The quilt arrived quite by surprise. Roger's Mom was "down-sizing" and sent it along home with him one night. Over fifty years old, it looks as if it has just been made. Each stitch as straight as the day it was sewn, each piece of cloth still bright. I was thrilled!
You see, the reason this is so special to me is that it was handmade. I mean really handmade. Every stitch was placed by hand, not machine. I am in awe of such work. (This is not to say that machine made quilts are not special, also. I have seen some that are breathtaking works of art. I am simply in awe of those made with a needle and thread by a woman/women one stitch at a time.)
There was a day when handwork was expected. Women if they did not have a specialty, at least knew the basics of sewing, knitting, crocheting, weaving, lace making and tatting. In a pinch, they could do what needed to be done to make something to wear, create a gift, or darn a hole.
Unfortunately, today many young women and girls have no clue what any of this is. If you talk about a new quilt, they pull out the nearest catalog to look at what might be on sale. Lace is bought by the yard at the fabric store. Knitted or crocheted goods, if not made by machine, come from far away places where women get paid by the piece. Usually their wages are barely enough to keep their families fed.
So, why am I talking about handwork? For me, each piece of handmade work is art, not simply something to put on, something to keep you warm, or something to protect your table tops. For years, I have treasured doilies made by my grandmother and mother. I have used them, delighting in having a bit of them with me. In fact, one of my prized possessions is an embroidered sampler that my grandmother started, my mother worked on and I finished. Three generations of stitches on the same piece.
The sampler is stained, having traveled through multiple homes over 100 years before it was complete. To me, these are the marks of life...life lived by my grandmother and mother. This piece was rescued from a flood, was drenched in tea precariously placed beside it and was impregnated with the oils of three sets of hands. Age pulls the stains out of the cloth, like the patina of old wood.
Yesterday, I finished an afghan for my newest grand-niece. I am continuing a tradition begun long ago. I hope it will become a treasured heirloom; something passed from my grand-niece to her daughter, then to her granddaughter and on.
My hopes are that this afghan will be a representation of the love that warms little Sasha at this time, when she is so new to us all. May that warmth stay with her, bringing her comfort in times of pain and joy throughout her life.
***If you want to learn more about how quilts were used as a language, I recommend reading the book, Hidden in Plain View.
The Meaning of Quilts (contemplativeed)