The Quilt Scout

by Mary Fons

You Can’t Wrap a Baby
In An iPad

Column #2

Fact: You could actually make a quilt for the Prince and Princess and it would be worth something to them. Try that with an iPad. Photo: WikipedUnless I'm at a cocktail party specifically hosted by quilters, I am usually the only quilter at a cocktail party.


When I talk about what I do for work, someone will invariably say, "Sorry—did you say you're a quilter?" I nod and say, “yes.” And then two things inevitably happen. First, the person cocks their head and goes "Huh!" and then, "My auntie used to knit, too!" Sometimes I gently explain the difference between quilting and knitting, but I’ve learned it’s far easier to ask after the auntie. Then I spear a another cocktail shrimp.


Non-quilters don’t think about quilts. The majority of them do know what they are, but it’s rare to discover an aficionado who isn’t a quilter her- or himself. Most just had one in the house as a kid. And it’s a testament to the power of quilts that its humble presence in the home is precisely what made it so valuable to the house and the people living within it. Quilts equal home and love, because no quilt was ever made in anger.


But that's all perfectly okay. I don't know about programming in C++. I know nothing about the Great Blue-Footed Booby or how to fix the dishwasher when it’s dripping water all over the floor, as it is doing at this very moment.


Well, there isn’t. Image: Mary FonsBut then…


Then a quilt comes into your field of vision, and I can tell you exactly when it happens: when there's a baby coming. When there's a marriage. When someone is really, really sick. Unlike the Blue-Footed Booby, quilts arrive when they are needed.


And what I insist upon, what I know is true, what I make sure to say at any cocktail party is that quilts are still needed, and still entirely relevant by virtue of what they are. Quilts are love, manifested. To put it another way:


You can't wrap a baby in an iPad.


Technology is galloping away with us all, and I'm riding bareback with all my quilter friends who, you could argue, are more digitally connected than other hobbyists. We have pictures of quilts to share, online bees; the entire Modern Quilt Guild "movement" was born online.


Quilters, Lancaster Co., VA, 1941. Photo: Charles O'RearBut all the binary code on the planet can't comfort a baby the way wrapping it up in a quilt can.


Another example? Give a newlywed couple a handmade quilt and watch death rays emit from the eyes of everyone else at the shower— the crystal fruit bowl from Tiffany's and the Kitchen-Aid mixer might as well be junk from the Dollar Store.


You can't beat a quilt with a stick. They're magic. They're irreplaceable. They're also positively American, at least when we speak specifically of patchwork quilts (as opposed to wholecloth or fancy boutis stuff from Europe, and they can keep all of that.)


Hey, I want my own MakerBot (3-D printer). My smartphone, myself. In the Venn diagram of "Nerdy," "Creative," and "Friendly," "Quilter" lies smack in the middle. But what gadget—and while we're at it, what work of art—can you wrap around you, sit on, wash, cry under, make a tent out of, mop things up with, hug, toss, crumple, rip, repair, and then give as an heirloom? I'd guess there's probably just one answer to that question.


And so we still make quilts. We still do. And we will for a long time. Because try as we might to wriggle out of it, we're still human. Humans need comfort and joy, and for me and my fellow grieving, joyous, aging, newborn, or just plain chilly humans, a quilt is just the thing.