I finished Orlaith’s quilt last night. She appears to be delighted with it.
She took it to bed with her last night and when I went in to check on them she was fast asleep, curled under it looking most contented.
I have a long history with patchwork. The first thing my Mum ever made on her now elderly Bernina was a patchwork quilt for me.
It was a simple thing. Black and white polka dot rectangles interspersed with brightly coloured florals. She painstakingly cut out parrots from another piece of fabric and appliqued them all over it. It was backed with an old hospital sheet from one of the hospital residences we lived in at the time. It still has the hospital stamp on it! It remains one of my most treasured possesions and is tucked away in a wooden chest of mine at my parents, to be reclaimed and fixed up one of these days.
A few years later at school I read the Joan Aiken story The Patchwork Quilt in one of my school readers and that sealed my fate. In it a grandmother makes a beautiful quilt for her little grandson, Nils, for his birthday. A quilt made of stars, each handsewn from tiny triangles of fabric. The illustrations were so bright and the image of the grandmother stitching magic into the quilt while singing her grandson to sleep was so powerful.
I’ve made a few quilts over the years – none of them actually properly quilted as I lack the patience and skill for all that whirling and twirling. Several of them have had star motifs. My favourite block patterns are all stars – 9 pointed stars, friendship stars, stars made from triangles or diamonds… There are so many. It’s something I come back to every so often.
My favourite star quilt I found in a book my Mum bought me: stars and hexagons. The picture in the book is colourful and sumptuous. The stars are velvet, the hexagons denim. Both shapes made from diamonds stitched together. The texture in the photograph is incredible.
I made two of my own, trying to recapture what I saw in the book and falling short.
One was made from old pieces of satin scavenged from fabric shop bargain bins with multicoloured embroidery silk tassels. My mother has it in her house somewhere. The last I saw of it it was on a spare bed. The tassels were looking a little worse for wear.
The other, which my sister still has on her bed, was made from calico and all kinds of scraps: satin, silk, velvet, cotton. I slept under it when I visited her on my last trip home. It was so lovely to see it being used and to stroke the fabric and remember where each piece was salvaged from. Some of the fabric came from favourite clothes that were beyond repair or offcuts from old formal dresses long forgotten.
I’ve no idea what’s become of any of the other quilts I made. I made some truly hideous ones for my other siblings and I think they have probably evaporated into the ether. I’m kind of grateful not to revisit them!
Orlaith’s quilt isn’t exactly a masterpiece of technique. The blocks aren’t all the same size and some of the seams are wonky.
My stitches for the binding aren’t as small or as even as they could have been. The repetition of the fabrics isn’t even, some fabrics appear only once, some turn up twice in a single row.
None of which matters because Orlaith’s face lit up when I pulled the last stitch tight and handed it over.
It doesn’t matter because the first thing she did when I finished it was to wrap herself in it and parade around the lounge, proclaiming to every one that it was all hers and wasn’t it beautiful?
It doesn’t matter because she went happily to bed snuggled under it last night and complained bitterly when I made her cover it up with her other duvet.
It’s a simple thing. Not my best work. And it really doesn’t matter because she loves it.