Saturday, November 07, 2009

On handicraft and heritage

This is a quilt that I just finished for my nephew who's two (almost three).

He's a really smart and funny and awesome kid. He loves the words "maybe," "because," and "medium," and refers to his friends as his "clever friends," though my suspicion is that he's the cleverest in his peer group. As I sewed the quilt, I thought a lot about how I justify (for myself) the use of so much time and effort to work on something that's ultimately unnecessary, or could be acquired for much less time and effort. Why sew a quilt for a kid who already has enough blankets or for whom I could easily purchase a much better made blanket? I mean, my sewing skills have improved significantly, but the whole thing is riddled with imperfections. Ultimately, I think there are two main answers that help me rationalize or understand my new hobby. First off, when I took up sewing this year, I realized that the simple math skills it required (mostly adding and very rudimentary geometry) were very complimentary to the other kinds of thinking I do all day (thinking that requires reading and writing). So in that respect, sewing helped balance out my brain a little bit.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, is the idea that making something handmade (albeit imperfect) is a good way to establish and maintain a connection with my little nephew. My sister and her family are real globetrotters, so my nephews periodically have to make adjustments about where they live and the environments they inhabit. Their mobility also means that I don't always see them as frequently as I'd like to. So in that respect, I like the idea that the kid will snuggle up to the blanket when he's far away and maybe remember that I made it for him, and he'll know that I'm thinking about him even if we don't hang out all the time. That seems pretty important.

I'll offer an additional couple of notes about the particular qualities of this blanket I made. Many of the fabrics were ones that my sister brought me from China and Japan, so that's kind of neat. Then there's the many, many imperfections. The stitching is far from perfect. I hand quilted it without any real measurements. The thread lines meander all around, and you can tell which parts I started with and which parts I did last (the last parts look much more practiced). Rather than obsessing over these flaws, I embraced them (probably a productive attitude, since I'm not really accomplished enough to fix a lot of them). They give the blanket character and really show off the fact that it was made by hand by an untrained nonprofessional. Maybe some day my nephew will look back and know that I made it for him while I was busy at school and that this was a labor of love that I worked on during nights after I'd studied all day.

Regarding the size: I'd initially envisioned it a little bit bigger, but as it turned out, I had a piece of batting this big, so that's how big I made it. In retrospect, it's pretty good. I think it's a pretty nice size for a toddler throw blanket, so he can drag it around himself. Secondly, even though he'll outgrow it in a few years, it's chock full of airplanes and robots and dinosaurs, and juvenile print fabrics are sort of meant to be outgrown, too. My sister is very good at saving things and organizing them and taking care of them. I like the idea that in a few years, my nephew will eventually outgrow the blanket, but it'll still be in good enough shape for her to put it aside and save it for memories (or future generations) down the road.

More pictures on flickr.


Holly said...

i think it is simply perfect!!

Jill said...

I love quilt and everything about it. Mostly I love the fact that your enjoying the process so much. I'm asking Mike for a sewing machine for Christmas. It time.

w. leavitt said...

i really like it, Mer. congrats on your awesome, newly-developed skills.

kasha said...

Awesome, Meredith! I LOVE your design. You have become a stupendous seamstress - you'll have to come over sometime so we can have a crafternoon together.

la_sale_bete said...

I would LOVE a crafternoon. We've got to plan it.