A Quilt for a New Year
It is Birthday Season at our house. Four of our five grandchildren were born in the month of May. That doesn’t mean there are huge parties going on; it just means that I get to go shopping for small people outfits and pretty things. Shopping for my three small granddaughters is great fun given the fact I don’t have to personally try anything on in front of a full length mirror, and the outfits for toddlers and babies are cute. Little ones tend to look adorable in most anything. The hard part is not overspending.
I learned my lesson last Christmas. I had worked for months making the
baby girls Christmas dresses. They were gorgeous but in the end
ridiculous. All that work for the wee ones to wear a dress for one day
was a waste! All that love and labor lost save for whatever photographs
got taken. For their birthdays, the little ones are getting things they
can wear often and don’t require any ironing by their busy mothers. I
did enjoy doing the work, but every one was disappointed that the
dresses could not be worn at any other time but Christmas season.
My grandson, Jason, now nine years old, was very disappointed in the
fact that I’d made a quilt for his new baby sister in the fall but
hadn’t made one for him. He asked that I make him a quilt for
Christmas. Since I could not get it done in time with all those dresses
to make, I promised I would make one for his birthday. The quilt is
still a work in progress, but I’ve not far to go. He will have it for
his birthday, though it will be a few days late since I have to mail
I am not the best quilter in the world. Quilting is an art. To date, no
one has ever accused me of being the da Vinci of the quilting world.
Perhaps a bit closer to some of Dali’s melting clocks. I do enjoy it, but I need much more practice and a lot more time.
I live in a perpetual state of hope when it comes to quilting of the
sort that says a fairy god mother in a quilted dress will appear with
magic needle and glass-handled scissors and endow me with talent for at
least a day. Since that is unlikely, it seems smart to hedge my bets. I
have purchased a number of books about quilting in the past five years
through a book club to which I belong. They are full of tips and
patterns and interesting projects. It was through these purchases that
I stumbled on the Elm Creek Quilts series of novels by Jennifer
Chiaverini. Her first book was charming and her character of Sylvia
Bergstrom Compson started out as something of a likeable curmudgeon. It
was by way of that book the reader becomes acquainted with the
Bergstrom Family of Elm Creek Manor. The family’s history is told
I enjoyed the book enough to read a few more. The next book did not
impress me with its loose writing and rather mushy and contrived feel
to the storyline. As I read the third and fourth books, I could see a
great deal more complexity in the relationships of the main characters.
I found the storylines more finely drawn but I wasn’t sure I really
wanted to read any more of Ms. Chiaverini’s books. They are not the
“Great American Novel”; they are what Kool-Aid is to wine. Each has its
place. So, too, do the Chiaverini series of books.
A few weeks ago, as I was perusing the sale catalog for the book club, I noticed that there was a book in the series called The New Year’s Quilt
and that it was on sale. It was not one I’d read. I debated whether or
not the money spent would be a waste. After due consideration of the
affordable price tag, it seemed to be a chance worth taking. I felt
very much the way Charlie Brown feels when Lucy offers to hold the
football. But in the end I could not resist. It seemed appropriate that
I should be reading a book about quilting as I was working on one for
Like all of the Elm Creek Quilt novels, The New Year’s Quilt
is an easy read. One does not have to invest deeply in the book. It is
perfect for relaxing; there is nothing intense about it.
This story was pieced together like a quilt. It is bits and scraps from
the other novels and dovetailed with pieces of the characters’ already
known history and cobbled into an other tale that centered around a
quilt started on a lonely New Year’s Eve when Sylvia Compson moved back
to the family homestead and ended with that quilt being finished years
later. That quilt was to be given as a gift to the judgmental and
unforgiving daughter of Sylvia’s new husband, Andrew, as a symbol of
reflection and renewal.
The story was sweet and sentimental. It didn’t make me cry or laugh or
get angry or find peace. It reminded me of the soft and lovely stories
of childhood read before bed to ensure good dreams. If I come across
another Elm Creek Quilt novel I will be less wary about reading it.
I will say, however, the descriptions of Sylvia’s quilts and that of
the Bergstrom family made me really want to kick up my quilting skills
a notch and take a little extra time with Jason’s birthday quilt so he
has something he will enjoy for a long time to come, perhaps even be
something he might want to pass on to his son one day. It’s not every
day a young boy asks his grandmother to make him a birthday quilt.
At age 10, Anne realized she was never going to get to be Miss
America since reading a book was not an acceptable talent. So she went
on to get a job and raise a family. Along the way, she fixed meals,
picked up toys, helped with homework, and collected a drawer full of
rejection slips for her “great American novel.” It was not all bad,
however, since she ended up wallpapering a closet with them. She
currently designs and creates greeting cards for her tiny company, The
Frog Prints, LLC, and also works full-time as a Training Specialist.
Anne is currently tethered to reality by a loving spouse, two dogs and
the occasional hurricane that blows through Florida, although falling
headlong and happily into a book is still her favorite “talent.” She
can be reached at