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The Charm Quilt

I came home from vacation to this beautiful handmade quilt that Kristi sewed for me.

The Charm Quilt The Charm Quilt
Quilt by Kristi

My sister has been working on this project for almost a year, and I like lying or sitting on the quilt, identifying swatches of fabric from different stages of my life: There is the striped terrycloth from the robe that was my Halloween costume the year I went as Joseph with his coat of many colors. That one is the tiger-striped felt that Kristi used to sew her tiger costume the year that I was in Portland. We still have that costume.

Kristi has a secret trademark that she sews into all her quilts–she stitches a little juju bag into each one, hidden inside its batting, which is filled with her hair, toenail clippings, and other personal artifacts. This gave me the idea of an object being haunted–the hair and clippings remind me so much of voodoo spells.

Last year after I finished my horror novel The Collectors, I found myself without a big project and I wanted to write more. This time, though, I wanted a stronger female protagonist. Sabrina of The Collectors was interesting, frozen and repressed, but too lukewarm for my tastes. I wanted a female warrior for my next novel, one that happened to come from a strong family line of matriarchs.

I knew I wanted to do something with quilts, and Kristi gave me one of her quilt design books to page through. I skimmed the pages–pretty, pretty, pretty–and then the right one reached out and grabbed me: the charm quilt.

The charm quilt originated in the late-1800s and was all the rage among young women for some time. The rule for making a charm quilt is that all the pieces of fabric must be given to the quilter, and there was a story told (or maybe I just made it up) that one of the fabric’s donors would become the woman’s sweetheart and husband.

I loved this idea combined with that of a haunted object. In our family, we have quilts handed down from my great grandmother. They have her initials proudly stitched on one corner of each quilt, but the family lore is that her slave girl sewed these quilts and then my great grandma Blaine made these her own by initialing them. If somebody took credit for my work, I’d be very angry and could see trying to put a curse on that work.

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