Slow patchwork, 1970s style

I’m currently reading “A Stitch in Time” by Penelope Lively. It’s a child’s book, and I’m not quite sure why I have it in the house: the story is completely unfamiliar, and the edition is too old to have belonged to one of my children.

The book is about Maria, who is 11, an only child on holiday with her parents in Lyme Regis in Dorset. Given the original publication date and the age of the heroine, it is written and set in my childhood, with Maria only a little older than me.

There was one paragraph that stood out for me, a description of an afternoon, where they were staying:

“The Fosters spent what Mrs Foster called a ‘quiet’ afternoon in the garden (but our afternoons are never noisy, thought Maria, never never, we just don’t have that sort of afternoon . . . ). Maria read, her father alternatively read the newspaper and slept beneath it, and her mother sewed. She was making a patchwork quilt. She had been making it for eight years now: it was very large, exquisitely designed and sewn, and would surely be beautiful when finished. Maria, when she was younger, had sometimes felt jealous of the patchwork quilt and once she had taken some of the pieces of material that her mother was collecting for it and put them in the bottom of the dustbin under the tea-leaves and potato peelings. It was quite the worst thing she had ever done and she still went hot and cold at the thought of it. Nowadays she no longer had any emotions of any kind about the quilt, but it did sometimes occur to her that it was taking her mother almost as long to make it as it had taken to make her, Maria, and that people often showed more interest in the quilt.”

My mother too had a patchwork bedspread that she was making at the time, of hexagonal paper piecing setting a flower pattern style. My mother too spent years over it, but when it was finished it was rarely used. By the time it was done, my parents used duvets, and my mother had moved on to American patchwork.