Quilting, in some form or another, has been practised for thousands of years, but the most popular designs remain those from theAmericasin the 19th century.
As bright-coloured cloths became more commonly available, pioneering women sewed samples and offcuts into elaborate patterns that carried the legends of the journeys they hoped for or endured: log cabin, broken dishes, Jacob’s ladder, bear’s paw, goose tracks, grandmother’s flower garden …
A quilt is a story in fabric — a yarn by the yard, constructed in three layers: the decorative top made of a jigsaw of shapes, batting or wadding to add weight in the middle and a plain-fabric back, all held together with knots and stitches.
Access to indoor plumbing and a lack of requisite sewing skills does not mean that modern women (or men) cannot aspire to the comforting nostalgia of a bespoke bedspread.
Thaya Bedford, who runs Beatnik Bazaar, sells “high-end handmade goods and quirky, retro vintage finds”, including quilts that can be made to order.Bedfordgave up her job as a copywriter — “I was missing out on my child’s life” — and started her shop nearly three years ago in a store space inKalkBay.
“Then the roadworks started [the main road toKalkBayhas been undergoing extensive and disruptive repairs]”, which “ruined a bunch of businesses” and promptedBedfordto shut shop, move to the country and put her business entirely online.
“I veer towards items that are textured, tactile,” she says.
Bedfordstarted stocking ready-made quilts, but increasingly noticed customers wanted to place orders for specific colours or patterns — which she has made by quilter Zelda Joubert.
Joubert says she was “born on a farm in Oudtshoorn where it would get extremely cold. Mother had quilts to get us through the winter” — and so it was “natural” for her to start quilting.
Joubert sources fabrics for her quilts from all overSouth Africa, from vintage swatches to locally made shweshwe produced by Da Gama Textiles. It can take three weeks just to plan and lay out the pattern before the quilting even begins.
“You work like a painting,” she says, “mixing dark and light … and you learn from your mistakes.”
Bedfordsays the quilts — which start from R2?500 for a double bed — are popular wedding gifts, something entire families can contribute towards.
“We had one case where a husband decided to surprise his new wife with a quilt. In the meantime, she had also ordered one — and we didn’t make the connection,”Bedfordsays, adding that the new bride preferred her husband’s commission.
“It’s an heirloom piece.”
To view or order quilts go to http://www.beatnikbazaar.co.za/