The Quilt Collection
by Mariss Everitt
This page contains poems about quilts I have made and which have previously been published on my blog. There are 36 poems with photographs of the accompanying quilts.
A Full Bed of Roses The needle carouses through strip upon strip of cloth, spins out a dizzying merry-go-round of roses. Skew-centred around sun-yellow every bloom unbuds of its own sweet volition, each one, new sprung, calls for another – my Bernina purrs on to stitch candy floss pink or apricots and oranges in a circle dance of fun. Reds spell the wounds and throb of womanhood, rich burgundies mute the prettiness. Waxed youth on the wane, I turn out rose after rose, find there are forty-eight, stop, and see the spell break
African Mosaic It came from a book on African art, this yearning to visit the temple, to stand barefoot on that cold marble, to see the diamond mosaic, to feel the space and antiquity From the familiarity of my workroom I went there, stood and cut cloth to match the marble, sat and stitched one inch blocks of fabric, pointed and neat cornered, one to another to echo the pattern and still my heart.
Amy’s quilt I made you a quilt of forty-two blocks (six across seven down) with 21 squares in strips of berry colours and 21 plain blocks of burnt orange. As I sewed I hoped that love would stitch herself in but wooed her, anyway, with slivers of silver and gold for bright strips on the plain blocks from 1 to 21 to count the candles on the cakes that processed through the years
Belly Dance #1 Stomach muscles ripple flesh into fluid circles of delight, perfumed garden and silky night ancient enticement sidles down the spiral and always the bellybutton stillpoint at the centre holy omphalos that feeds the embryo. I don’t dare to do this dance. Instead I stitch baubles and beads onto bold blocks of sari silks and satins bellybutton them with embossed blazons then circle them with more stitchery and couchings of gold.
Bellydance #2 And here’s another smaller dance, stitched from the scraps that would not sit still.
Bellydance #3 And a baby one pieced from the scraps of the scraps until they were all used up.
Beyond Blue A bend in the line teases the mind out of stricture into contemplation of what lies beyond the blues. Angled lines break the rigidity of the old pattern’s perpendicularity. Then the soft hues of purples and blues hint at hidden rhymes.
Blue Moon Two moons full in that July Night sky shwe-shwes in the beyond Silvered beads sing the crescent, wax the rounding 365 moons in all their phases Change ringing with certainty The sea answers the pulling call Secret record, subtly stitched Extraordinary orbit of ordinary reassurance
Bookmark Go little quilt into the world, proclaim your place in a book of leaves, signifying one that turned naturally.
Centrepiece #1 : Savannah Song The sweeping grassland waves from the edges of eight pieces of fabric. The shades of grass call to the shrinking herds, lament the encroaching deserts, nudge my slumbering reptilian brain to find that ancient pathway snaking through the fields of grass now covered by cities and civilization. Deep in the folds of this quilt is a song for the Savannah.
Centrepiece #2 : Friendship Quilt Not a traditional friendship quilt where memories and blessings are stitched into squares by a circle of quilters, but a tribute to friendship itself through the gifts of fabric, rich-hued and stagger-striped, from a circle of quilters, friends who gathered to try out my centrepiece method, added new twists to the design so that those unsewn gifts got stitched into a quilt that sings of happy companionship.
A sonnet to Centrepiece #3 A set of dyed fabrics in peacock hues, A piece of Chinese cloth shiny and bold, Loose woven in emerald, purple and gold, Shot with turquoise and green, to shock the blues. This is the palette that waits to unfold Into a quilt of many coloured jewels. An ordered design calls me to choose A path that is straight, to do what’s foretold. I sew to rote, follow the set pattern, Find no surprises, no serendipity – Bored by the boredom of rigid rows. But lo, the sewn seed glistens, then grows Through the uniform equanimity And fans out into a quilt that glows
Circling the Square There is a golden block of blocks, – a detail from a lovers’ quilt in Klimt’s Partial Fulfilment – that lodged itself on the wall behind my eye. The after-image lurks, – like the golden mean that gives hidden form in nature’s beauty – until I refabricate that bit of painted quilt, return it to cloth in slivers of fabric gold. I circle this square of squared shapes with rows of more blocks, an echoing green of browns and beiges, silvers and pieces of gold. Framed by these banded rows, couched in an inner frame of curved pathways that fold back on themselves, the mounted image shines as a clovered centre of accomplishment.
Cobhouse Village Usually I construct and roof house after house in a production line until there are enough for a village, a community of nestled homes. Some are bright and skewed with red-pitched roofs and gaily painted, others fabricated pale and square flat topped by corrugated iron, wooden doored. This time a gift of earth-tone fabrics and a documentary on cob construction led me to a dream of pastoral ease, earth houses peaceful on a hillside.
Contingency In the back corner of the fabric shop they stack the overdyes – ink heavy bolts of cloth that are black and stiff with the layers of reprinted patterns. The trick is to sense what’s buried there and then to take one’s chances, for sometimes it’s fool’s gold. I’ve developed a canny eye that probes beneath the inky smudge, searching for bits of brightness and bold lines. I was looking for inspiration on the shelves of new clean fabric when I saw that bolt out of the corner of my eye and the lime green beneath the black ink cloud snatched like lightning. As the roll unfurled upon the counter – metre after metre of swirling patterns within the columns overprinted on the original design – my excitement grew into a purchase of ten metres. After soaking, hosing, washing, rinsing the fabric again and again, until the water was no longer a river of ink
the pattern came through, bold and true, and it was, indeed, unique. It hung on the line, drying into a brighter brilliance. I sat in the garden, unthinkingly traced the dance of the design onto the back of my eyeball. Its imprint unfolded like grace and I set to to make the quilt, found matching plains and the cutting line then sewed strip upon strip into place, interleaving the thin bright bands in the overdye’s intricate design. I turned these into blocks, pinned up a checkerboard of pieced and unsewn squares, stood back to squint-size it up and somewhere between gut and mind, saw that the blocks must be redefined. In measured steps I sliced the squares into rectangles to echo Fibonacci’s series, felt the quilt resound with a pleasing click, saw again that this world is ruled by chance, and that with a bit of luck contingency comes disguised as serendipity, brings a quilt to reflect this synchronicity.
Disintegration My intention – buried as deep as rock strata beneath the mined and broken earth – was abstracted into straight strips and squared off. The obsessive search until the silver seam is found. Meanwhile, the gutted Earth gasps, goes unheard. Who would follow these strange maps turtle turned into a quiltmaker’s template? The geologist who has it now.
Extension 1 for Sandy Caribbean – a place where greening rain lushes down on simple stoeped houses. I’ve only been there on Walcott’s words and through your letters from the island. Here urbanised housing sprawls on the once wild land where blue sky and birds still sing above the bared brown of earth. I sewed this into a quilt of cotton cloth to warm the body and the eye. I’m glad it crossed the seas with you, and rests now in an island house.
Extension 3 Outside Alice you’ll find a house-covered hill, row upon row gaping roofless and doorless – grimacing at some corrupted contract left undone. It is a ghost town though no-one has lived or died here, the rough streets have not rung with children’s trills or mothers’ calls – barren shells, the houses stretch into the distance of broken promises. The wasteland becomes a sketch in my workbook, for I see a quilt blanketing the skyline, a hill covered in painted blocks curiously coloured. (The painter must have kept to his contract.) Back home I turn the sketch into a cotton quilt of happy houses, doored, windowed and roofed ready for occupation in a world where no-one lives, but promises are dreamt into fulfilment.
Extension 4 During idyllic weeks on Patmos where St John’s Revelation still reverberates I used up a spool of film on the blue and white houses that float up the hill from the quayside. The photographs have faded but not the memory woven into these township houses – as simple and as square – but made bold and squat by joblots of paint.
Forest Archive Archived alphabetically from a, Boxed and ordered where b Comes after a and is followed by c, Documents foldered for posterity. Each box is the same size – an easy Form to follow. Copy the motif Given in rectangles of energy Holding the papered lives and aches, In acid-free folders, of writers who’ve died Just recently or long ago, Killed by chance or inevitable decay. Living authors too, their letters Merging with the manuscripts of women and men No longer with us, but whose work lives on – Outlines, drafts, and the books also Preserved on paper, filed in the archive’s keep. Quilt this, I thought, follow the cue Residing in this boxed array Set out and shelved in neatness. The template is there, just copy it to a T Using the form and parchment hues. Vanity, as it turned out, for the reverie Would not materialise. The rectangles withdrew, Exactitude excused itself. Instead Yearning green crept in to defy my Zestful plan. And I sewed a fabric forest.
Jacob’s Ladder Banded rungs of fabric steps rising to greet the angels It was so clear in my mind. In the stitching the central silver strip shifted to one side, mocked my motives. As clarity slipped I mused: Why call the angels to a wrestling match?
Klee’s Curtain With his seeing eye and tacit hand Klee captured on canvas the pattern and flow of fabric. A curtain became an attic beauty hinting at a story of unknown lives behind its shielding folds. Cloth warms as it breaths through its ephemeral fibres, offers more comfort than painted art. Moved by this unmoving curtain I returned it into cloth.
Lime Squares Echoes of hot days, the tonic of gin with lots of ice to spice the cooling clink against the glass Soda fizz and sliced lemon in zestful curlings tango on the tongue, as the heat recedes with each slow sip.
Oikos Our watered home, the womb of life, blinks as a bright blue cell from outer space. Earth is a seedbed for the myriad microbes that dance upward into all the forms we’ve classified as kingdoms with ourselves enthroned as the crown of creation. Without us Earth would be Eden, balanced and beautiful, the green grass of our home untrammelled and not laid to waste. On this bit of cloth at least the fecundity of forests and flowers flourishes unhindered.
The Phoenix Song If you’ve seen a loerie flash (scarlet and emerald green to make the eye sing) you’ll know that catch of breath as this shy bird flies and shows its secret underwing. If you’ve read of the phoenix (purple and blood red in flames of carnage) you’ll know the story of hope as this mythical bird burns then rises from charred plumage. If you can imagine how the fabric fanned these thoughts you’ll see the energy stitched into this quilt.
Rainbow’s edge The pulsing undertow of blue, indigo, violet unfurls as a rainbow. The end colours of the curve shades of purple-blues rise up like ghosts from the grave. These spectres alight from the spectrum’s edge, prefigure the elusive pot of gold. Measured in steps, then swept along by hidden melodies the quilt dances its own song.
The Rules of Quilting for Elisma At your sampler quilt course I learnt the basic rules of quiltmaking – the shortcuts and where corners can’t be cut. Like the grounding of grammar or of mathematical theorems, one must know the methods and formulae of cloth and stitchery. You taught us how the time-worn designs of traditional quilts were originally hand-sewn from scraps, in thrift and for warmth. Those resourceful women named the patterns they patiently pieced, created templates that have stayed like well-loved tales in a storybook. Railfence, Little Red Schoolhouse, Logcabin, Drunkard’s Path,
Flying Geese, Wild Goose Chase, Granny’s Fan, Nine Patch, and more. Starting with Railfence – the simplest one – you showed us how to cut and sew our way through strips, squares, oblongs, triangles, circles, stars, and crazy patching, all the while teaching the use of colour, its tones and hues, how to create contrast by following another kind of grammar contained in the cogs of the colour wheel. True teacher, you let me stray with my outsized blocks, warned I’d struggle to make a neat squared-off quilt, corner to matching corner. But helped me anyway to devise a rural scene of houses and fields with baskets of fruit and friendly stars – a nice blanket for our Hogsback bed.
Shifting Rock Strata Taffeta is shot with contrasting thread so that the fabric tantalizes in woofs and warps as it follows the light. I chose a range woven in earth tones and a red-orange one for fire to reflect our planet’s core and its radiating rock strata. The quilt probes the secrets of Earth’s depths where molten lava seethes and a restless dragon furnaces a fire that pleats stone-steeled layers into folds. Or finds a fault and erupts.
Singing strips Born of the taffeta selvages (the bright outer edges salvaged from Shifting Rock Strata) this quilt sings of happy surprises. Pinned onto five strips of black, the bright bits sat for a while and then began to sway to a melody played by the leftover squares from that same set of fabric. The next step was to line up and layer the strips and squares, like dancing girls prancing before a black background Then this impromptu song & dance shouted for the embellishment of beads and shiny stitches and called for a quilted backdrop of gold.
Silver Squares Not really squares, but oblongs of silvery sheens and bronzed gold, celestial songs floating in the blackness beyond. Not really silver, but shades of shiny fabrics and bright beads, images from golden days to lighten that blackness.
Small change Like the copper coins that weight a wallet till they add up to a loaf of bread, the shiny scraps at the bottom of the sewing basket jingled at me till I pieced them together to make two small coppery quilts.
String of Angels for Bev We can’t converse with the beasts, and it is only through a tear in the tissue that separates the vegetable from the celestial that we may glimpse the angels. This string of nine angels was fabricated unwittingly one Saturday, materialised through a slip of the rotary blade (slicing like butter through nine layers of sandwiched fabric squares) when making crazy stars. A missed step, four cuts instead of five, and the star shape was lost. “Look! They’re angels!” you said.
This small host slipped through a chink in the chain, waved in greeting and left their shape-shifted imprint on nine blocks of mispieced fabric.
Sunshine and shadow That Sunday something more than my Bernina’s flywheel turned as I stitched, then turned again to arrive at an unexpected place. It was not the design that I set out to copy that turned up, announced, and fell into place, but something else.
Threshold Hovering not in but on a threshold, I ripped and sewed strips, layer upon layer, band after band, unashamedly imitating Klee’s painted lines from In the Sixth Threshold. Mesmerised by the line, the colours, the mystery of what threshold he crossed and whether it was possible to follow his steps, I sewed in bigger bolder sweeps, suspended thought as line and colour, thread and needle became the focus of uncounted strips running downward through the sixth threshold into unnamed realms.
Twenty-one love poems for Emma I made a quilt to mark your coming of age. I sewed bold bands of blocks in the brightest of colours to match your happy dance through childhood and friendship, a choreographed strip for each year.
Window to the Future for Andrew The stained glass windows in old churches let in the light but block the view with their pieced pictures of paradise. Could this be a priest’s ploy to screen off reality with lighted friezes of comforting grace? There is energy in those windows, infused by the craftsmen who painstakingly cut and leaded the coloured glass into a message of hope, a homily from arched windows set in the stone of cathedrals. So here is a 24-starred window stitched instead of leaded, a talisman of hope and new beginnings and set in stone coloured cloth to celebrate the glow of early morning light on your hand hewn stairs