Love plus comfort, with batting in between

How better to celebrate a baby than with a quilt? Especially when it’s a quilt with a themed pattern. 

Courtesy of Murr Brewster
Baby Jack enjoys the completed shadow quilt made by the essay’s author.

There’s a new baby in my orbit, and there’s no better way to celebrate than to make him a quilt, I say. A quilt is love plus comfort, with batting in the middle. But it has to be personal. Teddy bears, bunnies, and lambs are too conventional. I got to thinking: What’s my theme? What makes this baby special?

The first thing that popped into mind, unfortunately, is that baby Jack showed up during a pandemic. He was born on Coronavirus Eve. The next day, the state was shut down. The virus itself has the symmetrical flair of a disco ball, but that hardly seems appropriate for a child’s blanket. 

I kept thinking.

When my mother and grandmother stitched quilts – by hand, and probably by the light of a North Dakota winter sun – they pieced them together out of old skirts and dresses. Nothing was wasted. 

I, on the other hand, buy brand-new fabric by the yard and slice it all up. If I’m going to go to all the trouble of sewing a quilt (by machine, by the light of a television), I want it to be just so. I had a look at my fabric stash and shook my head. Nothing there would do.

But the retail fabric stores were all closed. That’s coronavirus strike one. I had a look online. Where do I even start? Jack’s mama is a surgeon; his papa is a fisherman. A few keywords later, I’d located and ordered some compatible yardage: pink with stethoscopes, and blue with salmon. This thing was happening.

I put together a simple shadow quilt. Baby quilts aren’t large. All I needed was material for the back. Somewhere in my stash there had to be an appropriate remnant large enough. 

The best candidate was a deep coral with white flamingos. It was a stretch to think it fit any theme, but it was jolly and colorful, and I had plenty. I set it on the table and unfolded it. It was easily enough fabric. Or it would have been, if I had not just cut out my face mask from it. Right out of the middle, for some unknown reason.

Coronavirus strike two.

Of course, other quilt­ers piece together backings out of smaller bits all the time. Nothing really needs to match, on the back side. 

This pandemic has already tinkered with my need for control, so I might as well go for chaos. 

I pulled out the stash again.

You wouldn’t think someone with six large bins of fabric would have trouble finding a harmonious combination, but my efforts to buy just enough for a project and no more have apparently been wildly successful. I have saved everything from the size of a postage stamp up to the size of a tissue. This was going to require a new attitude.

What to do? Obviously, start with a log cabin block. You begin with a red square, representing the hearth, the fire, the center of your life. Then you add strips-of-fabric “logs” all around until you have a home. A home in which to raise your babe. My block is what they call “wonky”: The logs aren’t parallel. Still, it holds together. We’re all at home, but times aren’t normal.

I stitched together what I had, and what I had left over, until the comfort side of the love quilt was finished. Love and babies in the time of coronavirus wasn’t what I’d started out to do, but here it is. 

Stay warm, child. Your new life coincides with a new life for all of us. We waste not, we love always, and we see things with new eyes. With a new attitude.

Editor's note: An earlier version of the photo caption with this essay misstated the relationship between the essay author and the recipient of the baby blanket.

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