A Quilt for a New Year


Anne Michael 

It is Birthday Season at our house. Four of our five grandchildren were born in the month of May.  That doesn’t mean there are huge parties going on; it just means that I get to go shopping for small people outfits and pretty things. Shopping for my three small granddaughters is great fun given the fact I don’t have to personally try anything on in front of a full length mirror, and the outfits for toddlers and babies are cute. Little ones tend to look adorable in most anything. The hard part is not overspending. 

I learned my lesson last Christmas.  I had worked for months making the baby girls Christmas dresses. They were gorgeous but in the end ridiculous. All that work for the wee ones to wear a dress for one day was a waste! All that love and labor lost save for whatever photographs got taken. For their birthdays, the little ones are getting things they can wear often and don’t require any ironing by their busy mothers. I did enjoy doing the work, but every one was disappointed that the dresses could not be worn at any other time but Christmas season.

My grandson, Jason, now nine years old, was very disappointed in the fact that I’d made a quilt for his new baby sister in the fall but hadn’t made one for him. He asked that I make him a quilt for Christmas. Since I could not get it done in time with all those dresses to make, I promised I would make one for his birthday. The quilt is still a work in progress, but I’ve not far to go. He will have it for his birthday, though it will be a few days late since I have to mail it. 

I am not the best quilter in the world. Quilting is an art. To date, no one has ever accused me of being the da Vinci of the quilting world. Perhaps a bit closer to some of Dali’s melting clocks. I do enjoy it, but I need much more practice and a lot more time.

I live in a perpetual state of hope when it comes to quilting of the sort that says a fairy god mother in a quilted dress will appear with magic needle and glass-handled scissors and endow me with talent for at least a day. Since that is unlikely, it seems smart to hedge my bets. I have purchased a number of books about quilting in the past five years through a book club to which I belong. They are full of tips and patterns and interesting projects. It was through these purchases that I stumbled on the Elm Creek Quilts series of novels by Jennifer Chiaverini. Her first book was charming and her character of Sylvia Bergstrom Compson started out as something of a likeable curmudgeon. It was by way of that book the reader becomes acquainted with the Bergstrom Family of Elm Creek Manor. The family’s history is told through quilting. 

I enjoyed the book enough to read a few more.  The next book did not impress me with its loose writing and rather mushy and contrived feel to the storyline. As I read the third and fourth books, I could see a great deal more complexity in the relationships of the main characters. I found the storylines more finely drawn but I wasn’t sure I really wanted to read any more of Ms. Chiaverini’s books. They are not the “Great American Novel”; they are what Kool-Aid is to wine. Each has its place. So, too, do the Chiaverini series of books.

A few weeks ago, as I was perusing the sale catalog for the book club, I noticed that there was a book in the series called The New Year’s Quilt and that it was on sale. It was not one I’d read. I debated whether or not the money spent would be a waste. After due consideration of the affordable price tag, it seemed to be a chance worth taking. I felt very much the way Charlie Brown feels when Lucy offers to hold the football. But in the end I could not resist. It seemed appropriate that I should be reading a book about quilting as I was working on one for my grandson.  

Like all of the Elm Creek Quilt novels, The New Year’s Quilt is an easy read. One does not have to invest deeply in the book. It is perfect for relaxing; there is nothing intense about it. 

This story was pieced together like a quilt. It is bits and scraps from the other novels and dovetailed with pieces of the characters’ already known history and cobbled into an other tale that centered around a quilt started on a lonely New Year’s Eve when Sylvia Compson moved back to the family homestead and ended with that quilt being finished years later. That quilt was to be given as a gift to the judgmental and unforgiving daughter of Sylvia’s new husband, Andrew, as a symbol of reflection and renewal. 

The story was sweet and sentimental. It didn’t make me cry or laugh or get angry or find peace. It reminded me of the soft and lovely stories of childhood read before bed to ensure good dreams. If I come across another Elm Creek Quilt novel I will be less wary about reading it.

I will say, however, the descriptions of Sylvia’s quilts and that of the Bergstrom family made me really want to kick up my quilting skills a notch and take a little extra time with Jason’s birthday quilt so he has something he will enjoy for a long time to come, perhaps even be something he might want to pass on to his son one day. It’s not every day a young boy asks his grandmother to make him a birthday quilt. 

At age 10, Anne realized she was never going to get to be Miss America since reading a book was not an acceptable talent. So she went on to get a job and raise a family. Along the way, she fixed meals, picked up toys, helped with homework, and collected a drawer full of rejection slips for her “great American novel.” It was not all bad, however, since she ended up wallpapering a closet with them. She currently designs and creates greeting cards for her tiny company, The Frog Prints, LLC, and also works full-time as a Training Specialist. Anne is currently tethered to reality by a loving spouse, two dogs and the occasional hurricane that blows through Florida, although falling headlong and happily into a book is still her favorite “talent.” She can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  

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