Thanks for your kind comments yesterday. I’m sorry that I won’t be able to respond. There really is nothing one can say that makes any sense at these times.

After spending another full day doing my own work (as well as possible) and then volunteering wherever I could, I was exhausted when I got home. But I respond to stressors like this by keeping moving. And, for some reason, it seemed like the right moment to sew. This fabric-with-a-story called to me and a miniquilt was born.

Indulge me for a minute? Or you can just scroll down and see the quilt.

Back in February I got the email below from my friend, Elspeth.

Dear C,

Greetings from otherworldly South Carolina.

I went to lunch with my mother today, to a place called the Pretzel Cabin. It’s owned by my father’s golf club down here: a very peculiar establishment where the sweet tea is served by African American gentlemen who call you “Miss First Name,” and refuse to accept a tip. It is …very old South, shall we say?

This particular cabin was once a slave cabin, and is now used by the club for intimate dinners of 6-8. (god, I know, let’s just not talk about it, okay?) After lunch, I went for a walk. While out, I found a small, very dirty bundle of fabric. I poked at it for a while, then tugged it free. I eventually came up with nine pieces of varying sizes of extremely muddy, root ridden fabric. Naturally, my mother was mortified. So I brought it home. I thought it might be cool for quilting? Who knows.

I spent the better part of the last hour gently removing the roots and washing it, and now I’m pretty sure the fabric originally formed a share cropper’s shirt from about the 1920s. There’s a button band, two pocket-sized rectangles, and some other bits. It was once a cream base, with stripes of blue and some other color (maybe yellow? hard to say), though it is quite stained and battered.

I feel very uncomfortable with this fabric, and immediately thought of you. I know you have, in the past, made quilt pieces that explore the nature of race in America, and wanted to offer this very strange parcel to you. I feel like it belongs to someone who will use it in an appropriate, thought provoking manner- something I know you would do. It’s not appropriate for a museum, both because of the way I removed it from the ground, and also the way in which I washed it before I realized what it is. It’s not a harmful chemical, just a sulfate based shampoo, which can cause deterioration in a closed cabinet.


Well, the fabric was interesting, with those different colored stripes and the heft of the weave with great drape. In particular, the unfinished buttonholes are compelling.


Now, last night, I wasn’t in the mood for something in-your-face, but rather I really wanted to do something traditional. Combining with some of my own handdyed indigo flour sacking in two tones of blue, I fell into a meditative state while picking up the rhythm of sew-then-press, sew-then-press.


And what is more traditional than a log cabin? This is a 14 x 17″ miniquilt that uses almost all of the striped fabric, with exposed holes and all. I interfaced the holes for durability.


As always, I haven’t yet finished the binding. It’s attached but needs to be tacked down. I have a feeling that the fabrics will once again transform after I wash the quilt, so we’ll revisit the final piece later.

Now that I re-read the email from E, I wish I’d waited for a more feisty time to use the fabric. But somehow, this fabric and this design truly are in keeping with my mood and the spirits buoying me through this moment.

ETA: Big thanks to Maya Donenfeld and Sew Mama Sew for naming this quilt the winner of the Reinvention Challenge!