One of my ‘if I only had time’ handicrafts to learn is quilting. For never have even made a nine patch, I have quite a few quilts in my home. Most have been made by the talented and patient grannies that have blessed my life, though one of the ones on my bed (yes, I have more than one), I’m ashamed to admit, came from one of those mall quilt shops, that are cheaply made by even cheaper labour (it’s falling apart too).
My favorite style of patchwork quilts are the ones built over months or years of scraps of fabric. They are pieced together, as time permits, and whenever a dress was scrapped or the curtains replaced. They are quilts where the design is only understood within the context of a life lived by the quilter, as seasons pass and domestic demands change and intensify.
Here is my favorite quilt that comes from my partner’s grandmother, a farm wife and mother to ten children.
For a long time it hung on the wall behind my bed as a headboard (good for the winter months to block the chill from the wall) from a couple of tiki torches duct taped together, which, in retrospect, was a bit weird. (I can sew. But not so hot on the decorating.) This was certainly made with whatever fabric scraps were at hand. Some of the assembled squares were likely put together by another lady, who passed along their squares to grandma, and I’m guessing most of the material was recycled. Some of the fabrics appear only once, as a single 4 inch square.
My babies have spent hours looking at this quilt over my shoulder while I nursed them. They are endlessly fascinated by all the different patterns and textures. Smootch played eye-spy with it almost daily until we took it down in preparation of moving. The quilt is still a part of our daily lives, but now it is our backyard blanket. It’s a new perspective of this old favorite, and it’s nice that I can now show my children where their father’s name is embroidered on the back.
This quilt also has another aspect to it that fascinates me. It’s not that obvious when you first see it, but hanging on the wall, just over my pillow for years, was this set of squares:
Do you see what I see? What is a swastika doing on grandma’s quilt? We’ve all heard stories of quilts with codes, and the use of quilts to tell tales or show allegiance, and I am absolutely one hundred percent certain this quilt is not one of them. Perhaps this particular combo of fabrics is actually a popular design that I'm just unaware of, given I know almost nothing about quilting. But knowing this quilt - and the quilter - most likely this symbol is incidental to its serendipitous production. I’m sure. Really.
The swastika symbol has a long and rich history in many cultures. For the most part, today in this part of the world, the swastika is most strongly associated with Nazi Germany. Not necessarily the image I would of chose to go to sleep under every night, but having done enough research on swastikas to add a throng more possible meanings to it, I am sufficiently stuffed with swastika trivia to avoid the most gruesome link.
Still it’s there. And I wonder how many other inadvertent faux pas are out there in a medium built on patterns and geometry. I bet there is even a club somewhere dedicated to the more humorous or shocking quilt calamities.
If this club happens to exist, please contact me. I have another case for your files.