Quilts: “Women Were Buried but Their Clothing Wore on”




Looking at Quilts
by Marge Piercy

Who decided what is useful in its beauty
means less than what has no function besides beauty
(except its weight in money)?
Art without frames:  it held parched corn,
it covered the table where soup misted savor,
it covered the bed where the body knit
to self and other and the
dark wool of dreams.

The love of the ordinary blazes out:  the backyard
miracle:  Ohio Sunflower,
Snail’s Track,
Sweet Gum Leaf,
Moon over the Mountain.

In the pattern Tulip and Peony the sense
of design masters the essence of what sprawled
in the afternoon:  called conventionalized
to render out the choice, the graphic wit.

Some have a wistful faded posy yearning:
Star of the Four Winds,
Star of the West,
Queen Charlotte’s Crown.
In a crabbed humor as far from pompous
as a rolling pin, you can trace wrinkles
from smiling under a scorching grasshopper sun:
Monkey Wrench,
The Path,
Fool’s Puzzle,
Puss in the Corner,
Robbing Peter to Pay Paul,
and the deflating
Hearts and Gizzards.

Pieced quilts, patchwork from best gowns,
winter woolens, linens, blankets, worked jigsaw
of the memories of braided lives, precious
scraps:  women were buried but their clothing wore on.

Out of death by childbirth at sixteen, hard
work at forty, out of love for the trumpet vine
and the melon, they issue to us:
Rocky road to Kansas,
Job’s Troubles,
Crazy Ann,
The Double Irish Chain,
The Tree of Life:
this quilt might be
the only perfect artifact a woman
would ever see, yet she did not doubt
what we had forgotten, that out of her
potatoes and colie, sawdust and blood
she could create; together, alone,
she seized her time and made new.

My Mennonite friends are modern women who powerfully engage the society in which they live.  The quilts they create reflect their deep spirituality in a contemporary context.  I invite you to feast your eyes and souls on their creations at:  https://www.seattlemennonite.org/about/quilts-story/.

I am a neophyte to quilting; nevertheless, I recognize the thread of spirituality that stitches together the stories of each piece, the thread of relationships to God, self, and others.  My friends’ quilts are infused with grace and stitched with a stunning love that quickens our souls and sustains us.  It has been my deep pleasure to witness them in the midst of this act of love.

If you wish to go beyond these humble insights from a non-quilter, feast on the experience of master quilters in this book:

with sacred threads bookcover


photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/qusic/251213801/”>qusic</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

3 thoughts on “Quilts: “Women Were Buried but Their Clothing Wore on”

  1. Thanks for this Rita. I have always been fasci aged by quilts and the process of making them, but this post has been a really profound reminder that even those who we think of as working the hardest, of having nothing spare to waste in life, still managed to find time to create, to focus on beauty even amongst the utilitarian and the harshness of every day life. It makes me feel that my own excuses of being busy, having neither enough time or space or money, are allpretty poor reasons to not engage more fully with the essential and life enhancing processes of creating. If these women can do it, then surely so too can I! Thank you for the wake up call 😉


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