The Soviet Quilt


This two-day quilt was from way back in 2000, for a University of Chicago undergraduate scavenger hunt. Each year, the hunt leaders issue a list of crazy items and challenges to do, and each dorm competes to get as many of them done to win points for each, and be crowned victorious.

One year, a team in my dorm was even able to get the biggest point load of them all, by effectively setting up a nuclear reaction in their dorm room. It’s all about the points!

In the year 2000, one of the tasks was to make an elaborate Soviet Quilt that incorporated a shortlist of random Russophilia: all the various Soviet military flags, some Putin (he was big even back then), various Soviet leaders, some kitsch, some Eastern Bloc cars, some Lenin.

Here was the official request:

Don’t forget the Cold War! We want the 18 colorised flags of the U.S.S.R. presented in the 1975 revised edition of The Observer’s Book of Flags, in a quilt. (Hint: We want the State Flag, the Ensign, the Jack, and the flags of the following SSRs: Armenian, Azerbaijan, Estonian, Georgian, White Russian, Kazakh, Kirghiz, Latvian, Lithuanian, Moldavian, Tadjik, Turkmen, Ukrainian, and Uzbek. And don’t forget the flag of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic!) Then, adorn extra patches of your quilt with various mementos and tchotchkes of the Soviet Days Gone By. We’re looking for Realist art, Shostakovich scores, and depictions of the workers’ heroes. Throw in a few images of Ladas or Trabants, perhaps even a few portraits of shady mafiya gangsters threatening to elect Putin. No crayon coloring. And no paper. [40 points. 100 bonus points for sewing]

I made this quilt using fabric scraps, ink, print-image-transfers, and 24 hours of intense sewing. It’s not the prettiest quilt of them all, but it never goes out of style. Plus we got 140 points and came in 3rd!

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