I was always obsessed with how-to books when I was young. Etiquette books, home keeping manuals, knitting projects’ books, make-up books…I even had one for a while on how to make your own whiskey. I devoured it but my father made it known that it would be frowned upon in his eyes if his 11-year-old daughter made a still. “But I don’t want to drink it daddy, I just want to KNOW HOW to make it.”
One of my favorites though, and a book that has actually influenced me quite a bit on my views of wealth, was a book on the history and making of Swedish quilts. I was fascinated. It talked about how people were so poor and they wore all their clothes to bed and then if they had any extras they would drape them over their bodies while they were sleeping to stay warm. As the clothes became worn out and fell to pieces, the rags were sewn together to make patchwork quilts. And then it discussed how quilts became a status symbol. If you had a visitor over to spend the night, you would stack all of your folded quilts in their room, and the more quilts you had, the wealthier you were.
That book unconsciously influenced my beliefs and thinking towards my own thoughts on what wealth is, including my mum’s free spirited outlook on life. I have a friend whose mother is an amazing artist when it comes to making quilts. I have memories of being in high school and there was this huge wooden hutch thing in their living room and it was just stacked with Suzie’s heavy, beautiful quilts. That was just bliss, being in their home and it always seemed slightly cold and you would just curl up on the couch and pull one of those deliciously thick quilts over yourself and fall asleep. I thought that was part of being wealthy.
When I realized that this book, this long forgotten library book of Swedish culture and quilts influenced my beliefs into what riches and happiness and material wealth was, I started examining my poetry and writings in my journals. And it’s filtered down into them; by reading my writing I realized that wealth is found in the family you surround yourself with, the books you read that are as comfortable as an old sweater, good food and drink, firelight, notebooks of creamy paper and a good pen where the ink really flows out of it so you can write fast, fresh flowers, dogs, leather anything, music all the time of all different sorts, horses and last, but not least, stacks of quilts.
Right now I’m a little obsessed with the how-to series of the Foxfire books. Have you heard of them? A high school teacher from the Appalachian Mountains was trying to garner some enthusiasm in his students and they started researching old traditions and crafts of their area. You can learn all sorts of useful things, like how to dress a hog, make a broom, cure snake bite, weave, make a quilt and ta-ra, ta-ra, make a still. Sorry daddy….
So far in my lifetime I’ve only made one quilt and it was for someone else. But in my future, I’ve made a whole stack of quilts, and they’re waiting there for my friends and family to wrap themselves in forgotten Swedish dreams and a young girl’s beliefs.
xo xo Liz