Piecing a Quilt is Like Living a Life

While I work, I love to listen to podcasts or audio books.  Recently I have been listening to Frances O’Roark Dowell read the book “Aunt Jane of Kentucky” on her Quiltfiction podcast.  This book was written in 1898 by Eliza Calvert Hall and is available to read for free on Project Gutenberg.  Frances is an author, and does a terrific job of reading both her books and this book.

While listening today, Chapter 3, “Aunt Jane’s Album,” really grabbed my attention and found a resting place in my heart.

“Did you ever think, child,” she said, presently, “how much piecin’ a quilt’s like livin’ a life? …  You see, you start out with jest so much caliker; you don’t go to the store and pick it out and buy it, but the neighbors will give you a piece here and a piece there, and you’ll have a piece left every time you cut out a dress, and you take jest what happens to come. And that’s like predestination. But when it comes to the cuttin’ out, why, you’re free to choose your own pattern. You can give the same kind o’ pieces to two persons, and one’ll make a ‘nine-patch’ and one’ll make a ‘wild-goose chase,’ and there’ll be two quilts made out o’ the same kind o’ pieces, and jest as different as they can be. And that is jest the way with livin’. The Lord sends us the pieces, but we can cut ’em out and put ’em together pretty much to suit ourselves, and there’s a heap more in the cuttin’ out and the sewin’ than there is in the caliker. The same sort o’ things comes into all lives, jest as the Apostle says, ‘There hath no trouble taken you but is common to all men.'”The same trouble’ll come into two people’s lives, and one’ll take it and make one thing out of it, and the other’ll make somethin’ entirely different. There was Mary Harris and Mandy Crawford. They both lost their husbands the same year; and Mandy set down and cried and worried and wondered what on earth she was goin’ to do, and the farm went to wrack and the children turned out bad, and she had to live with her son-in-law in her old age. But Mary, she got up and went to work, and made everybody about her work, too; and she managed the farm better’n it ever had been managed before, and the boys all come up steady, hard-workin’ men, and there wasn’t a woman in the county better fixed up than Mary Harris. Things is predestined to come to us, honey, but we’re jest as free as air to make what we please out of ’em. And when it comes to puttin’ the pieces together, there’s another time when we’re free. You don’t trust to luck for the caliker to put your quilt together with; you go to the store and pick it out yourself, any color you like. There’s folks that always looks on the bright side and makes the best of everything, and that’s like puttin’ your quilt together with blue or pink or white or some other pretty color; and there’s folks that never see anything but the dark side, and always lookin’ for trouble, and treasurin’ it up after they git it, and they’re puttin’ their lives together with black, jest like you would put a quilt together with some dark, ugly color. You can spoil the prettiest quilt pieces that ever was made jest by puttin’ ’em together with the wrong color, and the best sort o’ life is miserable if you don’t look at things right and think about ’em right.”Then there’s another thing. I’ve seen folks piece and piece, but when it come to puttin’ the blocks together and quiltin’ and linin’ it, they’d give out; and that’s like folks that do a little here and a little there, but their lives ain’t of much use after all, any more’n a lot o’ loose pieces o’ patchwork. And then while you’re livin’ your life, it looks pretty much like a jumble o’ quilt pieces before they’re put together; but when you git through with it, or pretty nigh through, as I am now, you’ll see the use and the purpose of everything in it. Everything’ll be in its right place jest like the squares in this ‘four-patch,’ and one piece may be pretty and another one ugly, but it all looks right when you see it finished and joined together.”

I hope this speaks to you in some way, and helps you “piece together what you are experiencing to make something beautiful.  

Be blessed, my friend!


Aunt Jane of Kentucky book cover

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