Tuesday, February 24, 2015

How Can You Mend a Broken Heart

By Jonathan Gregory
Assistant Curator of Exhibitions

I’ve been thinking how to describe what “Making & Mending: Quilts for Causes and Commemoration,” the International Quilt Study Center & Museum’s seventh biennial symposium, April 16-18, is really about.

There’s this Bee Gees’ 1971 hit, How Can You Mend a Broken Heart? It goes like this:
“How can you mend a broken heart?
How can you stop the rain from falling down?
How can you stop the sun from shining?
What makes the world go round?” 
I wouldn’t want to stop the rain and sun both, but I guess the idea is that you can fix a broken heart about as easily as stopping either. Like, never. Pretty sad.

It’s true, some things will always stay broken. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t try to mend the ripped-up stuff in our world, or at least try to give some support to those who suffer from the consequences.

That’s kind of what “mending” in the symposium title is talking about.

Madison Township Memorial of the World War
Alice J. Hedderich, circa 1918
Madison Township, Clinton County, Indiana
IQSCM 2012.032.0002
Acquisition made possible by Robert & Ardis James Fund
Alice Hedderich did some local mending during World War I. She appliquéd blue stars to honor male soldiers from her township in Indiana who served in World War I, gold stars to remember the soldiers who fought and died, and red crosses, probably to represent Red Cross nurses who served. It’s impossible to bring back a soldier who died, but on her quilt that soldier still has a physical place in this world. A bit of bright gold to say this one lived and sacrificed himself, and that says to the soldiers’ family and community, “We Remember.”

Mending in the needle-and-thread sense isn’t something that we know as much about, these days. If I lose a button on a shirt, the shirt stays in the closet and eventually ends up pushed to the back and then goes to the Salvation Army. Have you heard of a darning egg? Well, I’ve seen one, and it is an egg-shaped hard object. If I had a hole in the sole of my sock, I could put the darning egg down inside the sock to give me something hard to push my needle against as I gathered up and closed the edges of the hole with thread. Brilliant really. Women used to keep them in their sewing baskets, but now I see them mostly in antique stores.

But sewing up holes in things is the right idea. Mending doesn’t undo the damage, but it can make the shirt or sole—or soul in the case of those who suffer—somewhat functional again. It restores a semblance of wholeness and normalcy.

Space is still available for symposium. Register today online.

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