Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Patchwork Pieces

I have yet to finish the patchwork quilt I began in 1975 (one day … ) but I am fascinated by patchwork that other people do and I like reading about it – in fact (all those wonderful patterns, their origins and their makers) and in fiction.

The fifth book I read in February was:
The Aloha Quilt (Elm Creek Quilts Novels)
Jennifer Chiaverini
A Christian Aid book sale purchase from last year.
There are umpteen other titles in this series. I’d read them to find out more about patchwork patterns but not for plot or characterisation. The story was so wrapped around the subject of patchwork that any action seemed like a token gesture, and the people were there principally to relay the history of/how to make Hawaiian patchwork – which sounded gorgeous, pity there were no pictures of it apart from the cover.

My favourite novel in which patchwork plays a part (in fact, one of my favourite novels ever) is (the late lamented) Carol Shield’s Happenstance which I’ve just finished re-reading. Its format is original – it’s in two parts, one from the wife’s point of view and one from the husband’s, each printed a different way up from the other; it doesn’t matter which one you read first but it’s fun if you re-read it to try it the other way round.

Brenda, wife of Jack and mother of two, is making a name for herself as a quilter and leaves her family in Philadelphia for a few days to attend a prestigious craft fair in Chicago, during which time she wins a prize, loses an expensive new raincoat and is almost unfaithful. Jack is left to hold the fort, the fort being complicated by the unexpected arrival of his oldest friend, by the near-suicide of a neighbour, by a crisis at work, and by a snowstorm.

Quaker patchwork featured in The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier. I heard Tracy talk about the book at the Edinburgh Book Festival – she said she took a patchwork class as part of her research and loved it so much she’s carried on doing it.

I’ve just spent a lovely weekend at the Scottish Association of Writers Annual Conference. Author Linda Gilliard was one of the guest speakers/adjudicators and I had the pleasure of sitting next to her one lunch-time. She is a hybrid author – partly traditionally published and partly (and successfully) self-published. I bought one of her books that I hadn’t read before called House of Silence.

Summed up as ‘Rebecca meets Cold Comfort Farm’ the blurb includes:
When Gwen discovers fragments of forgotten family letters sewn into an old patchwork quilt, she starts to piece together the jigsaw of the past … ’

Really looking forward to reading it.

I’d love to write a story involving patchwork – but I can only hope it won’t take as long to finish as my quilt; not sure I’ll be around in forty years time ...


  1. Hi Kate, for all that I don't sew, I have read two of the above and also bought The House of Silence at the SAW w/e. Maybe the Hawaiian lady should have written a non-fiction book. Anne Stenhouse

  2. Let me know if you find any other 'patchwork' books, Anne.