Three quilts


Come every September, as the weight of summer heat, something I'm just not cut out for, makes way for that first chill, that slightest sliver of an inclination to slide my toes and children under a cozy blanket and settle in for the cooler months ahead, I start thinking quilts. I pull up images pilfered from websites and books and magazines, and sort through my stash, and browse all the pretty cottons online and wound in bolts at the store. And I plan and plan and plan. And then, nerve worked up to finally cut through some fabric, I realize that I need to put the whole thing aside to get to more pressing, seasonal matters.


And so it's gone the past few years. First it was The Boy's quilt. It was my first, a pattern from Denyse Schmidt's book, the one that allowed me to believe I could actually pull off such a thing. He was a baby, then. I'd been poring over the book for a few months, not ready to take the plunge into actual making, until I found him one December morning, foot leveraged against the rail to his crib, ready to launch himself out of bed. That night, we converted the crib, with a few turns of an allen wrench, to a toddler bed. And I decided that a toddler with a new (sort of) bed deserved new toddler bedding. I attended to the quilt in the evenings, after work and dinner and Boy putting-down. Worked in one-hour increments, that impossibly small crib quilt took three months. It, with Elvis Presleyan accents and blue-green floral notes, still accompanies his sleep, though it's entirely too small, now, for both his full-sized bed and his sleep-squirmy body.


The materials for quilt #2, a large one for our queen-sized bed, were freshly purchased when I found out I was pregnant. I, atingle with nervous excitement at this new development, stashed the bags of fabrics into a closet until such a time as my unstable nerves were steadied enough to wield something so sharp as a rotary cutter. In the meantime, I kneaded biscotti dough and hand-rolled truffles and brewed up liqueurs I wouldn't be able to drink (I may have taken a couple of sips here or there — you know, for testing purposes), and bundled them up for their holiday recipients. Once past all the gift-making, I took a moment to consider the direction of my next projects, whether they should be baby-related or not. I opted to spend the next few months working on a fairly simple quilt for us, because The Boy looked so content under his, and I wanted my own, dammit. I went without a pattern on this one, going with a simple staggered brick construction in solids of blues with columns of blue/green/brown prints thrown in for interest. I happened across the Democrat print next to a similarly spent bolt of Republican fabric at the store and knew it would have a happy home on my bed. If there had been a crazy-Liberal fabric, I would have stitched that in instead. The back, with its center stripe of orangey flowers dividing two cephalopodic panels, is an effective marker, like that tug-of-war flag, in our nightly battles for bedding supremacy.


The Girlie was born in July, with a full Houston summer's worth of bone-melting heat and humidity to survive before any kind of blanketing could even be considered. In a third-trimester scramble, I had made up a stack of light receiving cloths and even lighter provisions for the double-swaddling that would enable us all some sleep. These were no more complex than a layer of stretchy cloth edged with bias binding. A quilt would have to wait until such a time that being buried under a crib-sized hill of cloth and batting would not send me into sweat-gland overload. I emerged from a summertime spent cordoned in air-conditioned spaces in relative un-craftiness (there was a newborn to attend to, after all), consumed by two urges. The first, a strong desire to throw myself into a wordy, webby self-indulgence. The second, an absolute need to piece together this quilt. Mine (well, The Girlie's) is not so faithful to the whole polka dotty theme as its author's. But I knew we had something good going when The Girlie gave me her first chortles while eying the unfinished quilt-top hanging across the room.

This quilt is a product of flannels from The Boy's old receiving blankets and cotton prints from my stash, left over from the previous two quilts and other little projects for our little family. Things like baby booties and Easter baskets and blankets and little kimonos and pillows. The backing is a heart-y kaleidoscope, printed up at Spoonflower, swatched and color-corrected until it repeated and read just right. Hand quilting has a permanent residence on my ever-increasing list of things that I'm slow at, somewhere in the midst of running and writing and mentally reckoning for daylight savings. But after a happy month spent with legs cozied up under the quilt, thumb thimbled and rocking away, I was then faced with the task of binding. And, quite possibly, there is nothing I'm slower at than that, measuring my progress in tedious little inches. But it's finally done, all colorful and cheerful and full of bits and pieces of our family. And, yes, warm.


maps1.jpg  maps2.jpg

maps3.jpg  maps4.jpg

Long before I had ever heard of Sisyphus, or even seen that Red Bull commercial, I had the recurring dream in which I'm tasked with counting a valley-full of rocks and hauling them up a steep hillside. The stress in these dreams was palpable, and I'd wake still feeling the weight of the endeavor. I was nine.  I don't know what gives a kid that kind of anxiety, but I'm sure that had I been faced the sisyphean science of cartography it would have triggered a full-on panic attack. 

There is something so comforting, though, about these maps. I mean look at that quilt. Gorgeous. I'm a huge fan of juxtaposition. And I don't know if I've seen a better pairing of science and art than what these people have done with streets and boundaries and city blocks. So very cool. And I'm beginning to see the appeal. There's so much to be found in maps, their fractal outgrowths at once ordered and organic. They convey history and sociology and politics and, of course, a sense of place. And the idea of taking a map and making it my own now seems oddly comforting, a nice respite from a long day spent satisfying the unfocused energies of small children.

Note to self: definitely do something with maps. Something, perhaps, with thread and paper and fabric, and maybe Spoonflower. Or maybe just spend some more time with this song.