I can't precisely date it, but from around the late nineteen-sixties to the eighties my mother worked on a quilt made from leftover scraps of fabric. While some of them may have been bought as remaindered pieces from a habadashery or two, most of them came from home. Outgrown or discarded items of clothing were the primary source. She completed a quilt big enough to cover a queen or king sized bed (terms she'd have never used) but didn't finish the job by putting it together with a backing. It could have been her weakening eyesight that put a stop to things - some of the needlework looks a little shaky in patches Or it could have been confusion in her later years that made the task too daunting.
She gave the quilt to me shortly before she died, and I kept it in a wooden chest for the next couple of decades. Every so often I'd take it out and look at it. The patterned pieces that I loved the best belonged to the childhood clothes she'd sewn for me: cotton summer dresses and pairs of shorts. The dresses were simply made; to be honest I didn't appreciate them at the time. I'd didn't like dresses much anyway and I'd rather have had the clothes shop-bought. Now I try to trace their provenance: the garment, the summer, the house that we lived in. There are other fabrics that matter. I can't recall their origins but I know them. They're lodged in the senses.
I never mastered the domestic arts. Certainly my mother never tried to teach me. They seemed like drudgery, or a means of filling time best spent in other, more exciting ways. Perhaps my mother thought so too. I remember the evenings I watched her picking up the quilting, working a few more hexagons together. It looked exhausting. Today it's a wonder.
This summer I finally enlisted the help of a local artist and dressmaker to put the quilt together. She did a beautiful job. I think my mother would be very happy.