‘American quilts, family quilts’
‘I find it interesting that one of the sources Clive looked to was an American quilt; we have a great many books about traditional quilts, and my husband used to make (and occasionally still works on) hand-stitched quilts as a way to relax during his professional training. On arriving home, often in the middle of the night, he would stitch for fifteen minutes. Like Trollope, his quilts are proof to me that the labor of a few minutes followed steadily on a daily basis will result in a body of work. That idea, I expect, should encourage us all.This image also reminds me of a now-framed circa 1850 quilt block my maternal grandmother (Lila Eugenia Arnold Morris) gave me when I was a child… Alas, I’ve forgotten the name of the pattern, but it’s a complex whirl of leaves, stems, and berries.Mike inherited several quilts, and I was lucky enough to receive some from both sides of my family. My sharecropper grandmother’s quilts were much-used and often featured sacks. I wish that I had more of these… My maternal grandmother and her mother made a great variety of quilts (patchwork, crazy quilts, quilts of wool or dress cloth or velvet); I can’t say that either side had much leisure, so probably the quilts are more proof that a thing done faithfully will have good results.
My mother is a grand needlewoman, and at 83 sews less but is weaving away on her 4-harness loom. I once knew how to sew and embroider, but I’m afraid that I haven’t done either since I was a teen. But I’ve made a good many characters who know how to thread a needle along the way… In the new book, A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage, Lil Tattnal Tattnal is a fine seamstress, and there are others who must sew, particularly in my books set in the past.’
‘Why Clive’s Thalia fits the poem well’
‘Or we might well call her The Quilted Girl. This Thalia is an interesting solution to the difficulty of making a cover/jacket image for a long blank verse poem that travels widely in time and space, portrays some ferocious events, and clings to the shape of the epic while moving toward the character and scenic development of the novel. Clive settles on the child and matriarch-to-be, Thalia, and he gives us an image that is startling, almost shocking (that eye!) That she is foliate reflects the intense natural world of the poem. That she is “quilted” suggests the return to knowing how to do things by hand that occurs in the narrative. That Thalia is flowering and fruiting is also an essential property of the protagonist…’