by Suzanne Labry
The Superstitious Quilter
There are four corners to my bed,
on which I now this new quilt spread.
If I this night in trouble be,
may the one I love come rescue me.
On a recent Friday the 13th, my seven-year-old granddaughter asked me what was wrong with that day. She had apparently heard that something was strange about it.
As a mother, and now a grandmother, I have struggled with how to explain human behavior to a child. Not being a superstitious person myself, I did my admittedly feeble best to explain to her what a superstition was. By the time I finished, I’m pretty sure she was really sorry she’d asked!
Two things I know for sure: belief and facts do not necessarily go hand-in-hand, and if someone is deeply convinced that something is true, then no evidence to the contrary will convince that
The other thing about superstitions is that they often are handed down from one era/culture/family/individual to another, and their origins and meanings get distorted along the way. And yet they persist, with little regard for truth. Psychologists say that it has to do with the human desire for control, and because we aren’t really in control of much of anything, superstitions make us feel safer somehow and more able to influence good luck—or bad.
Just about any activity that has been done for a long time can have a set of superstitions associated with it and quilting is no exception. Most of us are probably familiar with some of the common quilting superstitions, such as the one proclaiming that since only God can create perfection, quilts should include an intentional mistake. Many others revolve around religion as well, such as never starting a quilt on a Friday because that’s the Devil’s Day, or not quilting on the Sabbath.
Brides and grooms seem to have a large set of their own special quilting superstitions (although they date to an earlier time period), such as those specifying that prior to getting married, a girl must have 13 quilts, the last of which must be a bridal quilt to be used on the wedding night; or that the Wandering Foot pattern should never be made for a young man turning 21 because it would cause him to run away.
Then there are the ones that revolve around techniques, such as using your teeth to cut thread will cause them rot and fall out, or breaking a quilting thread will cause bad luck, as will putting black in a quilt. Another old belief is that whatever a person dreams while sleeping a new quilt for the first time will come true.
The Lone Star pattern has its own category of superstitions and all of them are grim. One holds that if you make a Lone Star quilt, somebody in your family will die soon. Then there’s the one that says if you start a Lone Star, you won’t live to finish it. Another says that if a woman begins a Lone Star quilt, she will become a widow before she finishes it. Still another maintains that it is bad luck for an unmarried woman to make a Lone Star quilt, because doing so will cause her to be an old maid (at least she doesn’t die!).
Who knows how or why all these superstitions got started? But if they were true, given all the Lone Star quilts that have been made, it’s a wonder there are any quilters left…