The Art of Darkness

Grave Rubbing Quilts

September 22nd, 2011 by Cobwebs

Grave Rubbing DetailI recently happened upon a comment in a quilting forum where someone mentioned quilts made from tombstone rubbings. Intrigued, I did a bit of looking and discovered that grave-rubbing quilts are very definitely a thing, and they are very definitely made of awesome.

It looks like one of the main creators of this sort of quilt is fiber artist Susan Lenz. She’s got a whole blog devoted to the quilts and other items she makes with the rubbings, often incorporating lace, linen and other vintage fabrics as well. (A few of her items are also featured in a gallery here.)

I had initially thought that she used some sort of transfer method to copy paper rubbings onto fabric, but from her descriptions it instead appears that she makes the rubbings directly on the fabric (often silk) using crayons. She then hand- or machine-embroiders parts of the design and often appliques it to a sturdier base fabric.

I love everything about this. I’m immensely taken with the soft, muted colors of her work and with the wonderful designs she finds on old gravestones. The pieces look marvelously old-fashioned and are charming rather than macabre.

If you’d like to try your hand at something similar, the Association for Gravestone Studies has a very nice article on making gravestone rubbings. You can get fabric crayons at craft stores or online. Thin silk is available at many craft stores, but my favorite place to get it is Dharma Trading; they have a great variety and they’re surprisingly cheap.

If you don’t want to commit to creating a quilt or other large piece, a single small rubbing would look splendid on a piece of clothing: Depending on the clothing you could either do the rubbing directly on the fabric (like this gorgeous linen christening gown) or do it on thin silk and then applique it in place.

I love visiting old graveyards anyway, and this project has given me a brand-new reason to plan an excursion.

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