The day was Tuesday, January 24th. The Orange Menace had just been sworn in, millions of women took to the streets a few days before to march and show we were more than pussies to be grabbed, and–it seemed–battle lines had been drawn. This meant that in addition to the voices raised in protest, there were voices raised in delight. In acceptance. In whole-hearted, power-bearing, damn-the-torpedoes endorsement, such as:
- An Oklahoma criminal appeal court ruling state law does not criminalize oral rape if the victim is unconscious. (Later amended, but JFC…)
- The Texas Supreme Court agreeing to consider rolling back same-sex marriage rights.
- The announcement of North Dakota’s HB1203–allowing an individual to strike a protester with their car without being held liable for death or injury.
Yes, I saw these stories (and more) all on January 24th. I was full of rage, disgust, shock, but most of all, the need to do something. But what? How? There are so many people being hurt and oppressed and brutalized on an hourly basis that it was difficult to find my footing and figure out where to start.
Then it hit me.
You see, back in the mid/late 90s, my mom (as part of her work group) was touring a camp for kids with cancer when she realized the beds had nothing more than a sheet and a utilitarian blanket. She asked the person leading the tour if the kids didn’t have something a little more bright/comforting/hopeful to put on their beds. No, the camp was run on donations and as much as they wished to give the kids more bright/comforting/hopeful things, they couldn’t always afford it. So my mom (whose high school picture bears the accompanying “She takes the T out of can’t.”) went home and started on her one-woman crusade to make these kids quilts. And then went on to make quilts for other kids, the homeless, and anybody else who needed them. She started a scrapbook of each quilt she did but stopped around 400. I asked her recently what her number was and, combined with the 5-person quilt group she started 10 years ago, she’s around 6,000. Yeah, Mom’s a fucking rock star.
But she also passed along quilting in my DNA. Mom taught me how to sew back when I was in grade school and it’s always come pretty naturally to me, unlike knitting or crocheting. I even made a few quilts back in the late 90s for gifts, but haven’t really sewed since then. But on that Tuesday, when I thought of women getting grabbed, beaten, raped, abused, an image came to mind: a woman, curled up the corner, a quilt wrapped around her like a shield, providing what little warmth and comfort such a thing could after such a thing could happen. And I knew what I had to do. Like my mom, I would bring a little comfort, a little hope, a little brightness to a very dark corner of the world.
It was going to be a big task, cost some money, and throw a massive hurricane into the middle of our home, but I felt it in my bones. That night, I told my husband about my rage and my desire to help and my plan and after he thought for a minute or two, turned to me and said, “You know, if we moved the sofa in the front room you could set up your sewing machine there. Or you could use the dining room table. Or both, even, and we’ve got the rainy day fund. It’s all yours.” Mom’s not the only rock-star in my family.
7 weeks later, I was able to deliver 7 quilts to the Sojourner Center in Phoenix, a domestic violence center that, among many other things, provides emergency shelter and transitional housing for victims of domestic violence. There were 4 baby/toddler/crib quilts (nearly 50% of Sojourner’s residents are children, half of those children under the age of 5.): two identical Peter Cottontail flannel quilts, a Nut Brown Hare/Guess How Much I Love You quilt with a fuzzy fleece backing, and a cat flannel quilt where the yarn ties became cat whiskers.
And there were 3 adult quilts–one a lap/snuggle quilt with a fun flannel backing of cartoon squirrels and birds and trees and 2 of the same 3-block pattern with a navy flannel backing (queen sized).
I also tagged each quilt, hoping that the person who had it (or was reading it) would know there was somebody out there pulling for them, believing in them. The child quilts got a more gentle message while the adult quilts got all the strength I could put into a small tag of fabric.
So that’s what I’ve been doing, what I’m going to continue to do. As Brittany Packnett says, use one hand to battle and the other to build. I’m going to keep building, keep sewing. I’m going to keep making baby quilts for Sojourner, as they have a real need for them, and my next batch of adult quilts are going to be for a rape crisis center, the ones after that for LGBTQIAP+ youth. And I’m going to use my sewing to battle as well. I’m planning to make quilts for more political statements, including the biggest, pinkest, fuzziest pussy quilt you’ve ever dreamed of, and woe be to the mother fucker who grabs it without my permission.