A quilt for your back...


… or your tote or your front or your wall or your couch.

These four pieces are a study in using it up, but like really using it up. Not just the big scraps, but the little ones too. While most quilts are practical objects once finished, fully bound and wrapped around a body to keep warm, these little buddies have been practical in the making. They are whole and sturdy little quilts, made from what would be considered in a larger sense- trash. They represent two countries, three states, five women, and countless garments out wrapping up bodies in the world.

In the two quilts on the left the little colorful triangles are from Not Perfect Linen, where Tavi and I got our dresses for my sister’s wedding. The dresses themselves were a Big Deal for us, being new and full priced and… from Lithuania? They came with little 2 inch samples of every color of linen that the company carries and I spent the next three days spreading them out and looking at all of them in wonder.

The quilt second from the right is made from scraps I created while making box tops. Circles of linen cut out to make necklines, and the tiniest leftovers from hems and sleeves. The cream is an Irish linen, thrifted in a moment of disbelief that I am still aimlessly thankful for, because who donates un-dyed, handwoven Irish linen to the thrift? The blue is vintage linen, repurposed from a tablecloth and over-dyed with indigo. I keep it all, because linen is precious, and because the work I’ve put into reclaiming the fabric makes it doubly so.

The quilt on the far right is made with little slips of naturally dyed linen that Jessica at Sugar House Workshop sent me with an order. They are lovely, gentle shades. Just a little gift from one maker to another, but her kindness as a stranger-friend on the internet has made my day again and again and I think they’ll infuse some power into whoever is wearing them on their back (or front or wall or couch). That tiny line of brilliant red is a piece of my all time favorite thrifted linen, red and orange woven together to make actual flaming red. More power for the wearer.

The larger (tiny) pieces of fabric in the two quilts on the left and the quilt on the far right are scraps of hemp linen from Kellen, who owns/runs/IS Yoke Handmade. She’s a quilter herself, and her generosity with her scraps astounds me (as I hoard every piece of linen larger than a fingernail that crosses my path).

Quilts are magic.

When it ends.


I lost a friend this year. She didn’t go anywhere, as far as I know, but she exited my life just the same. Like with any ending there was a bit of strife beforehand. So when she split with me, in an email on my birthday, I was able to get out one breath of relief before the heartsickness hit. And then my friends brought out a coconut cream cake and I blew out 29 candles while they sang. The months since have been similarly surreal. I wake up each morning in my own bed, next to the woman I love, surrounded by my belongings in their rightful places. I drive the same commute, I knit and sew and bake bread and make dinner and I eat. I go to the same bars and cafes and grocery stores, I walk the same sidewalks. And all day, everyday, I feel the crushing, nauseating, weight of a breakup.

What do you do with a broken heart that doesn’t actually touch the daily stuff of your life? How do you grieve this? In death we make small altars, we whisper memories in the dark, and we have become grave visitors, putting a hand on the grass in greeting. I don’t know what to do now, so I’ve limited action to what feels right. Knitting for the necks and hands of people I’m learning to trust here. Extra care for the plants, extra kneading for the bread, extra stitches in this quilt. Silence in lieu of music, wine instead of beer, tea most days. Last week we removed the dregs of this friend from our walls and hung up ladybugs. Small things are gathered in a box and archived.

What you do is wake up each morning and try to revel in your lover’s hair spread across the pillow. You notice the kitten in the neighbors window, you see it notice you. You pull the brown leaves off the spider plant and you pull the future towards you one breath at a time.

Into October


October is a month of grief for me. It started in 2006, when my friend Julie died. I was newly 17, which was traumatizing enough, but it was a particularly fraught time for a number of additional reasons and then Julie died and the earth stopped spinning. My body and mind have wrapped that ache up like a broken jar, brown paper over sharp edges. I had known other people to die before Julie, but she was the first person who I loved wholly and separately from my family and I felt the loss of her love keenly. I can remember now just how it felt. After Julie there were other October deaths, so early on I began to believe that October was the month when my people die. At first I dreaded it, but over time that has changed. Of course, over time there have also been a lot more deaths and I’ve amended my former belief to the much simpler “people die”.

There has been a lot of writing about grief lately- I think because we have a lot to grieve these days, the biggest and most obvious being The State of Things. This past month I learned that there are people who look at grief with scorn and shame and it may be naive, but that surprised me. When I talk about grief I am not talking about the immediate days after a loss, when the rest of the world gets inked out and time warps and your skin hurts, though that is surely grief as well. When I talk about grief I am talking about what we all carry with us every day, the dead whom we have loved and now miss. How do you survive in a world where grief is shameful? There is sadness in grieving, yes, but there is celebration too. I don’t have the option in my belief system of imagining my loved ones cavorting together in a place of eternal light (though I can appreciate the comfort in that). Instead I imagine them where I know them to be- all together in my heart for as long as it’s still beating.


An anecdote about Julie, while she is on my mind.

I came out to Julie before anyone else in the world. I was in her classroom, after school. I don’t remember what exactly I said, but she was cleaning desks when I told her and she paused and asked me to come over to her. She pointed at a desk, where someone had written “Mrs. Caldwell is a lesbian” and said to me “I’m going to leave this one here because it’s a compliment to me”.