Tuesday, January 8, 2013

How to make a quilt, Armenian style

Remembering little old ladies all dressed in black  (see yesterday's post) brings to mind the tiny black-clothed lady, 80 years old in Marash Girl's memory , who would come to refresh and remake our yorghans (angoghins), Armenian style quilts.

Long before down comforters were the rage, Marash Girl slept with a yorghan -- a quilt  (in a dobrag) made of sheep's wool in a cotton bag that had been hand sewn strategically to keep the wool spread in the bag and create a comfy quilt.  (Marash Girl's wealthy friends in college would want to borrow that quilt for comfort when things were not going well in their lives.)

And yesterday, remembering her great grandmother Noussia (Lucia) Danielian Bosnian as a little old woman all dressed in black, Marash Girl remembered the happier memories of a tiny old lady all dressed in black who would arrive every other year at the house on Lowell Avenue to refresh the yorghans.  Sitting cross-legged on the living room floor, and spreading a wool-filled quilt across the ancient Heriz, she would undo the edges of the quilt, carefully removing the stitches from one end of the wool-filled cloth bag, remove the wool and set it aside,  turn the bag inside out, spread it out on the oriental rug, and then spread the wool evenly over the bag once again, this time fluffing out each piece of lamb's wool so that it would once again become soft and comforting.  Once the wool was  fluffed and evenly spread out over the "inside out" bag, she took a long dowel, a long smooth stick (probably a broom handle at one time) that extended the width of the quilt, placed the stick at one end of the cloth laden wool, and rolled the "wool on cloth bag" up onto the stick, making sure all of the wool stayed evenly spread out.  (In other words, the bag, now inside out, was on the rug, with the wool fluffed out and spread out, arranged evenly over the top of the now inside out cloth bag.)  The makings of the quilt were now carefully rolled up with the stick until the whole quilt was rolled around the stick and the stick removed.  The yorganji now  unrolled the works by carefully turning the quilt bag (dobrag) inside out a bit at a time and unfurling the original quilt cover so that ultimately it would be completely unrolled with the lamb's wool evenly spread out on the inside and only the cloth showing on the outside.  The yorganji, always a woman, then, sitting cross-legged on the floor with a heavy needle and heavy thread (almost as heavy as string), string had been strengthened by running having been run across a ball of bees wax (bees wax from the Uncle Paul's beehives in Marash Girl's back yard), stitched in very long stitches (so as not to flatten the wool) diagonally across the yorgan, from corner to corner, twice, making a large X, making sure to reinforce the very first stitch with a 1 inch square of cloth.  She did the same across the width and across the length of the yorgan.  Bitdi!  The yorgan was finished and hopefully would stay fluffed for another year or two.  Oh, but now the yorgan must be protected by a dobrag, a home made cloth bag that covered the yorgan and was washed regularly (as the yorgan itself could not be washed until the yorganji's next visit) or the wool would mat down and there would be no comfort in the comforter!

N.B.  Before the very first makings of the quilt,  the wool  had been washed and "deburred".

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