Up in the loft I have 2 huge bags of Harry’s baby clothes, full of treasured items which hold such potent memories that I could never give them away. About once a year I stumble across them whilst looking for something crucial (a feather boa, say, or a camping stove – I never seem to come down from the loft with the thing I actually went in search of), and I finally resolved last month to do something with them.
My interest in having a go at quilting was stimulated over a year ago by this trip to Amsterdam, and with the winter nights drawing in I decided to make a quilt for Harry that could be snuggled under for a cosy night in, draped over his bed for extra warmth, or used as a playmat….
I sorted through the piles of baby clothes (which, let me warn you, are incredibly small for making a decent quilt!), setting aside everything which dates from the crucial 2 month period during which Harry discovered the world of solid food, and specifically bananas; despite boil washing, everything still seems to have ghostly banana-y handprints all over it. Have a look at this and you’ll understand why;
I eventually chose two pairs of Harry’s toddler pyjamas to make the body of the quilt, and cut up an old white tablecloth as a backdrop. Some of Harry’s tiniest tops, bottoms and dungarees provided a perfect border – and made me realise that in the hormonally-charged, sleep-deprived first year of motherhood I apparently dressed him entirely in red, blue and plaid. It could have been worse.
I taught myself the rudimentary basics of quilting from this library book, and would not dream of offering anything in the way of advice here; I used a square cut from a cereal box as a template, a ruler from the toybox to measure my seams and a felt tip pen to mark everything up, all of which should rightly draw gasps of horror from more accomplished seamstresses… but it worked, showing that anyone should feel brave enough to give this a whirl…
I realised very quickly that actually quilting the duvet would be beyond my sewing-machine skills, so once I’d inserted the wadding I stitched the buttons from Harry’s shirts at intervals all over the quilt, which holds the batting in place and looks very sweet.
The quilt has other secrets too; when I cut up the pyjamas I kept all the pockets and incorporated them into the squares, so there are now little sections where Lego men, torches and important messages can be stored…
I am very proud of my first quilt, and I love that Harry has immediately adopted it. We’ve spent many an evening examining the squares and discussing where they came from (‘tell me what I did when I wore those, mummy’); there’s something magical to Harry about these being the clothes he once wore, in a time he can barely remember.
A perfectly imperfect quilt, then, and something of a metaphor for first-time motherhood too – the seams are crooked and will doubtless unravel at times; the squares are uneven and occasionally speckled from the wounds of pinpricks and needle-stabs..but what runs through every stitch of this quilt is love; the very deepest and most sustaining kind.
Certainly enough to keep one small person warm for a lifetime.