Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Her Legacy


I have so many things that my mother made for me during her lifetime or that came to me after her death.

 I’ve not counted them, but there must be nearly twenty of her quilts in my possession, including the Ukrainian Quilt that hangs in my living room, the white wedding quilt that she gave me in an unwrapped white box when I was thirty and said “now go get married,” and that fabulous appliquéd, beaded and embroidered art deco masterpiece that is heavier than a queen’s mantle at coronation. 

Once I had the idea for her to make an all-satin quilt from yards of sumptuous ruby red, coral and blush satins I found on incredible discount at the fabric store in Santa Monica.  I purchased and sent them straightaway to her Blue Ridge mountaintop abode, including a wealth of the ruby red for what I envisioned would be the all satin backing of the quilt.

What came back was a skirt for me to hem and one whole-cloth, queen-size quilt, topped in ruby red, backed with soft white cotton flannel, bound along the edges by bands of the blush satin, and quilted with pale gray thread in twelve simple but startling Amish Hex signs.  Instructions that came back with it were to finish the quilt in Trapunto style, which is a whole cloth quilting technique producing a raised effect on the top of the quilt that originated in Italy during the 16th century and became popular in the United States during the Civil War.  The round shapes of the Hex designs were to be stuffed with tufts of cotton batting inserted from small slits made in the backing of the quilt and then whipped stitched closed. A second satin backing could then be added to the quilt and normal quilting done all around: however her idea, pragmatic as she was, was to leave the flannel cotton backing exposed to keep the satin quilt from slipping off the bed. 

My mother will always be something of a mystery to me. Unlike other women I’ve known who sewed, she never joined a sewing bee and rarely sought the company or comfort of other women.  To me, she was a “lone sewer.”  The quilts that she left behind were more than expressions of love, gifts that she gave on birthdays, weddings, anniversaries.  They were magnificent, color-laden quilted works of art that seemed to issue from a deep need inside her to create. 

Indeed, she once said that you make the things you don’t have or you never got. 

Through my fairy tale for women that I am writing entitled “The Red Coat,” I want to show how a woman sews in order to create her life.  Sewing is all about gathering, arranging and binding and as such it is a very meditative art.  Like thinking a thought over and over again, hand sewing with a needle and thread can have a powerful effect on one’s inner – and outer – world.  I hope my book will inspire other women to explore their powers, to think more deeply about who they are and what they want to become. 

6 comments:

Linda said...

what gorgeous works of art - WOW. You are fortunate indeed to have been given these gifts...

and to be turning the gifts into instructive stories to share with other women.

I especially LOVE the last paragraph about "the arts of friendship, of sewing, cooking, baking, birthing, breast-feeding, child rearing and mourning" - a very original way of organizing and looking at women's particular social rituals -- and seeing them as "arts"...

Can't wait to discover more about these arts in The Red Coat!

Cynthia Wylie said...

I want to see a close up of the inside corner of the fantastic white quilt.

Jaroslava Vosmikova said...

Gorgeous art and very interesting article.

Mela said...

cant wait to read "The Red Coat"
xx

carol_jadiker said...

The Quilts are extraordinary! I want to see the clever backing side. I am very excited about reading The Red Coat. I want women of older generations to teach younger ladies traditional skills, cooking, sewing, wisdom so women can continue to be the guiding force of TRADITION and KNOWLEDGE.

Jaroslava Vosmikova said...

A great comment, Carol!