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I still visited the grandmothers and on later visits I graduated to threading the needles for them as their eyesight diminished even with help of electric lights. Too many years later when consulting a tailor about making a special jacket the site of the scraps on the floor brought back these memories. I had a sewing machine for home repairs and pant hems and went home from the tailor shop with the scraps and tried to sew some scraps together.

Old pieces of blue jeans, curtains and other pieces were soon joined. However this looked nothing like the quilts of my memories. Looking for help I approached local quilters but soon discovered that the traditional styles had taken hold and the creations of that genre would never fulfill the expectations of my memories. With a little help from the tailor I did learn to make a nice Japanese jacket but the attempt to restore the quilting memories left an empty and disconcerting feeling.

My wife , Judy. From a distance I mistook them for abstract paintings , a strong interest of mine. It may be too bold to call it a vision.

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The inner piece that those comforters had originally instilled was restored. Over the next few years I sought out the quilters and followers of Gees Bend style. Although still recognizable quilt forms both chance and experiment intervened and the quilts began to lose their rustic character. The more I looked at abstractionist and expressionist paintings the more they looked like quilts.

As I cut and sewed whatever seemed to fit the inherent abstraction of these assemblies became self evident. The serendipity of the pieces and the colours would carry me to a crude significance of form. Having gone that far one could see that minor adjustments of pieces and tones would silence the anxiety.

As assembly technique overtook functionality the hidden aesthetic of those rustic quilts became to emerge. As the trepidation of working with finer fabrics diminished the colour and fluidity of the quilts rose to levels that I would not have imagined as a child cutting up old shirts and coats. I would like to think that Grandma had some inkling of this.

Volume 11 Issue 1 Spring Floss is designed to get noticed. An artist chooses a floss that will bring out the subtle characteristics of the fabric below without letting its color or texture overwhelm. Floss is made from fibers, just like the fabric it details. We might consider the literary equivalents of floss to be the rich and often brief lines of a memoir that we pause over—the lines that shine because they appear in small patches that might overwhelm the piece if overdone—and writers might also learn from embroidery how to massage a revealing description into a hard knot of facts.

When crafted tactfully, a beautifully described personal scene, like a stitched text, can reveal the complex layers that compose a larger narrative. Today, artist Gina Adams, who traces her heritage to both indigenous and colonial Americans, embroiders text from broken American Indian treaties onto vintage American quilts.

Questions & Answers

As threaded structures go, knitting has always gotten the worst rap. Culturally, knitting is the practice women take up when they have nothing left to do, but new research says that taking up knitting, like starting Sudoku or a crossword ritual, sharpens and hones the mind.

Finnish school children learn to knit before they learn to read. Many progressive education models suggest that early knitting helps link the left and right hemispheres of the brain and supports children in learning the alphabet. Studies suggest that knitting can relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety, and slow the progress of cognitive diseases.

Albert Einstein knitted; so does Christopher Walken. For a knit object to appear to be made of one continuous piece of yarn, the artist has to hide the loose ends. I relish revisiting openings that seem like they were preparing me for the conclusion from the start. If writers thought more often, as knitters do, about hiding their ends in their beginnings, they might find more useful ways of troubleshooting both techniques.


  1. A Quilted Memoir;
  2. Jocelyns Journal;
  3. What Quilting and Embroidery Can Teach us About Narrative Form!

Piecing an essay, embroidering a scene, knitting the end to the beginning: So the notion that nonfiction could be non-linear for a reason is not purely an aesthetic claim. Zadie Smith argues that progress of any kind is not linear. If we know our personal and cultural history, we can never arrive at the end of an essay, or an era, thinking, Yes—finished with that topic now.

What Quilting and Embroidery Can Teach us About Narrative Form | Literary Hub

We cannot go forward imagining that we will keep moving without ever revisiting our lessons. If we forget this, we are at risk of sliding back to those horrors. On the contrary, what I hope to suggest is that threaded, decentered forms of nonfiction enact this practice of revival, of glancing back as a means of propulsion. These forms also reveal that not all true stories have been visible or lived in straight lines.

In her lectures, visual and textile artist Anne Hamilton has suggested that tapestries inherently recall collaboration and interconnectedness in the way that the story of a family, or of a nation, is in fact made of many individual stories that link and inform the others. For me, threaded literary forms also suggest that minds, like communities, move not from one logical point onward but rather in conversation with our histories and our many, many selves—forever pushing against what has happened and into what is happening next.

Nonfiction Inhabiting or About Threaded Forms.

"Other Words, Other Voices" by Jerry Pinto

Griffin alternates personal and academic nonfiction styles to develop a meditation on the color red, on fabric, on intimacy, and on the ways we write about bodily experiences both in and outside of the academy. This ongoing collaborative project, which came together through a process much like a quilting circle or quilting bee, unites hybrid texts by artists who were asked to respond to the outcome of the elections. This interactive essay takes the form of a dress pattern and interrogates the space between text and textile. This essay interweaves personal stories of childhood, birth, and personal abuse with myths about water spirits to consider how narratives of physical trauma can and have always been told.

In this book, May grounds readers in the history of quilting and its traditional techniques while telling the stories of seventy young quilters who are using innovative patterns to build modern quilted narratives. Created by Grove Atlantic and Electric Literature. Article continues after advertisement.