Stitching soul to body

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So my quilt is finally finished. It is even on the bed (never mind that the water washable quilting maker hasn’t quite been washed out yet, that will come, one day, hopefully before the sun disappears with the imminent arrival of Fall!). These past few weeks have seen me hunting and gathering layers of textiles for our bed to make a new little nest here. The dappled crew is topped off with this pieced quilt, itself a mixed bag of carefully chosen scraps. I love them all. The layers. The meanings. The way they are precious because I put them together.

In one of my Food Studies readings last year I came across Meredith Abarca’s ‘Kitchen Talk’ chapter in Voices in the Kitchen: Views of Food and the World from Working-Class Mexican and Mexican American Women. I just loved the following passage;

“Speaking about Puerto Rico’s history, Levins Morales says, ‘Let’s get one thing straight. Puerto Rico was a woman’s country … we were never still, our hands were always busy. Making soup. Making candles. Holding children. Making bedding. Sewing clothing. Our stitches held sleeve to dress and soul to body. We stitched our families through the dead season of the cane, stitched them through lean times of bread and coffee. The seams we made kept us from freezing in the winters of New York and put beans on the table in the years of soup kitchens’. In Levins Morales’s description, women speak with their hands and a needle”  

These women are speaking to a time and a place but there is something universally true there. Something that I resonated with. I want to stitch souls to bodies, to speak with my hands and a needle just as powerfully as with my mouth.

Abarca, Meredith E. “Kitchen Talk,” in Voices in the Kitchen: Views of Food and the World from Working-Class Mexican and Mexican American Women. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2008, 109–34.Welcome to – your online plain text editor. Enter or paste your text here. To download and save it, click on the button below.



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I am almost, almost finished a quilt that I have been working on for the last few years. I began mostly to keep my hands busy while I listened to university lectures and tutorials online. I collected up a number of used business shirts from opportunity shops in different blues and cut squares till I had enough to cover a bed for two. As I snipped and stitched life continued; lectures and lessons passed, our wedding came and went. We moved. We moved again. Slowly it took shape and, motivated by a third move, I am trying to get it finished. Pieced together as we were, it seems right that it comes with us to our new country as a piece of our history, our story. We may just need to cuddle up in something familiar and warm when we are far away.

My stitching reminded me of the Luci Shaw poem called Quilt-maker based on “a prairie woman in [who made quilts] ‘… warm to keep my family from freezing; … [and] beautiful to keep my heart from breaking’” (Shaw 2002, 88). Warmth and beauty, woven, stitched together. Mine is simple, mundane even, but carefully and lovingly put together, kind of like a family.


To keep a husband and five children warm,
she quilts them covers thick as drifts against
the door. Through every fleshy square white threads
needle their almost invisible tracks; her hours
count each small suture that hold together
the raw-cut, uncolored edges of her life.

She pieces each one beautiful and summer bright
to thaw her frozen soul. Under her fingers
the scraps grow to green birds and purple
improbalble leaves; deeper than calico, her mid-winter
mind bursts into flowers. She watches them unfold
between the double stars, the wedding rings.

Shaw, Luci. 2002. “Beauty and the Creative Impulse”. In The Christian Imagination, edited by Leland Ryken. Colorado Springs, CO: Shaw Books.

Shaw, Luci. 1990. Polishing the Petoskey Stone. Shaw Books, 33.



Sashiko inspired, I have finally made a cover for my ‘new’ bible (I bought it early last year I think!). I would love to do some more research and practice looking into using stitches in this way, almost quilting layers of fabric together without batting. Even the simplest patterns look really interesting and I really like the texture created. Thought I would share!