Friday, November 21, 2008


"Knotted with love, the quilts sing on." Teresa Paloma Acosta

One of my favorite topics back when I was speaking to teachers in various genres was quilts and books about quilts. I still have in my file many bibliographies and units that I picked up through those years.

While rummaging in my study closet, I suddenly realized how long some of the quilts hanging there had belonged to me. One red, white and blue one was made by Claranell Murray, one of the teachers at Bowie Elementary during the Bicentennial Celebration. She and her students pieced and quilted a full-sized quilt with their names embroidered on it and gave it to Sam.

One quilt is pieces cut out by my grandmother which Sam had a local woman quilt and then he gave it to me on my birthday--a treasure. It covered our bed for many years.

There are two quilts done by Sam's grandmother which are tattered and soiled, but nevertheless treasured.

Then there is one hanging that is a mystery--it is a piece done by Sam's great-grandmother. Not a quilt, but some sort of bedcover which is "embroidered" large dots on a white background--I do not know the name of the type of art it represents--it is probably over 100 years old.

When one considers that many of the aging quilts in our society are now being cut up for purses, coats, decorative items, etc., I believe a wake-up call is in order.

There is nothing quite like sitting or lying under a family heirloom made by the hands of long-ago relatives and feeling the tiny stitiches that took hours to sew, marveling at the infinite tiny pieces those women took the time to cut out and piece together. These quilts have a smell like no other--odors embedded in the quilt: the fried bacon, smoke from the fireplace, and closet mustiness, the smell of old flour sacks and cloth gathered from dresses and work-clothes, heavy with rough fibers. And all of this covered with a smooth cotton batting which was often flour sack as well.

Just looking at the quilts is like seeing a human art form filled with love and skill. And the quilts, because of the material from which they are taken, often tell stories. One woman remarked, " My whole life is bound up in that quilt." I am sure my grandmother were she still alive, could tell me what the gray striped patch came from as well as the checkered cotton square in the middle of the quilt.

I hope my grandchildren preserve the quilts in my closet and that they appreciate the history and the love that went into them.

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