I love textiles and am always drawn to quilty things, fabrics with intricate or floral patterns, beautiful colors. When I was in college I worked in a neighborhood shop that sold handmade quilts to order. My job was to choose, measure, cut and assemble fabric collections for the special order quilts. I'd put the crisp bundle into a box and send it off to one of the quilters in the Ozarks. There would be a note about the requested size, pattern and quilting design. A month later, the box would come back with a lovely handstitched quilt inside, sweetly fragrant with the scent of the quilter's home. Sometimes a note would be included from the maker. She might write about her garden, what she was canning, a neighbor who came by to help with the binding, a baby that kept her from her quilting, whether or not she liked the colors and pattern chosen by someone else.
These are Kantha quilts, handmade in India from pieces of vintage sari. There are 5 layers of sari sewn together with a long running stitch, sometimes patched in worn places, often with shadowy glimpses of interior prints revealed through the tissue-thin top layer.
The years of wear and washing create a softness that feels very much like the arms of a child or maybe a grandmother- I can't decide which. The makers are women in rural India, practicing a traditional craft and sharing it with those of us opening boxes so far away. They use what they have been given, have stories to tell and lives we can only imagine. Recycling these worn though revered bits of history for the gift of comfort and pleasure .....draped on my couch, in my hands, around my shoulders on a cool summer night. Like those Ozark quilts, each one so beautiful, intriguing and inspiring, the stitches run like cursive lines across the pages in a secret diary. Written in a language I have learned to understand and adore.