by Janet Gilmore

Janet Gilmore’s labor-intensive labor of love.

Sometimes you love a gift that you made for someone else so much it’s hard to part with.

“This quilt is really for Jane, not her grandson; isn’t it?” my husband Hugh asked, looking at the tangled mess of fabric I’d laid on the sewing room floor.

My friend Jane is an architect with ideas, principles, hopes and dreams. We’re friends anyway.

He caught me by surprise with that. I stopped what I was doing and took another look.

“You know, I think you’re right,” I said. “I’ve never met Jane’s daughter, and I’ll probably never meet Jane’s grandson.

He dropped a kiss on my head and said, “You’re a nice lady.”

Making a baby quilt is a special thing to do. After all, whether the result is a work of art or not, it’s certainly one of a kind. And it takes hours and hours to make.

After making sketches, I went to the fabric store and saw hundreds of bolts of fabric available. I coldly chose a few by color alone.

After pre-shrinking and cutting it into the pieces I needed, though, I became attached to those scraps. After all, some of them are from clothes I or people I know wore, and still have memories clinging to them.

Auditioning bolts of cloth in the shop became the long process of cutting, piecing, sewing and hand-quilting. I came to love the time, sacrifice, pieces of cloth, the feel of the fabric. I held a freeze-frame image in my mind of a sweet baby asleep under a quilt I made for him.

However, I knew the baby would drool on it, throw up on it, invite his little friends around to mangle it, and worse. I might as well take it out in the driveway and run it over with my car myself. Oh, well, I shall call that “well-loved” and proclaim it a good thing.

A successful quilt takes focus. One can’t obsess about anything else at the same time.

“What’s for dinner tonight?” my husband will say.

“I don’t know; have any creative take-out ideas? I have to return to task,” I said and headed for Sewing Land in the basement for the rest of the night.

“I can’t find any clean underwear,” said my son.

“Sorry, I must return to task,” I said.

“Do you want to watch a movie tonight?” Hugh asked.

I laughed.

“I know, I know, you have to return to…”

“Exactly,” I said.

“Hey, Hugh,” I said late one night. “Look at this!”

“I’m reading,” he said. “Why don’t you write down everything you want to say on a piece of paper and put it on the table at breakfast tomorrow?”

“Because this is VERY important,” I said.

He sighed, but put down his book.

“Which of these fabrics looks better with blue?”

“…”

“I like this one better; what do you think?”

He gave me a look and picked up his book.

Janet Gilmore quilt

I made a Fibonacci (a series of numbers in which each number is the sum of the two previous two — 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21 etc…) quilt, which is cut in long strips, then pieced, cut again in the same series and flipped so that wide strips are next to narrow ones, making me look like a genius.

I touched the quilt hundreds of times before it was done. I transferred every loving touch to the baby. I want him to be touched the same way.

But the work became tedious. Because of the mathematical progression, the quilt got very large very fast. Enormous.

“Hugh,” I called upstairs. “Can you come here for a minute?”

“I’m reading,” he said. “What is it?”

“Quilt issues,” I said.

Imagining he’d have his wife back faster if he helped, down he came. We turned pieces of fabric this way and that and, without arguing, agreed on a design that was manageable.

Making a quilt is like a tiny religious experience. So many things can go wrong at any time; I could curse the universe and lose faith. I chanted, “Steady as she goes,” and went ahead in the belief at every step that all would be well in the end.

It was still snowy when I began my weeks in the basement. Staying indoors to quilt seemed appropriate. One side of the quilt went according to plan, and the other side took on a life of its own, as things sometimes do, but everything worked out all right. Suddenly, though, the weather turned nicer, and I was still in the basement. I went outdoors and liked it. Then I went to the gym and I liked that, too. I took a short walk and missed the quilt. That’s how it went. When I was out, I thought about the quilt, and when I was indoors I longed to go out.

Meanwhile the baby was gestating and preparing to appear, like the crocuses in my garden. I didn’t tell Jane I was making a quilt for her grandson; I wanted to surprise her.

“What have you been up to?” she asked on the phone.

“Oh, nothing…”

She hung up quickly because I had no ideas, principles, hopes or dreams to talk about. How could I? I spent all my time sewing.

Finally, the quilt was done. It looked good, and there weren’t too many mistakes. I showed it to Jane, who loved it. I had a few threads to snip and other finishing touches, so I told her I’d mail it to her. But I stalled, not wanting to part with my work yet. I took a little nap under it to see if it worked. It did.

Then I had an e-mail from Jane; her daughter was in labor. Time was up. We photographed the quilt, then packed it to mail.

I mailed the quilt that very evening, but it wasn’t easy. If you were driving along Gravers Lane the other night, yes, that was me kissing a package good-bye at the drive-up mailbox.

I hope that kiss brings the child a lifetime of love.