The foot of my bed is decorated with the Linström throw quilt from Louise Gray, a Minneapolis-based maker of contemporary blankets, bedding, and other accoutrements of coziness. The company’s website describes the Linström as an “interesting fusion of colors and forms” that “makes for a playful addition to any space.”
I think it looks like the flag of an alien planet in a sci-fi movie. That’s not a criticism. I appreciate the tension that exists between the quilt’s modern design and homey materials of cotton and linen.
I bought the quilt because a home-décor article in a magazine told me to. I don’t follow every piece of advice from such sources because I’d quickly go bankrupt if I did. But sometimes when I’m feeling vulnerable, the authoritative tone of those style pieces convinces me that the right fusion of colors and forms would not only make for a playful addition to any of my various spaces but would also make me more glamorous and creative and organized and attractive. Probably with six-pack abs.
According to the Louise Gray website, the Linström quilt was “handcrafted by local artisans in Minneapolis, MN.” So that’s a relief. I come from a line of quilters who are staunchly opposed to creating bed coverings by machine, and I wouldn’t want to bring shame to my family.
My maternal grandmother, for instance, seems to believe that using, say, a long-arm sewing machine to stitch together a quilt’s top, batting, and backing amounts to a mortal sin along the lines of murder or looking down your nose at somebody—two more things she is very opposed to.
My mom, for her part, doesn’t object to machine quilting on moral grounds. But she has perfectionist tendencies, so she probably feels that if you’re going to do something, you might as well do it right so that you don’t end up with what looks like mass-produced crap.
I am not a perfectionist, but in order to maintain my own middling journalistic standards, I texted my mom while writing this to confirm her devotion to quilting by hand, and—THIS JUST IN—she confesses to having used a sewing machine to assemble the tops of quilts on certain ignominious occasions in the past.
Sewing the quilt blocks together by hand for the top is called “piecing,” she writes, and while she has pieced plenty of times, she has been known to skip that particular step. “However,” she continues, “I always do the quilting by hand. That is what holds the three layers together and can also add a design.”
Twenty minutes later, she felt obliged to clarify: “I prefer hand piecing, but it’s obviously a lot faster on the machine. Even that takes a long time.”
The lady doth protest too much, methinks.
But I do get what’s special about something made by a human rather than a cold machine—especially when the human in question is someone who loves you.
The first bed I slept in after leaving the crib was topped by a quilt made by my grandmother. Its centerpiece was an angular brown donkey against a white background.
One of my earliest memories involves lying under that quilt while being sung to sleep by my mother. The song was “Little Cabin in the Woods”—the little ditty that ends with the inhabitant of the titular structure inviting a hunted rabbit inside, “safely to abide.”
It seems to me that bedtime scene would be a lot less sweet and snug if its protagonist—i.e., me—was not wrapped in two generations’ worth of maternal warmth.
Many years later, the same grandmother gave my three sisters and me each a new quilt she made in time for our respective high school graduations. This was well before she developed Parkinson’s and her hands stopped cooperating and she had to give up quilting altogether.
When presenting one of my sisters with her graduation quilt, Grandma said, “I hope you like it ‘cause there won’t be no more.”
This remark made me laugh at the time. But it strikes me as kind of sad today because, after all, it turned out to be true.