Every Quilt Tells a Story: A Quilter’s Stash of Wit and Wisdom

Reviewed: December 19, 2003
By: Helen Kelly
Publisher: Whitecap Books
224 pages, $22.95

Until I moved west my only acquaintance with quilts was of the patchwork variety that by Grandmother and Mother made. Fancy designs and patterns were quite foreign to my experience and it took me quite a while to realize that quilts were more than just a way to use up surplus fabric or superannuated clothing.

Helen Kelly is a quilter. According to the promotional material accompanying this book, she is the “Erma Brombek” of quilters. This seems to mean that her regular column in Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine is a compendium of bits and pieces about her obsession and the many other people who share it. Appropriately, she calls it “Loose Threads”.

This book collects some seventy short pieces that she has written about “Q-People”, as she calls them, or the Quilting Life, as she might call it. The result is a combination of memoir, anecdote, theory and wry observation, all of which suggests that the quilter’s way of looking at the world might be a useful thing to cultivate.

I haven’t read all of this book, just eight or ten pieces, but each one has been an enjoyable little peek into a world I don’t know much about. Kelly has a clever style and she manages to combine her interests in an amusing and enlightening way.

The very first item in the book is “Kelly’s Laws for Quilters” and it sets the tone nicely. The rules are all cast in the form of being about quilting,, but this sample will show you that they cold apply to many other subjects.

First Law - The woman in the line ahead of you at the store will buy the last half yard of the fabric your wanted.

Fourth Law - The quilt book you put in a safe place for quick reference will be lost forever.

Ninth Law - The distance a spool of thread will roll under the quilting frame is equal to the length of your arm plus one inch.

I know just the person for whom this will make a nice gift. You probably do, too.