Midday Matinee is our people watching, people doing and people being feature. Join the Woodland Creatures for an afternoon break.

Quilting was once a very thrifty way to recycle bits and pieces of salvageable scraps of used clothing into a bed covering and give them one more opportunity to be useful. If a shirt or dress was beyond mending, the good parts were cut into pieces for quilting. This was done by hand using scissors and you can imagine that some rather irregular shapes were cut. It gave pioneer women a creative outlet and some of the early quilts are indeed works of art. The quilting bee was a community gathering to quilt – sewing by hand through the top layer of pieced pattern, the middle or batting which provided warmth, and the bottom layer – and visit with their neighbors.

Quilting today uses many of the same block patterns our great grandmothers used but now we mostly go out and buy new fabric and cut it up using a rotary cutter so that we can then piece it back together. The logic of reusing bits and pieces of fabric no longer applies. How very modern. Some quilters wear t-shirts with the phrase, “She who dies with the most fabric wins.” I can imagine my great grandmother saying, “Wins what?” or “What a waste.”

Most quilters have a stash of fabric that they briefly fell in love with and bought hoping to use someday. Also in the stash are lengths of fabric purchased for one quilt but which didn’t pass muster as the design evolved.

One part of modern quilting lexicon is the Unfinished Object, or UFO. Once you have started cutting pieces with a certain end result in mind you can either finish the project or have second thoughts and abandon it to your UFO pile. How many UFOs a quilter has may be the basis of some future personality inventory test.

I met one woman who has 83 UFOs. When I asked her how many quilts she had finished she said, “Four or five. I love the design process. I loved the idea however briefly.” She said, “Honey I am a great starter but a piss poor finisher.”

This conversation took place at a quilt shop in the Northwest. Wednesday mornings we gathered in the classroom to make quilts for the fire and police to give to scared kids. Kids who have lost their house to a fire, who have been abused, who have lost a parent are not so concerned with design integrity. A quilt will not solve their problems but it will provide comfort and warmth on a cold Oregon night. The woman of the 83 UFOs agreed to donate her objects to be finished for the community quilts projects.

Sometimes Democrats remind me of both UFO83 and the wonderful community quilts project. A lot of very good legislation got started in the house and relegated to the UFO pile in the Senate. A lot of it was designed to bring real help to real Americans with very real problems. Just as it took a community to finish some of her UFOs, we progressive grassroots Democrats must take up the cause and finish those safety blankets that are so needed.


This quilt was started in 1930 for my mother by her grandmother who died before finishing it. I quilted it for my granddaughter. This is Aunt Mary – born two years before women got the right to vote – hemming the binding. Eighty years to finish a quilt may just be some sort of record. But we got it done.