The Quilt Collection

by Mariss Everitt

This page contains poems about quilts I have made and which have previously been published on my blog. There are 36 poems with photographs of the accompanying quilts.

A Full Bed of Roses

The needle carouses
through strip upon strip of cloth,
spins out a dizzying
merry-go-round of roses.

Skew-centred around sun-yellow
every bloom unbuds
of its own sweet volition,
each one, new sprung, calls

for another – my Bernina purrs on
to stitch candy floss pink
or apricots and oranges
in a circle dance of fun.

Reds spell the wounds
and throb of womanhood,
rich burgundies
mute the prettiness.

Waxed youth on the wane,
I turn out rose after rose,
find there are forty-eight,
stop, and see the spell break

African Mosaic

It came from
a book on African art,
this yearning
to visit the temple,
to stand barefoot on that cold marble,
to see the diamond mosaic,
to feel the space and antiquity

From the familiarity
of my workroom
I went there,
stood and cut cloth
to match the marble,
sat and stitched
one inch blocks of fabric,
pointed and neat cornered,
one to another
to echo the pattern
and still my heart.

Amy’s quilt

I made you a quilt 
of forty-two blocks 
(six across seven down)
with 21 squares 
in strips of berry colours
and 21 plain blocks 
of burnt orange.

As I sewed I hoped 
that love would stitch herself in
but wooed her, anyway,
with slivers of silver and gold
for bright strips 
on the plain blocks
from 1 to 21
to count the candles on the cakes 
that processed  through the years
Belly Dance #1

Stomach muscles 
ripple flesh
into fluid circles of delight,
perfumed garden
and silky night

ancient enticement
sidles down
the spiral

and always the bellybutton
stillpoint at the centre
holy omphalos
that feeds the embryo.

I don’t dare
to do this dance.
Instead I stitch
baubles and beads
onto bold blocks
of sari silks and satins
bellybutton them
with embossed blazons
then circle them 
with more stitchery
and couchings of gold.
Bellydance #2

And here’s another 
smaller dance,
stitched from the scraps
that would not
sit still.
Bellydance #3

And a baby one
pieced from the scraps
of the scraps
until they were
all used up.
Beyond Blue

A bend in the line
teases the mind 
out of stricture
into contemplation
of what lies 
beyond the blues.

Angled lines break 
the rigidity
of the old pattern’s
Then the soft hues
of purples and blues
hint at hidden rhymes.
Blue Moon

Two moons full in that July

Night sky shwe-shwes in the beyond

Silvered beads sing the crescent, wax the rounding

365 moons in all their phases

Change ringing with certainty

The sea answers the pulling call

Secret record, subtly stitched

Extraordinary orbit of ordinary reassurance

Go little quilt
into the world,
proclaim your place
in a book of leaves,
signifying one
that turned

Centrepiece #1 : Savannah Song

The sweeping grassland
waves from the edges
of eight pieces of fabric.

The shades of grass
call to the shrinking herds,
lament the encroaching deserts,
nudge my slumbering reptilian brain
to find that ancient pathway
snaking through the fields of grass
now covered
by cities and civilization.

Deep in the folds of this quilt
is a song for the Savannah.

Centrepiece #2 : Friendship Quilt

Not a traditional friendship quilt
where memories and blessings
are stitched into squares
by a circle of quilters,

but a tribute to friendship itself
through the gifts of fabric,
rich-hued and stagger-striped,
from a circle of quilters,

friends who gathered
to try out my centrepiece method,
added new twists to the design
so that those unsewn gifts
got stitched into a quilt that sings
of happy companionship.
A sonnet to Centrepiece #3

A set of dyed fabrics in peacock hues,
A piece of Chinese cloth shiny and bold,
Loose woven in emerald, purple and gold,
Shot with turquoise and green, to shock the blues.
This is the palette that waits to unfold
Into a quilt of many coloured jewels.
An ordered design calls me to choose
A path that is straight, to do what’s foretold.
I sew to rote, follow the set pattern,
Find no surprises, no serendipity –
Bored by the boredom of rigid rows.
But lo, the sewn seed glistens, then grows
Through the uniform equanimity
And fans out into a quilt that glows

Circling the Square

There is a golden block of blocks,
– a detail from a lovers’ quilt 
in Klimt’s Partial Fulfilment  –
that lodged itself on the wall behind my eye.
The after-image lurks,
– like the golden mean 
that gives hidden form
in nature’s beauty –
until I refabricate that bit of painted quilt,
return it to cloth in slivers of fabric gold.

I circle this square of squared shapes
with rows of more blocks, an echoing green
of browns and beiges, silvers and pieces of gold.

Framed by these banded rows,
couched in an inner frame
of curved pathways that fold back on themselves,
the mounted image shines
as a clovered centre of accomplishment.
Cobhouse Village

Usually I construct and roof
house after house in a production line
until there are enough for a village,
a community of nestled homes.

Some are bright and skewed
with red-pitched roofs and gaily painted,
others fabricated pale and square
flat topped by corrugated iron, wooden doored.

This time a gift of earth-tone fabrics
and a documentary on cob construction
led me to a dream of pastoral ease,
earth houses peaceful on a hillside.

In the back corner of the fabric shop
they stack the overdyes 
– ink heavy bolts of cloth

that are black and stiff 
with the layers
of reprinted patterns.

The trick is to sense what’s buried there
and then to take one’s chances,
for sometimes it’s fool’s gold.

I’ve developed a canny eye that probes
beneath the inky smudge, searching
for bits of brightness and bold lines.

I was looking for inspiration 
on the shelves of new clean fabric 
when I saw that bolt 

out of the corner of my eye
and the lime green beneath the black ink cloud
snatched like lightning.

As the roll unfurled upon the counter
– metre after metre of swirling patterns
within the columns overprinted
on the original design –
my excitement grew
into a purchase of ten metres.

After soaking, hosing, washing, rinsing
the fabric again and again, until the water
was no longer a river of ink 

the pattern came through, 
bold and true,
and it was, indeed, unique.

It hung on the line, 
drying into a brighter brilliance.
I sat in the garden,
unthinkingly traced
the dance of the design
onto the back of my eyeball.

Its imprint unfolded like grace
and I set to to make the quilt,
found matching plains and the cutting line
then sewed strip upon strip into place,
interleaving the thin bright bands
in the overdye’s intricate design.
I turned these into blocks,
pinned up a checkerboard
of pieced and unsewn squares,
stood back to squint-size it up
and somewhere between gut and mind,
saw that the blocks must be redefined.

In measured steps 
I sliced the squares
into rectangles 
to echo Fibonacci’s series,
felt the quilt resound 
with a pleasing click,
saw again that this world 
is ruled by chance,
and that with a bit of luck
contingency comes disguised
as serendipity, brings a quilt
to reflect this synchronicity.

My intention 
– buried as deep
as rock strata 
beneath the mined 
and broken earth –
was abstracted 
into straight strips
and squared off.

The obsessive search
until the silver seam 
is found.
the gutted Earth 
gasps, goes unheard.

Who would follow 
these strange maps
turtle turned into
a quiltmaker’s template?
The geologist
who has it now.
Extension 1
for Sandy

Caribbean – a place where greening rain
lushes down on simple stoeped houses.
I’ve only been there on Walcott’s words
and through your letters from the island.

Here urbanised housing sprawls
on the once wild land
where blue sky and birds still sing 
above the bared brown of earth.

I sewed this into a quilt of cotton cloth
to warm the body and the eye.
I’m glad it crossed the seas with you,
and rests now in an island house.
Extension 3

Outside Alice you’ll find
a house-covered hill,
row upon row gaping
roofless and doorless
 – grimacing at some
corrupted contract left undone.

It is a ghost town
though no-one has lived or died here,
the rough streets have not rung
with children’s trills or mothers’ calls 
– barren shells, the houses stretch
into the distance of broken promises.

The wasteland becomes a sketch
in my workbook, for I see a quilt
blanketing the skyline,
a hill covered in painted blocks
curiously coloured. (The painter
must have kept to his contract.)

Back home I turn the sketch
into a cotton quilt of happy houses,
doored, windowed and roofed
ready for occupation
in a world where no-one lives,
but promises are dreamt into fulfilment.
Extension 4

During idyllic weeks on Patmos
where St John’s Revelation still reverberates
I used up a spool of film
on the blue and white houses
that float up the hill from the quayside.

The photographs have faded
but not the memory woven
into these township houses
– as simple and as square –
but made bold and squat
by joblots of paint.

Forest Archive

Archived alphabetically from a,
Boxed and ordered where b
Comes after a and is followed by c,
Documents foldered for posterity.
Each box is the same size – an easy
Form to follow. Copy the motif
Given in rectangles of energy
Holding the papered lives and aches,
In acid-free folders, of writers who’ve died
Just recently or long ago,
Killed by chance or inevitable decay.
Living authors too, their letters
Merging with the manuscripts of women and men
No longer with us, but whose work lives on –
Outlines, drafts, and the books also
Preserved on paper, filed in the archive’s keep.

Quilt this, I thought, follow the cue
Residing in this boxed array
Set out and shelved in neatness.
The template is there, just copy it to a T
Using the form and parchment hues.
Vanity, as it turned out, for the reverie
Would not materialise. The rectangles withdrew,
Exactitude excused itself. Instead
Yearning green crept in to defy my
Zestful plan. And I sewed a fabric forest.

Jacob’s Ladder

Banded rungs 
of fabric steps 
rising to greet 
the angels

It was so clear
in my mind.

In the stitching
the central silver strip
shifted to one side,
mocked my motives.

As clarity slipped
I mused:
Why call the angels
to a wrestling match?
Klee’s Curtain

With his seeing eye and tacit hand
Klee captured on canvas
the pattern and flow of fabric.

A curtain became an attic beauty
hinting at a story of unknown lives
behind its shielding folds.

Cloth warms as it breaths
through its ephemeral fibres,
offers more comfort than painted art.

Moved by this unmoving curtain
I returned it into cloth.
Lime Squares

Echoes of hot days,
the tonic of gin
with lots of ice to spice
the cooling clink
against the glass

Soda fizz and sliced lemon
in zestful curlings
tango on the tongue,
as the heat recedes 
with each slow sip.

Our watered home,
the womb of life,
blinks as a bright blue cell
from outer space.

Earth is a seedbed 
for the myriad microbes
that dance upward
into all the forms
we’ve classified as kingdoms
with ourselves enthroned
as the crown of creation.

Without us Earth would be Eden,
balanced and beautiful,
the green grass of our home
untrammelled and not laid to waste.

On this bit of cloth at least
the fecundity of forests and flowers
flourishes unhindered.
The Phoenix Song

If you’ve seen a loerie flash 
(scarlet and emerald green to make the eye sing)
you’ll know that catch of breath
as this shy bird flies
and shows its secret underwing.

If you’ve read of the phoenix
(purple and blood red in flames of carnage)
you’ll know the story of hope
as this mythical bird burns
then rises from charred plumage.

If you can imagine
how the fabric fanned
these thoughts
you’ll see the energy 
stitched into this quilt.

Rainbow’s edge

The pulsing undertow
of blue, indigo, violet
unfurls as a rainbow.

The end colours of the curve
shades of purple-blues
rise up like ghosts from the grave.

These spectres alight 
from the spectrum’s edge,
prefigure the elusive pot of gold.

Measured in steps, then 
swept along by hidden melodies
the quilt dances its own song.
The Rules of Quilting
for Elisma

At your sampler quilt course
I learnt the basic rules
of quiltmaking – the shortcuts
and where corners can’t be cut.

Like the grounding of grammar
or of mathematical theorems,
one must know the methods and formulae
of cloth and stitchery.

You taught us how the time-worn
designs of traditional quilts
were originally hand-sewn 
from scraps, in thrift and for warmth.

Those resourceful women named
the patterns they patiently pieced,
created templates that have stayed
like well-loved tales in a storybook.

Railfence, Little Red Schoolhouse,
Logcabin, Drunkard’s Path,

Flying Geese, Wild Goose Chase,
Granny’s Fan, Nine Patch, and more.

Starting with Railfence – the simplest one –
you showed us how to cut and sew
our way through strips, squares, oblongs,
triangles, circles, stars, and crazy patching,

all the while teaching the use of colour,
its tones and hues, how to create contrast
by following another kind of grammar
contained in the cogs of the colour wheel.

True teacher, you let me stray
with my outsized blocks, warned 
I’d struggle to make a neat squared-off quilt, 
corner to matching corner.

But helped me anyway to devise
a rural scene of houses and fields
with baskets of fruit and friendly stars 
– a nice blanket for our Hogsback bed.
Shifting Rock Strata

Taffeta is shot
with contrasting thread
so that the fabric tantalizes
in woofs and warps
as it follows the light.

I chose a range 
woven in earth tones
and a red-orange one for fire
to reflect our planet’s core
and its radiating rock strata.

The quilt probes
the secrets of Earth’s depths
where molten lava seethes
and a restless dragon furnaces a fire 
that pleats stone-steeled layers into folds. 

Or finds a fault and erupts.
Singing strips

Born of the taffeta selvages
(the bright outer edges
salvaged from Shifting Rock Strata)
this quilt sings
of happy surprises.

Pinned onto five strips of black,
the bright bits sat for a while
and then began to sway 
to a melody played by the leftover squares
from that same set of fabric.

The next step
was to line up and layer
the strips and squares,
like dancing girls prancing 
before a black background

Then this impromptu song & dance
shouted for the embellishment
of beads and shiny stitches
and called for a quilted backdrop of gold.

Silver Squares

Not really squares, but oblongs
of silvery sheens and bronzed gold,
celestial songs floating 
in the blackness beyond.

Not really silver, but shades
of shiny fabrics and bright beads,
images from golden days
to lighten that blackness.
Small change

Like the copper coins
that weight a wallet
till they add up to a loaf of bread,
the shiny scraps at the bottom
of the sewing basket
jingled at me
till I pieced them together
to make two small coppery quilts.
String of Angels
for Bev

We can’t converse
with the beasts,
and it is only
through a tear 
in the tissue
that separates
the vegetable
from the celestial
that we may glimpse
the angels.

This string
of nine angels
was fabricated
one Saturday,
through a slip
of the rotary blade
(slicing like butter
through nine layers
of sandwiched
fabric squares)
when making
crazy stars.
A missed step,
four cuts
instead of five, and
the star shape was lost.
“Look! They’re angels!”
you said.

This small host
slipped through
a chink in the chain,
waved in greeting
and left their 
shape-shifted imprint
on nine blocks
of mispieced fabric.
Sunshine and shadow

That Sunday something more
than my Bernina’s flywheel 
turned as I stitched,
then turned again
to arrive 
at an unexpected place.

It was not the design
that I set out to copy
that turned up,
and fell into place,
but something else.


Hovering not in but on a threshold,
I ripped and sewed strips,
layer upon layer,
band after band, 
unashamedly imitating
Klee’s painted lines from
In the Sixth Threshold.
Mesmerised by the line, the colours, the mystery 
of what threshold he crossed
and whether it was possible
to follow his steps, I sewed
in bigger bolder sweeps,
suspended thought
as line and colour, thread and needle
became the focus of uncounted strips
running downward 
through the sixth threshold
into unnamed realms.
Twenty-one love poems
for Emma

I made
a quilt
to mark 
your coming 
of age.
I sewed
bold bands 
of blocks
in the brightest of colours
to match your happy dance
through childhood 
and friendship,
a choreographed strip
for each year.
Window to the Future
for Andrew

The stained glass windows
in old churches 
let in the light
but block the view
with their pieced pictures
of paradise.

Could this be a priest’s ploy
to screen off reality
with lighted friezes
of comforting grace?

There is energy
in those windows,
infused by the craftsmen
who painstakingly
cut and leaded
the coloured glass
into a message of hope,
a homily
from arched windows
set in the stone
of cathedrals.

So here is a 24-starred window
stitched instead of leaded,
a talisman of hope
and new beginnings
and set in stone coloured cloth
to celebrate
the glow of early morning light
on your hand hewn stairs