Russian Word of the Day

  • present = padarak

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Psychology of a Quilt

My floors need to be swept and there are dishes in the sink. Anyone familiar with my housekeeping habits would know that this can only mean one of two things... either I just picked up a great new book or I've started a new quilt. Happily, in this case, it means that Garrett's baby quilt is out of storage and back on my ironing board, albeit in pieces.

Each quilt I've had the pleasure of sewing is a one of a kind creation. I've never repeated a pattern, because a quilt, to me, is like a letter. It's a love note from me to the recepient and I could never simply make duplicates any more than I could photocopy a note to one friend and send it to another.

When Tim and I were dating, I made him a velvet polar bear quilt set against a satinly midnight sky. When I was expecting Calvin, I made a "Wind in the Willows" themed quilt that invited him to adventure down a river past a castle to the purple mountains in the distance. One Christmas, I made Caroline a "flying geese" star quilt using a wedgewood blue bird pattern that I still love. When we were waiting for Carson, I made her a modern twist on the 'log cabin' quilt with playful blues and pinks and warm creams. (All of the rectangles wrapping around squares made it look like a hug to me.) When we found out that Avery was on the way, I made a quilt so pink that my long-arm quilter nicknamed it the "cotton candy quilt." It took me forever to finish a "Paris in springtime" quilt I made for the kids at the Ronald McDonald house who needed to be able to imagine themselves somewhere else.

It usually takes me as long to design a quilt as it does to make it, because I need to find a pattern and palate that feel just right. Not that I'm always successful. As I've never had a formal lesson, some quilts just don't turn out as I intended and I when I step back from them I can't shake feeling of the frustration. I want to stamp my foot and say, "that is not what I meant at all!" Still other quilts never get finished because I forget what it was I was trying to say and I can see no point in working on them if I can't remember why it was the pattern inspired me in the first place.

Garrett's quilt has been no exception. I puzzled over patterns and toyed with themes. I felt vaguely terrified at the prospect of making a quilt for someone who I loved so much but who had a story the beginning of which I knew nothing about. What if I got it all wrong? I spent hours scanning images of the Tien Shen Mountains in Kazakhstan looking for a vista that might inspire Garrett's quilt. But only when I looked at the other end of the quilting spectrum did I find my hook. In direct contrast to Calvin's quilt, Garrett's is one of the most traditional quilts I've ever made. I chose a pattern that mothers and grandmothers have been sewing for a century. The only modern twist comes from my palate, a lovely grouping of baby blue, celery, white, and coral, nearly all designed by my favorite fabric designer Anna Griffin. But, even though I knew I had found the right quilt for my baby, until now I couldn't articulate why Garrett's quilt had to be so traditional, while his brother's quilt is the ulitmate in free form. But now I figured it out.

When I sewed Calvin's "Wind in the Willows" quilt I was wishing him among, other things, a life in which he felt secure enough to seek adventure. Calvin would never doubt that he had a home behind him, so I sewed him a view from that home out into the wonders of the world that awaited him. Garrett, however, has started his life so far from home that I am stitching him a view back into the hearth. I'm sewing my far-born child a past. I'm telling him that all of those most basic pleasures of having a loving family and a stable home are his just as much as any child who received his family in a more traditional manner. When I give it to him, I will be saying "You are mine now and you always will be."
Ridiculously introspective but absolutely true.
I may never be able to make my kids understand how deeply and fiercely I love them, but I will wrap them up every night in blanket created just for that purpose.

Anyway, I love, love, love, how this quilt is coming along. Although I'm still working on it, here is a sneak peak. Just imagine it with a couple of borders and satin binding. Paka!


Nana said...

Rebecca I am saving your notes on "The Psychology of a Quilt" so both Calvin and Garrett can read it years down the road. It shows how amazing true love is and how it can change the world one child at a time.
To be wrapped in your love is to really loved.
I know how much Calvin loves his "Mommy Kisses" quilt and I can't wait to see little Garrett snuggled up in his blanket of hugs and kisses.

P.S. I love the colors!


patrice said...


This will definitely be Garrett's "Keeping Quilt." A quilt stitched with great love, joy and hope. How precious!
Aunt Patrice