Friday, August 14, 2009

Kathryn's Quilts - Plano Quilt Guild Show

I am an incredibly fortunate man. When it's cold at night, I sleep under the quilts my wife has sewn.

She walks through fabric stores with her sighting lasers on high-res/high-gain, her hands verifying and sorting data her eyes have sent up. She sees and feels the way the different fabrics catch and hold the light or kiss it as it passes, whether it's cambric or calico or wool or velvet or . . . I have no notion (needlewoman's pun there) of the different ways she sees fabric.

But I do watch the way her expression focuses, the way her shoulders bear her rotary-cutter-armed hand directly to the cutting table. I watch as she aligns the different layers of colored stuff more precisely than thought beneath her blade. I watch the way her eyes match and measure the little stacks of milled and woven and spun geometry and tally up their numberings with a dragon-glitter glance at her hoarded cloths. Cotton plants and sheep and chemists and silkworm moths exist to provide this art-bringer her pallet media. (That was not a misspelling, incidentally.)

When a pattern calls for a quarter-inch seam allowance, it by-God gets a quarter-inch seam allowance . . . not three-sixteenths, not nine-thirty-seconds. And when she has sewn two squares together, or three, if it aligns to a different galactic standard than the one she subscribed to, she stitch-rips it out and begins anew. Patience, focus, drive . . . these words are water-thin stuff as descriptors.

I have watched the way this woman lays out her pattern on her sewing table, or the floor, the carpet, the bed, calculating the visual effect of shade, shadow, hue, and tint. I have watched her smile, frown, or laugh at a joke she shares with that God who taught mankind to weave, spin, and sew. I have watched her, hand ahip, march miles to circle her projects, to compare and contrast the effect of placing that square here instead of there, or, possibly rotating that square . . . no; that one; yes . . . 45-, 90-, or 180 degrees. Does the light nestle in the warp or ricochet off the weft? How does the shadow pool where the quilting piles up the batting?

I have listened to her closely reasoned affection, love, care, concern, excitement as she tells me why this fabric for that child, these colors for that couple, this background for that baby. I have ached with the agony in her voice as she shared her fear that a child wouldn't appreciate the effort this work - and friend, it is work - is costing. This transformed labor no longer delivers "just" the baby, it delivers her love with all its accumulated frustrations, misunderstandings, downright disapprovals, sighs, hugs, smiles, grins, and kisses.

Some of her quilts hang on our walls, and friends and clients walk in and out of our house and never even see them. They are, after all, placed where an interior designer would position a store-bought painting or print that she found for a really good price. The dollar value of these quilts is truly beyond measure . . . Churchill's "blood, toil, tears, and sweat" don't include the insight and reflection that goes into each one. Our house is swaddled in the mental and physical aura of the woman who is the center of it.

On cold nights we snuggle and giggle and laugh out loud under these quilts. We watch rented or paid-for videos on Heinlein's "goddam noisy box" (Stranger in a Strange Land) coccooned in color and texture, cushioned from the world outside in the form and substance of considered thought and expressed reflection. In the morning my hands emerge into window-blinded daylight tracing the fingerprints of quilted colored squares.
"O, wad some power the Giftie gie us" to see Kathryn's quilts as she must see them. One day, maybe I'll hire a professional photographer - probably a landscape photographer - to capture the qualities and bloodlines of these quilts. Till then you get this "Honey, stand over by your quilt under the indirect fluorescent lights with the official take-my-picture smile."

And on that someday, maybe Kathryn will tell you the tales of these different quilts. I would not presume to.
Till you can hold these quilts and watch the light dance. Till you can bunch them in your hands and breathe through them. Till they can warm the walls in your house or the toes in your bed . . .
I give you joy of them.


Kelli Nørgaard said...

absolutely amazing. I envy folks with this talent... very Little house on the prairie. I actually brought 3 handmade quilts with me to DK that were handed down to me.... and I imagine they are some of the only quilts in the whole country!

ladyfi said...

Wow - those quilts are fabulous! Real works of art.