Archive for the ‘Quilting’ Tag
Today’s post is really just a couple of pictures of the quilt I made for my daughter’s twin bed. She asked for a Little House on the Prarie themed room, infused with a touch of Barbara McClintock’s Dahlia. Of couse I loved the literary references and set about making a wagon wheel quilt using a pattern and fabric by Denyse Schmidt.
I have two reasons for posting about this quilt. One: I worked hard on those curved seams! And the quilting wasn’t easy, either, on my standard sized sewing machine. It is a very happy feeling to have it finished and see my daughter snuggled under it at night.
Two: I want to go to this. But I didn’t feel like I really qualified without blogging about a quilt that I had made. So now I am legitimate!
This morning my five-year old, Sawyer, reached into the pockets of the pants he had just put on and found two tarnished pennies.
“Look, Mom!” he shouted, holding the pennies up for me to see. “I am so, so lucky!”
Two pennies. I tried to muster some enthusiasm for him. “Wow, Sawyer! That is great!” But truthfully, I was much more impressed by his excitement than I was by the two cents he held in his hand.
Sawyer went off to kindergarten and was back home again a couple of hours later. While I was fixing him lunch, the phone rang. It was the darling quilt shop near my home, American Quilting, calling to tell me that I had just won a $100.00 shopping spree at their store. Me! I never win anything! And as far as prizes go, this one was as good as it gets. My favorite place to go shopping (besides a good book store) is a cute quilt shop!
Sawyer watched me dance around the kitchen after I hung up the phone and asked, “Why are you yelling, Mom?”
“I just won a hundred dollars!”
His eyes widened in disbelief. Talk about lucky! “How?” he asked.
“They picked my name out of a drawing at the quilt store. I get a gift certificate to spend $100.00 there.”
His expression completely changed. He stared at me like I had lost my mind. “Not cool, Mom.” That is what he said: “Not cool.”
He was as geniunely unimpressed by my $100.00 quilting shopping spree as I was by his $0.02. I had to laugh at that. I finished slicing his apples. Let him stir the mac ‘n’ cheese. And I thought about good luck, and how really, when it comes down to it, it is all just a matter of perspective.
The other night I dreamed I was back at Harvard, standing in the Dean’s office, defending myself against accusations that I hadn’t completed all my coursework and that I wouldn’t be able to graduate. My tearful defense: “I made a quilt for each of my four babies!” The Dean checked the course catalog for quilting classes, but there was nothing. No quilting credits. No diploma.
This is a recurring dream of mine. I have it at least once a month. I’m back in college, but for one reason or another, I can’t graduate. Usually its because of math. Or because I’m lost and can’t find my way to class. I don’t understand why these dreams plague me. I did graduate.
I’ve decided I must be carrying around some serious feelings of inadequacy. I said as much to my husband, and he told me, “Those feelings are what got you through Harvard.” I realized he was right. The inadequacy is the dark side to my ambition.
Recently I gained a greater appreciation for that ambition. I was reading ANNE OF GREEN GABLES with my daughter. We were at the point in the book where Anne has left Green Gables and is studying at Queen’s. She has just decided to try for the Avery scholarship and an Arts course at Redmond College. She muses,
Oh, it’s delightful to have ambitions. I’m so glad I have such a lot. And there never seems to be any end to them – that’s the best of it. Just as soon as you attain to one ambition you see another one glittering higher up still. It does make life so interesting.
And it does make life interesting. The challenge. The self-doubt, the searching, the striving. When I think about it, my greatest ambitions stretch far into the horizon. They are life-works that won’t be accomplished in a day, a week, a month, or even a year. They give me something to work toward. To focus on and reach for. I had never thought to be glad for them, or for my ridiculous angst-ridden dreams, but I suppose I should be. They have gotten me where I am, and promise to make life interesting as I continue on my way.
Tonight I attended a quilter’s guild meeting in my little town. The topic of the meeting was the Jane Stickle quilt of 1863. Several of the women in the group recently returned from a trip to the Bennington Museum in Vermont where they went to view Jane Stickle’s masterpiece, and were exhilirated and inspired by their pilgrimage. Some of them had even undertaken, over the past year, to make their own reproductions of the intricate quilt, which contains a total of 5,602 pieces, and displayed them at the meeting.
As I sat and listened to them recount their experiences reproducing and visiting the Jane Stickle quilt, I wondered at their homage, and at my own feelings of reverence for this woman and what she created.
Census reports tell us that Jane Stickle was born Jane Blakely on April 8, 1817 in Shaftsbury, Vermont. Married to Walter Stickle sometime before 1850, they did not have a family of their own. They did, however, take responsibility for at least three other children. In an 1860’s census, Jane Stickle was listed as a 43 year-old farmer living alone. She eventually reunited with her husband, but during that time alone she lovingly created what is now known as the Jane Stickle Quilt. As a reminder of the turbulent times the country was going through, she carefully embroidered “In War Time 1863” into the quilt.
There is so much left out of that brief history, but also so much revealed. The bare facts and the story they outline put me in mind of master historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, and the course I took from her while I was in college. In her book, Good Wives, she is able to glean rich details from the lives of simple women through historical records as sparse as a county probate inventory.
Even more importantly, Ulrich directs students of women’s history to the ways women of all ages have found expressions for their intellect and art, even if it is in the quiet, historically transparent realms of house and home. While I was taking her course, she introduced us to the writings of Alice Walker. Specifically her essay entitled, “In Search of our Mothers’ Gardens.” Walker writes about the legacy of slave women and their descendents. Working women with no time or outlet for their creative, artistic voices. “When, you will ask,” she writes, “did my overworked mother have time to know or care about feeding the creative spirit? The answer is so simple that many of us have spent years discovering it. We have constantly looked high, when we should have looked high — and low.”
Walker then points us to another quilt. One that hangs in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. A priceless quilt “made of bits and pieces of worthless rags,” but “obviously the work of a person of powerful imagination and deep spiritual feeling.”
Walker goes on to describe her own mother’s flower garden — a place “so magnificent with life and creativity, that to this day people drive by our house in Georgia — and ask to stand or walk among my mother’s art.”
And here is the part of Walker’s essay that touches on the feeling – the appreciation and awe – that was present at the quilt guild meeting tonight:
“I notice that it is only when my mother is working in her flowers that she is radiant, almost to the point of being invisible — except as Creator: hand and eye. She is involved in work her soul must have. Ordering the universe in the image of her personal conception of Beauty.
Her face, as she prepares the Art that is her gift, is a legacy of respect she leaves to me, for all that illuminates and cherishes life. She has handed down respect for the possibilities — and the will to grasp them.”
It is this legacy that we cherished tonight at my quilting meeting. We were profoundly moved that a simple woman, through ingenuity, art, and persistence, could create something so astonishing. And we found validation in the work of our souls.