Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Stories in fabric

My grandmother was a quilter. And because of her influence, I am a quilter. I love the traditional patterns and fabrics but also enjoy the unique ways that technology can enhance the craft. And perhaps not surprisingly, I see a lot of similarities between writing and quilting in the ability to stitch together a story that can both warm the heart and delight the soul.

Some of my favorite memories of my remarkable grandmother are of the quilt shows we would attend together. We'd sometimes get in trouble because we'd get our fingers too close to the quilts in our enthusiasm over the stitching or the piece shapes and get a reprimand from the show overseers who would offer us gloves. But as Grandma would say, "Quilters shop with their hands." If you couldn't touch it, you couldn't be sure it was right for your quilt.

Perhaps that explains my innate preference for print books over e-versions, too. Reading is a tactile experience for me as well as an intellectual one. There is delight to be found in a good-quality paper, a well-constructed binding and the weight of a book in your hands. Each book has its own personality just as my friends each have a unique look and characterl, too. On a screen they all look the same (though they express themselves differently) but in person each personality shines.

I remember reading a quote somewhere from a pioneer woman that said "I make my quilts to keep my family warm. I make them beautiful to keep my heart from breaking." It's one of those art forms that is so often seen as purely functional that the story of each quilt gets lost in the everyday warmth of the finished project. But that's part of why we aim for excellence in our writing. So that the craft doesn't detract from the purpose of our writing.

A friend of mine visited South Korea and came across an amazing quilt show called "Quilting Through Fairy Tales." Photos are available at ( and are well worth a visit as stories are brought to life through cotton and thread. Maybe someday a quilter will be inspired to bring the warmth of a quilt to one of our stories, too.

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