Iowa Writes

MILLIE FRESE
from "Stitching in Time"


“Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost" (John 6:12). I move through life like a scavenger, gathering scraps of fabric, bits of memory, fragments of dreams, and pieces of lives as women have done throughout years, across worlds, spanning generations. The best quilts, I think, are the ones where the fragments are gathered from clothing that has been outgrown or worn out, or from cutting scraps left from garment construction. The whole becomes something that transcends pattern, color, and composition. It becomes something many may look at but few will see. Who but the quilter might recognize fragments of her son's pajamas, the ones with the knees worn through? They were faded and soft, but portions could be saved and stitched into a quilt. Her son will one day see the quilt and the fragments of his life it contains; he will know that he is treasured; that he is not lost. A quilt is warm because of where it takes you. It offers a sense of place. A sense of peace. A sense of belonging to something greater than oneself. Like the other quilters at my table, my hands gather and my heart holds the fragments. I hoard bits and pieces of things to write about or sew into a quilt, working to create something whole out of many parts; I am the thread.

“Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost" (John 6:12). I move through life like a scavenger, gathering scraps of fabric, bits of memory, fragments of dreams, and pieces of lives as women have done throughout years, across worlds, spanning generations. The best quilts, I think, are the ones where the fragments are gathered from clothing that has been outgrown or worn out, or from cutting scraps left from garment construction. The whole becomes something that transcends pattern, color, and composition. It becomes something many may look at but few will see. Who but the quilter might recognize fragments of her son's pajamas, the ones with the knees worn through? They were faded and soft, but portions could be saved and stitched into a quilt. Her son will one day see the quilt and the fragments of his life it contains; he will know that he is treasured; that he is not lost. A quilt is warm because of where it takes you. It offers a sense of place. A sense of peace. A sense of belonging to something greater than oneself. Like the other quilters at my table, my hands gather and my heart holds the fragments. I hoard bits and pieces of things to write about or sew into a quilt, working to create something whole out of many parts; I am the thread.

I remember finishing a quilt for my oldest child. I cut out the pieces, mostly triangles and squares, when Sarah was in middle school. She helped me pick out the 1930s reproduction fabrics at a quilt shop to go with yards of creamy muslin I'd been saving for years. There was a note pinned to the muslin, written on a flap that had been torn from a yellowed envelope: “Threads of Gold. 7 yards."? A friend had given it to me because she knew I would use it. My friend was in her eighties and made beautiful quilts but didn't think she'd ever use all of the fabric she had collected. She had inherited the Threads of Gold muslin along with other sewing supplies when her mother died, decades ago. Her mother probably acquired the fabric in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

You can travel forward in time, or back, depending on how you look at the quilt. Sarah monitored my progress, watching as squares and triangles became individual blocks and as individual blocks came together. Even before it was finished, the quilt became hers because she loved it. Soon she would graduate from high school and she wanted the quilt to go with her into the next phase of her life. And she hoped I would finish the quilt in time to get acquainted with it before she left home. She wanted the quilt that had matured and grown with her over several years to feel familiar so that when, in her dorm room, she crawled into her bunk beneath the quilt she would know--no matter what had happened throughout the day--?that all is well.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


MILLIE FRESE

Millie Frese lives in Marshalltown, Iowa.

This page was first displayed
on October 01, 2006

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