To Keep Us Warm








“I make them warm to keep my family from freezing;
I make them beautiful to keep my heart from breaking.”
–From the journal of a prairie woman, 1870
To keep a husband and five children warm,
she quilts them covers thick as drifts against
the door. Through every fleshy square white threads
needle their almost invisible tracks; her hours
count each small suture that holds together
the raw-cut, uncolored edges of her life.
She pieces each one beautiful, and summer bright
to thaw her frozen soul. Under her fingers
the scraps grow to green birds and purple
improbable leaves; deeper than calico, her mid-winter
mind bursts into flowers. She watches them unfold
between the double stars, the wedding rings.
~Luci Shaw “Quiltmaker”

in the unknown world
the woman
threading together her need
and her needle
nods toward the smiling girl
this will keep us warm

~Lucille Clifton from “quilting”


It could be the world was made this way:
piecemeal, the parts fitting together
as if made for one another~
disparate and separate
coming together.
The point of its creation
to be forever functional,
a blanket of warmth and security
but its result is so much more:
beauty arising from scraps,
the broken stitched to broken
to become holy and whole.







9 thoughts on “To Keep Us Warm

  1. Will never look at a patchwork quilt again in quite the same way. Still have my great-grandmother’s
    ‘wedding ring’ masterpiece. It’s fragile so is not used anymore. Keep it in tissue paper and show it off
    occasionally. She and her maid of honor and bridesmaids did it together before her marriage.


  2. These just take my breath away–God sharing His gift of creativity in such beautiful, varied ways, with “mere” humans! I’ve never had, nor owned, a handmade quilt–I’ve always wanted to make one “some day”, but that day never arrived, and now my fingers can’t hold a needle. One of my greatest regrets!


  3. Stunningly beautiful works of art. Thanks for sharing. Thanks also for the words by Luci Shaw. I have a book of friendship written by her and Madeleine L’Engle, which is beautiful..


  4. This isn’t my work (I wish!) but the work of the quilting ladies in our county displayed at our regional fair last week — one of the best reasons to visit the fair!


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