Necessity trumps desire

I suppose that’s just how life is, huh? Yesterday I had plans to crochet. I’ve been working on a jumper for Granota for… an embarrassingly long time. That will be a post for another day. After breakfast, I was checking my messages on the computer  before picking up my hook and yarn, when Granota came downstairs. She presented me with an object that can only be described as a miniature turd and said she had found it in her bed. It was disgusting. I hustled her off to the bathroom and we washed our hands, then I went up to change her sheets (after a quick internet search on animal scat which revealed nothing resembling her discovery. Still a mystery). As I stripped her bed, I noticed that one of the wings on her butterfly quilt was nearly torn off.

Actually, I should say my butterfly quilt. I think my mom made it; if not her, then it was one of my grandmothers (help me out here, mom). Either way, I’ve had it for as long as I can remember. When I look at all the different fabrics used on the butterflies, vague feelings of familiarity skitter through the shadows in my brain. I have a hard time pinpointing exactly where the various scraps came from, but cloudy impressions of baby dresses and kitchen curtains sometimes surface. It is altogether familiar to me, both in quilt form and from its previous incarnations. It’s dingy as heck, but I love it. Granota started using the quilt when she graduated to her big girl bed just before she turned 2. She can’t remember using anything else and she also loves it.

I brought the quilt downstairs and traced the wing shape on a piece of tissue paper. I knew exactly which fabric from my scrap bag I would use: it is a yellowish-orange with a darker orange floral print. It felt right to me since the wings I had to replace were yellow with orange and blue circles. The new fabric was from a hospital gown that I made for my best friend at her request. She has delivered two babies while wearing that bright yellow gown. I told the story to Granota and she grinned and began asking me about the other butterflies, and I did my best to recall.

I spent the entire afternoon and a good chunk of the evening hand-sewing on two butterfly wings. It was a little tedious and I wished that I could have been crocheting. Yet, I did enjoy reflecting on the history contained in all those scraps of fabric. It made me think of the book “The Rag Coat” by Lauren A. Mills that I read to the girls last summer: it’s about a little girl whose mother makes her a coat of fabric scraps collected from the community. At first the other children make fun of her funny coat, but when she is able to relate the story of each patch of fabric, they begin to see that she has something rather special. It’s something that quilts nowadays are lacking. They may be masterpieces of geometry and color, but gone is the history of an entire household bound together in one place; gone are the concepts of preservation and creativity borne from thrift. It’s kind of a shame.

So as I sat sewing on yellow butterfly wings, the idea of cutting away an old layer and adding on a new story for a new generation made it worth my time.

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