Monday, March 12, 2012
Quilts: Utility or Art?
My parents emigrated to Quebec province from war torn Europe in 1949. And like the quilts my mother sewed, my parents endeavored to stitch new lives from scraps of the old country they toted with them. Those, too, were thread bare and out-dated. Those scraps survived almost entirely in their
memories. I saw no beauty in quilts. To me, their provenance was based in scarcity and necessity. They were covers created from remains, sewn together to provide warmth that otherwise was not to be found. My mother fashioned our quilts in lean times when money was scarce. We fantasized about indulging in
lush, warmly colored Hudson Bay blankets. I could see no artistry in the quilts. Surely, I felt no pride.
On Saturday evenings, after my mother had cleaned the dinner dishes, she retreated to her corner sewing room, my father’s complaints fading down the hall. “We just finished dinner. Leave your work room, wait until Monday.”
“A few minutes. It’s all I need.” She countered. “If I don’t put my workroom in order, nice and neat for Monday, I’ll have a bad start.” My brother and I could hear her working nimbly. The sharp steel of her dressmaking shears slid smoothly with an economy of movement. Stacking scraps of cloth, she cut symmetrical squares, usually for fifteen minutes. On Sundays, while my father dozed, his stomach filled with potato pancakes and sour cream, my mother created our warmth in quilts—doubled sided!
At night, tucked into our quilts, she warmed us more with stories about each square.