“The gift is not used up in use.” (Lewis Hyde 1979, “The gift”)
This quilt, which I have called “The Gift” to honour the parts taken by Sheila and Annie in ‘gifting’ me this lovely, warm quilt, started with the gift of a tablecloth by an anonymous person to a garage sale run by the Sisters of East Timor. This group of women raises money to support women and girls to gain an education – another manifestation of the gift at work in our community. The gifting (unlike the acquiring) process re-doubled as my friend Sheila (who bought it for $1 she thinks), then gave it to me (Sheila gives me lots of little, lovely, inspiring things, for no reason other than to share).
It was a lovely piece, a whole cloth with a bold purple Celtic design printed onto a soft cream background. I have always loved the winding and weaving of lines in the Celtic design tradition. It seemed too beautiful to use as a tablecloth, not withstanding that I already have several in the cupboard, which I rarely use. Looking at it, I considered whether the design could be sectioned and re-constructed in panels for a wall-hanging, but the thought of keeping it a whole-piece cloth appealed more. Most ‘whole-cloths’ are hand quilted, something I had never done. I’m a machine quilter, and felt no inclination to undertake what I thought would make this quilt a special whole-cloth quilt.
The next stage of the gifting process related to this cloth came about during a conversation with Annie in the “Turning Page” bookshop, the business she runs with her husband Alan. Yes, she hand quilts, and yes, she would be happy to hand quilt the top that I’d been given. Forthwith I found a backing: a shade of purple patterned with butterflies and growing vines to represent the 'rebirth' of a tablecloth, to closely match the purple of the top. Annie said she would provide the batting. And, the cost for her work, I asked? Replacing the batting was the obvious starting point, to which I readily agreed, still expecting that there would be further monetary payment on finishing the quilt. About eighteen months later, Annie told me she was nearing completion of the quilting. When I went into pick up the quilt and discuss payment she would not hear of any monetary exchange – just enough batting, preferably wool, for a queen-size quilt. What a wonderful gift!
I will add more to this story, as seen from the perspectives I have gained after reading “The Gift” by Lewis Hyde.