Monday, March 9, 2009

Living Memories: A Stitch in Time

Sometimes you'll make a find that warms the heart and evokes fond memories, even when the circumstances of discovery are bittersweet in nature. A few months back, I stopped by one of my favorite shops, Farfetched, a cheerful card and thrift shop that I have always known since I moved to New York only to learn that it had lost its lease. It's a common situation in New York these days, as greedy landlords raise the rent, or opt not to continue a lease, even when the proprietor has been there for more than 20 years.

I rummaged around the shop, flipping through greeting cards, lifting  vintage glasses and sifting through novelties until I stumbled upon this hand-made quilt that reminded me of both my grandmothers. Grandma Churchill made useful quilts -- ones functioning more for warmth than they exhibited refined style, but filled with charm and odd colored fabrics. Oh, there was the fabric from an old coat, a scrap from an army blanket or a piece of old upholstery -- all pieced together with charm and whimsy. And then there were the ones  Grandma Williams intricately designed  in novel shapes and bright hues. Hers were true masterpieces, crafted in beautiful fabrics and stitched to precision.

Even though this quilt still needed its backing, and quilting, for that matter, the overstitching on the butterflies is flawless, and the mix of vintage fabrics remind me of the fanciful feed sacks that people started using  for sewing projects during the Great Depression. Since cotton was so scarce at the time, feed makers hired designers to make beautiful feed sacks that end consumers could use to make clothes for their families and  gorgeous, yet useful, quilts. 

This quilt flutters like springtime and reminds me of those first bright days of childhood after a long, long winter: the marvel of the first daffodil to break through winter's frozen soil, the scent of a warm rain shower and  the sight of the first robin to bob its head outside the front window. It's  a body of work pieced together with care -- one that will endure time and brighten even the gloomiest of days.

In May, Clarkson Potter will publish my book, The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details. Pre-order now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Borders.

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