Sunday, December 8, 2013


My niece, Louisa Barnes, was born a week ago and I spent the forty eight hours her mother was in labor stitching a quilt for the child on its way. (Well, okay, many of those hours.)

It's the first quilt I'd made and my fingers couldn't stop piecing and fitting and sewing. I was obsessed. Tireless. Driven.

I doubt I'm the first woman in history to respond to a laboring loved one in the same way.
Quilt, Susanna Allen Hunter (1912-2005)

It's also the season: every December I throw all my professional and creative projects out the window and pull out my sewing machine.

It's from the fifties, a finicky baby-blue Singer, and sits on my kitchen table amidst unpaid bills, breakfast dishes, and scraps of fabric I don't clean up.

My dead grandmothers flit about the room.

My great-grandmothers, too.

I'm not a professional seamstress, by an means. I'm absurdly impatient and allergic to perfection.

Sometimes these traits are my curse. But quilts? Quilts!

They are so beautiful. And seem, oddly, like an answer.

Like this one by Susanna Allen Hunter (1912-2005), from Wilcox County, Alabama: 
Or these Japanese Boro quilts: 

Or this 19th century doll quilt: 

They are wonky. Imperfect. Layered. Textured. Filled with the narrative of old shirts and dresses, of poverty, of women laboring, and talking, and worrying, and desiring to keep their loved ones warm.

One could do worse than to be a sewer of blankets, eh?