much like what I can imagine my settler great-grandparents went through. Everyone here is building a new community out of nothing. It is actually worse than nothing because it is built on minefields. Every road, every house, every fence, and even the trees are new. Every person here is struggling to survive and make a community into a home.
The most common “industry” in Poipet is sewing old clothes. Here they take old things and make them into new products. I stopped by a house which was sewing hats out of blue jeans a couple of days ago. I immediately thought it would be fun to make blue jeans into a quilt. I know it is not a traditional fabric, but I decided to try it.
I knew I only had one day to do it, so I could not make a complicated design. I started late at night figuring out what size of squares I needed to cut. I stayed up till almost midnight. I decided to do a rug style quilt with exposed frayed seams. Why? Because it was easier to do and I thought I could do it in a day. I wouldn’t have to put a backing on this. The next morning I bought twenty pairs of discarded blue jeans. Total price: $2.50 for all of them.
Early in the morning I started cutting my squares from the pant legs and pockets. I discovered many things as I worked from morning till night. I learned Levi’s are easier to cut than Wranglers! I never even stopped to eat. I was determined to finish my first ever quilt in one day.
By 1:30pm I had cut over a hundred patches in 7 inches squares. I had them all cut out and placed in a checkerboard pattern. I also used the waist lines for my borders and places the pockets around the quilt. I used 8 pairs of jeans to make it. It was only laid out, but now I had to sew it.
Then I went to my new friends shop who sewed hats all day. I knew they could help me sew. They did. We laid out the quilt on the shop floor and the owners daughter kindly helped me sew. By 6:00pm the whole quilt was sewn. I started clipping the edges to make it “rugged looking”. My hands were sore and blistered, but I was done! I guess I am now a “quilter”!
This quilt doesn’t have a backing on it (hence it is not really a quilt, but a patchwork blanket) but I just wanted to see what it looked like first. The owner of the used jean shop is going to do another one tomorrow and improve on my design. I bet it will be good. I think we are going to have a new industry here! Anyone want a jean quilt?
Oddly enough, this was a fun day off for me. I enjoy focusing on a task and seeing it completed. I have always wanted to make a quilt and so I did. Now I can carry on the tradition of my Iowan family! Maybe I can also start a new industry to help these settlers here turn this new community into a lovely home.