In the chilly days when winter seems to go on forever, one of the best things to do is curl up under a nice warm quilt with a good book. It helps you forget the frosty temperatures and freezing winds outside, and with a few flips of a page (or rearranging of pixels, depending on how you do your reading these days) you are transported elsewhere, where endless exciting destinations await you.
You’re traveling across time, space and consciousness, but remain in one place. That’s where the quilt comes in.While keeping you nice and cozy, it becomes your vehicle to a new realm – a train, a plane, a spaceship, dragon or a magic carpet, and if you happen to fall asleep while reading it will whisk you off to Dreamland without having to stop and ask for directions.
Is it overkill to snuggle up under a quilt and read a book about quilts?
One thing (among many) that I love about my job is that almost every quilting book that is published comes across my desk. I look through each and every one of them, since I never know what valuable information they might contain. Most of them are instruction books, with lots of pictures and patterns, and are great references to turn to for any quilting query.
But recently I received a small, unassuming book, much different from the usual large and colorful books I normally see. I glanced through it, noting the tight text and absence of pictures, and decided to look at it more closely when I had time. It was called The Travelers: Present in the Past by Elaine Schmidt, published by Kansas City Star Books, 2012.
So on my lunch break I opened it up to the first page and started to read. And read all through my break. Over the next few days, I found myself sneaking a peek every time I got a chance, eager to find out what might happen next. I don’t want to ruin the story or deprive you the pleasure of finding out for yourself what a fun book this turned out to be, but I’ll try to tempt you with a brief synopsis.
“One touch of an antique quilt and Nona McDonald’s life is changed forever,” reads the blurb on the back. “The haunting dreams she has been having for weeks – of horses and buggies and World War II factories – now make sense. Nona can travel through time, just as many in her family have for generations.” Nona uses a quilt to travel, not just in her imagination like I do, but through time and across space, and it is just the beginning of a wild and enlightening adventure for Nona and her friends from different eras that she meets along the way. (Mary Kate put it best, “The quilt is a portkey!”)
It is definitely geared toward the young adult audience, but as an old adult I see no shame in getting excited about YA fiction. If you prefer more intellectual reading material, more power to you, but I’d recommend this book for anyone in the target market as well as anyone who loves a fun, light and fast-moving story. The few loose ends left at the end of the story hint at further installments, which is always a bonus as far as I’m concerned. If you know a young person who likes to read, this would be a great gift.
What I really liked about the whole premise is the idea that quilts are a direct link to the past and can give us insight into the vastly different way that people in past eras used to live. As Nona travels through time, she learns how much she takes for granted in a modern world, and how resourceful people can be even without having the most basic conveniences. Meeting her ancestor who made the fateful quilt and realizing that a 13 year old girl cut, pieced and quilted an entire quilt by hand makes Nona realize how much practical knowledge has been lost as technological advances were gained.
So if you are lucky enough to have a quilt made by a family member in days past, this might be just the book to bring as you snuggle in under it for your journey aboard the quilt express. Even if you don’t have an heirloom quilt, sitting down under a quilt lovingly stitched with care, with hours of time and mountains of effort put into it can be a direct connection to a different way of life than we live now. Being of the last generation that can remember what the world was like before the internet, before we had everything in the world available to us at all times, often makes me think of the small things we don’t know we’ll miss until they are gone. Even though we no longer have to cut up old clothes to make a quilt, and we can buy an infinite variety of beautiful fabrics to use in a quilt, the simple activities of planning, piecing and quilting connect us to a way of life that doesn’t exist for many people anymore.
In The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, one very important piece of advice given to space travelers is that they should never travel without a towel (If you want to know why, read the book!). I am going to go ahead and recommend that all time travelers take a quilt along with them for warmth, comfort, education and inspiration along the way.
So, just once this winter, take that quilt off the wall, off the shelf, out of the hope chest, and let it enfold you and warm you like a big hug across time. If you bring just the right book, you can board the quilt express and go give the past a big hug in return.
I’d love to know what book you’d bring along on the quilt express! When we return to the present we can check out what’s new on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. And keep checking our website for chances to win fabric for your next quilt/family heirloom/time machine.