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my economy quilt

Here is a full transcription of Mrs. Caroline A. Soule, “My Economy Quilt,” in The Ladies’ Repository 28:10 (April 1860) : 382-389 (384) (google books)
(384) (hathitrust)

Paragraphs are numbered to facilitate commentary.

(We trust Mrs. Soule will forgive us if we preface her amusing story with an extract from her private letter that accompanied it. ED.)

  1. The sketch that I send you to-day was called to recollection by the perusal of that pleasant little article of yours in the February number of the Repository — your afternoon with the sewing machine. It is literally true. I went and took the quilt out of my bedclothes box previous to writing, and looked it all over to freshen up the old memories connected with it. Though my folly, it is yet very dear to me, for many of the fingers that worked upon it have lain folded over the shroud plaits this many a year. The items of expense are copied from my account book for that year. I have often thought I would write it out as a warning to young housekeepers, but never got it until now."
  2. “What under the sun are you about, wife?
  3. I looked up hastily, a conscious blush suffusing not only my cheeks, but temples and forehead. There stood my husband in the half open doorway, looking with curious eyes at me and my surroundings, while something half-way between a smile and a sneer fluttered back and forth upon his lips.
  4. Now I had thought him a fixture in the study till dinner time, for it was his regular sermon day; a day when to knock at the door of his sanctum unless it was a case of life or death, that is, more literally, a wedding or a funeral, was to subject yourself to a frown that would give you the blues for an hour after. Yes, I had thought him safe out of the way till two o’clock; but as the fates would have it, his frstly, secondly and thirdly were not sufficiently matured in his brain, to make a fair, clean impression on paper, and after spoiling two sermon books, he had looked in the drawer for the third and found it minus. Hence his errand to the sitting room. He wanted me to stitch half a dozen books for him, and stood now with the folded sheets in his hands, eyeing me and the littered floor with looks as inquisitive as those with which his old maternal ancestor, Eve, directed towards the forbidden fruit.
  5. To say that I was sorry to see him there, would but feebly express my feelings. I was completely out of patience, vexed and chagrined beyond expression. I had thought myself so secure for the morning, for a wild November rain was flooding the pavements, relieving me from any fear of outside intrusion, and here I was, caught, fairly caged.
  6. “What under the sun are you about, wife?”
  7. He asked the question twice ere I answered, then I said curtly, “don’t you see,” and pointed carelessly to the floor about me.
  8. “But what are you going to do with them?” “them” being the contents of two bundle bags which I had emptied upon the carpet, one of them bits of bleached cotton of every shape that ever you saw in Legendre, and the other, bits of calico, all the colors of the rainbow and more too.
  9. “Why what do you suppose.” I spoke hotly, and it was no wonder, for my face was burning. “What do you suppose all these are?”
  10. “They look like paper rags, but what under the sun you want to spend your time sorting them over is more than I can tell” ——
  11. “Paper rags!” interrupting him. “Do you suppose I’d put such good pieces as these into the rag bag. No indeed!”
  12. “But what are they, and what are you going to do with them?”
  13. “Why they are patches, new pieces, some that were left of your shirts, and my under clothing, and the children’s and my dresses and aprons. I am going to make a quilt out of them.”
  14. He gave a low, prolonged whistle. I understood it. I felt it to my very marrow. It exasperated me and I did not dare trust myself at once to answer. I seized the scarlet patch and the bit of pasteboard that lay in my lap, and covering the calico with the tiny square drove my scissors entirely around it. Then looking up, I said quietly, “you look thunder-struck. Is there anything so very strange or wonderful about my work.”
  15. “Yes,” he answered, dwelling long on every wordd. “After all the tirades I have heard you express about patch work quilts and the women who spend their time making them, I am surprised that you should finally conclude to make one yourself.”
  16. “But this is an entirely different case. I do almost despire a woman who will go out and buy red, yellow and green calico and cut it up into nondescript flowers, buds, leaves and birds, and then hem them on to white cloth. I have always said it would be no sin to worship one of those elaborate quilts, for the images on them are in the likeness of nothing in heaven or earth. But this,” and I tossed my head with a feeling of conscious superiority to those poor ignorant women of whom I had been speaking, “ but this is an entirely different matter. This is an economy quilt.” I emphasized the adjective pretty strongly.
  17. “Economy!” and he whistled again. I felt my temper rise, and this time I didn’t try to keep it down, but spoke out quickly, “yes, economy; don’t you believe it.”
  18. “No, I don’t, and you won’t by the time you’ve finished. I wish you’d gather them up and sell them to the first tin-peddler that comes along.”
  19. “I’d like to see myself selling such patches as these to a ten-peddler! A pretty housekeeper I’d be to have no more economy than that.”
  20. “Well then, give them to the babies. They’re just fit for a doll-house.”
  21. “I shall do no such thing. Sarah would have them all cut into strips in a day, and Henry ’d be kindling the fire with them.[”]
  22. “Better they should do that with them, than that you should waste your time and money over them.”
  23. “Waste my time! It isn’t wasting time. Don’t we need quilts qute as much as we do any thing else, and I haven’t made any since I’ve been married. If I don’t quilt a new one now and then, we shall wake up some cold winter night and find ourselves freezing. And as to the money,—it’s to save money that I am going to use up these patches.”
  24. “Well, mark my words: you’ll find it a dear quilt before you get through. Do be sensible now and sell them for tin-ware, or give them to the children to cut up into dolls’ clothes. You wouldn’t see my mother puttering over such foolery.”
  25. I was chafed again. What young wife wouldn’t have been. I loved his mother truly and tenderly; I knew she was one of those noble women whom heaven lends sometimes to earth to show us what saints are made of; but I was sick and tired of hearing her praises sung, considering they were always sung to my detriment. People thought me a most fortunate wife, and I was, but there was a skeleton in the house, notwithstanding, and it was labelled with these two words, my mother.
  26. But this time the reference was rather mal-a-pro for my husband, and I answered briskly and with some temper too, I guess, “Indeed then, but I guess she’s spent many a day in doing just this verry thing, for she showed me more than a dozen patchwork quilts last Summer. There were two on the bed we slept in, and the pieces in one of them weren’t much bigger than my thumb nail.”
  27. “But those were made years and years ago, when calico was as costly as silk is now. You wouldn’t see her spending her time so now.”
  28. “But she does. She had three ready for the frames when I was there, and she gave me this bundle of patches to put into mine. She’s on my side this time. You may as well give up, and give me credit for being the most economical little housekeeper a young minister was ever blessed with.”
  29. “Well, I suppose I’ll have to, but Carried, if you still insist upon going on with that baby work, I want you should promise to keep a memorandum of all the money it costs you.”
  30. “Which won’t be much. But you want your books stitched, don’t you.

    stream of patchwork consciousness

  31. I was very busy all that rainy day, measuring my patterns over the white and colored bits, and cutting out squares, and diamonds, and triangles, and I spent two or three more rainy days the same day [way?]. It was really quite a little task to get my blocks prepared for sewing, for as the beauty of a patch work quilt, to me, lies in uniformity of seams, I was careful to cut my pieces by the thread that I should have no difficulty in joining them. Very proud of them was I, when at length they all lay in little piles in my collar box which I had emptied to accommodate them, and I did take a great deal of comfort that winter in going to it at odd times and taking out a block or two and fitting the pieces nicely together. But when they were all finished, and I laid them out on the floor to see about joining them, I found, to my surprise, I lacked twelve to complete the requisite number. I had taken it for granted I had enough; such a pile of them, and so many hours as I had spent cutting; but my pattern, though not very elaborate, had a great deal of waste to it, as I found by the shreds, and now what was I to do. I had plenty of white yet on hand, but not a bit of calico. I made a calculation. A yard and a half would just about make the twelve. But ought I to buy cloth to cut up. Pshaw! a yard and a half will only cost eighteen cents. Yes, I will, rather than have it lay unfinished until I get some pieces. But I don’t want so many blocks alike; no indeed. I’ll have to buy three half yards; it’ll look kinder mean to buy half a yard of calico; but never mind; I’ll into one of the Jew stores. So I did, that very day, and bought some blue, hello and chintz and went home and cut out the remaining blocks.
  32. How should I joint it? I spent one whole stormy day in deciding, laying the blocks first this way and then that, and finally called up my Irish girl out of the kitchen to help decide the momentous question.
  33. “Sure and it’s cathrun I’d put it, Ma’am. I never seed a quilt put together any other way in the ould counthry, and the looks of them is so much better on the bed ma’am.” So that was settled.
  34. What should I joint it with? White? O, no. It would soil too easily; beside there was a great deal of white in it now. Something lively, and something that would wash well was what I wanted. A piece of pink, that deep rose pink which grows brighter if any thing by washing, was at length chosen. Three yards I thought would be a plenty, but I got four to be certain of enough. Mercy, how the blocks did use it up. I couldn’t believe my eyes; and was almost out of patience when I had to call Bridget from her ironing one snowy morning and send her to the store for two yards more, not daring to wait till it cleared off for fear I couldn’t mach it. But it was a brilliant thing when completed, and even the “gude man” of the household complimented me on the taste I had shown in arranging its colors.

    a quilting party : preparation

  35. And now to get it quilted. I must have a lining of course, and I decided on white for that, because it would be so handy when I wanted a change for Summer to just turn the quilt. Twelve yards, not an inch less! but I was fortunate in finding an excellent piece for eight cents, smooth, even and fine. There there was batting; only a pound though, for I didn’t want it heavy and I didn’t want it thick; the quiltin couldn’t be as nice; but it must be extra quality, white free from specks, and I must pay an extra price,—twenty cents. Then the frames. I didn’t think it worth while to buy a set just for that one quilt, and so I must borrow. Now the only lady whom I knew owned some lived quite a long distance from me, and as I had no boys then big enough to fetch and carry I must hire one. The little Paddy who came every day for the swill was glad of the job, and brought them to me for a nine-pence. And there, O then, to finish off the whole affair with èclat, I must have a quilting party. I had never had one since I had beena matron, and of course every thing must be in style. It was near Spring-cleaning time, but as the stoves were not taken down I couldn’t give the house that thorough tearing up which I longed to. But the parlor windows must be washed and the paint wiped off.
  36. “Both parlors, ma’am!” and an ominous frown settled down on Bridget’s forehead.
  37. “Of course; those old housekeepers have eyes all over their heads, and it wouldn’t do to leave the back ones. We won’t wash the walls, but they must be well dusted. And the spare bedroom must be cleaned too, they’ll have to lay their things there,—and the front stair case and the halls and the dining room. But I’ll helpyou, and I’ll get Mc’s [?] wife to come in and wash the windows. She is a first rate hand at that, and she’ll do them all in half a day. And you shan’t lose any thing by it, Bridget, either. I’ll tell the company what a jewel of a girl I’ve got, and I’ll give you that new French gingham apron of mine in the bargain.”
  38. Bridget’s face brightened, and in a very amiable brogue she decliared, “An’ shure an’ it shouldn’t be her fault if the house didn’t shine from top to bottom.”
  39. That part settled, and the tea-question came up. Every body expects extra preparations at a quilting party, because the earn their supper.
  40. “Let me see, Bridget; do you suppose can make some of those nice biscuit you were telling me about; that kind, you that, that Mrs. A—— has at her parties.” Mrs. A. was an aristocratic neighbor of mine, who wouldn’t have deigned to set her foot in my humble home, but her cook was very intimate with my one girl and thus I occasionally got an idea of how quality folks entertained their company.
  41. “O, yes, ma’am, ’cause I went in the other morning and watched Nancy while she set them. But it wants new milk, and it ’ll take a quart or more, and it wants the whites of eggs, and loaf sugar, and a good bit of butter.”
  42. “Well, never mind, we’ll have them for once, and boiled custards too, I’ve got a dozen cups; and cold tongue, and cheese, and some of my picked peaches, and my preserved citrons, and mince pie, and loaf cake, and sponge cake, and tea and coffee.”
  43. “Shure and it ’ll be a dear quilt though, if ye get’s all that for ’em to eat.”
  44. “I know it will cost something, but then I don’t have a quilting party every day.”
  45. Well, the eventful Thursday came at length. The house did fairly shine from top to bottom, while the pantry was redolent of good things. The quilt was in the frames, and, as the golden noon sunbeams streamed through the glistening windows and fell in broad bands over it, I could not help likening it to a beautiful piece of mosaic, and that I felt very proud of it, aye and of my housekeeping too, you would have known by the brilliant colors that flushed my usually pale face. I had worked hard that week; yes, from morning to night I had been on my feet, for what with seeing that the washing and ironing was out of the way, and the specified cleaning done, and the tea arrangements seen to, I had been busy as a bee. A World of trouble too I had had in getting the quilt on properly, for to tell the truth, I didn’t know any thing about it, and being a minister’s wife, didn’t dare to ask any one to show me how, for it would have ruined my reputation in that parish to have had it known that I didn’t know how “to put on a quilt.” I had to rely wholly on Bridget, that treasure of an Irish girl; but we both of us spent the whole of Wednesday afternoon ere it was arranged to our satisfaction. “An’ sure if theys say a word agin it now, jist tell ’em it’s the way yer mither allays fixed ’em. That’ll settle ’em.”
  46. We took an early dinner, that Bridget might have the work all out of the way in season to wait on the door. The children had been thoroughly washed up in the morning, and only needed their braids and curls retouched, and their holiday suits put on. As for myself, I had dressed before noon and looked, I thought, very neat and matronly in my new calico dress of those neutral tints that will answer for all seasons, my shining linen collar and well preserved black silk apron.
  47. Giving Bridget a parting injunction about the biscuit, which were to be served warm, I went into the parlors. Very carefully did I look them over; the result satisfied me; not a stray cobweb, not a streak of dust, not a single tiny finger-mark was visible. The fire was burning briskly in the well polished stove, diffusing a genial heat and glow over the rather dark back parlor, while the front one was all alive with the sunshine, I having run the shade clean out of sight in my desire to get a strong light on the quilt.
  48. It was all ready for the company. A dozen spools of “Coates cotton” lay scattered on it; I had been lavish of them, so as not to keep the quilters waiting for one another, while every pair of scissors in the house had been enlised into the dainty service of cutting off threads, even the lamp scissors having been scoured up to silver brightness, and the minister’s study shears quietly seized upon. A couple of fancy needlebooks, given me as bridal presents and usually kept hidden in one of the little drawers of my bureau, had been brought out on this eventful occasion, and their soft, snowy cashmere leaves glistened with long rows of “Hemming’s” best needles. Husband’s little ivory ruler and best lead pencil, newly pointed, with a bit of pasteboard, fashioned with much care into the seblance of a grape leaf, lay upon the little quartette stand, ready for use, the pattern having been decided on the evening before, after a long consultation with Bridget, whose serves were at that time as valuable to me as Miss Prissey’s were to Miss Katy Scudder on that eventful quilting, which didn’t, after all the fuss, turn out to be the minister’s.

    the quilting party

  49. By two o’clock the company were assembled, ten in number, that being as many as could quilt handily, or at least as many as my two tea-tables joined together and my dishes, spoons, knives and forks would accommodate. A rare good time we had too, for they all belonged to that admirable class who can talk and work at the same time, and I verily believe, if I could remember all the stories, facts, anecdotes, witticisms and the like that were told that afternoon over that quilt of mine, I could write a book that would be as spicy as the “Autocrat.” Quite a rival[r]y sprung up too, between the opposite sides, as to which would have the honor of rolling first; a good humored rivalry which vented itself in jokes and laughs, the party who were ten minutes behind, declaring theirs was done much the nicest, and saying I could hang it up by the others’ stitches and would catch my toe-nails in them if I didn’t cut them short. Every half hour I ran out into the kitchen to see about the biscuits, for I didn’t feel quite sure of them, and couldn’t help asking Bridget, the third time I went out, whether she wasn’t afraid she had forgotten the yeast; somehow they didn’t look to me like coming up.
  50. “An’ sure an’ I put in just what she tould me to, not a spoonful more or less. They’ll be up in time; jist you tend to the company and the quilt and I’ll see to the tay.”
  51. Quite a load was of my mind, though, when at last, walking in carelessly and going to the sink as though I wanted to wash my hands, I beheld, ranged on the baking table, three bright tin pans, each with a dozen large, plump biscuits moulded into them, and Bridget, with a snowly feater in her hand, anointing them with a frothy something, which I guessed was the whites of eggs beaten up with a powdered loaf sugar.
  52. “They look tempting, Bridget,” I said approvingly. “Now, if we can only get them baked nicely.”
  53. “An’ sure an’ I niver burnt any thing yit in the stove, an’ I’m not goin’ to spile these, after all the trouble I’ve had wid ’em. I’ll watch ’em as a hawk does a dove ma’am. Ye jist tend to the quilt, and trust me to the eend of ’em.”
  54. We didn’t have tea till it was time to light the lamps, for I wanted to make the most of the afternoon, but then with mingled feelings of pride and pleasure, I ushered my company into the dining-room. I saw my husband’s eyes sparkle as he seated himself at the table, and I felt repaid for all the weary hours I had spent. It was a coplete success, that tea-table. I wouldn’t have altered any thing if I could. The ladies who took tea, praised it up to the skies, “such a sdelicious flavor, how did I make it.” I replied very modestly, “that I always made my tea after the English fashion, drawing it instead of boiling it; that I never allowed a tea-pot to be set on the stove.” Whereupon one lady remarked “that that might do for green tea, but as for black, you couldn’t get the strength out of it, without boiling. I knew she did, for I had boarded with her awhile, and I knew too that her tea when made, was about as palatable as a decoction of swamp hay. I felt like saying so too, but I was a minister’s wife and her husband a prominent man in the scoiety and it wouldn’t do, I knew; I contented myself with saying that I didn’t think black tea was fit to drink any way you could prepare it; for my part I’d rather steep sage leaves or catnip, than drink it, homeopathic Doctors to the contracy notwithstanding; wereupon a spirited discussion took place between the ladies as to the relative merits of green or black tea. The greens b[h]ad it, I thought though, by the way my tea-pot went down.
  55. The ladies who took coffee praised that up too, “So c[l]ear and rich, strong and yet not bitter, the true coffee flavor, how did I make it and did I clear it with fish skin or eggs.” “Eggs if I have them; fish skin is as good to clear, but it don’t give it that rich taste; and I never let it boil either; just let it come to a boil and break three times. But you must have good coffee; mustn’t buy the prepared, which at the best is have peas, but get the Java and roast it youself, and be particular about that too: a golden brown, not a shade deeper. And then don’t be stingy of it; put in plenty and tend to it. It’s just as easy to have good coffee as poor.” And then a discussion arose as to whether or not coffee was unhealthy, and one elderly lady said she was a living proof as to the negative, for she had drank it for breakfast ever since she could remember, and never had a day’s sickness to speak of. At which I threw a wicked glance at my husband, for he had long ago given up coffee and attributed all my side-aches and neuralgia pains to my wilful use of it. He laughed good humoredly, and said, “I’m glad you can occasionally get one on your side;” while I declared he had just as many headaches as ever he did when he drank coffee, and didn’t believe I should be a bit better without it.
  56. Here a lady interposes to ask how I made my biscuit. “They are perfectly delicious, almost melt in your mouth; you must give me your receipt.”
  57. Bridget’s blue eyes dilate and her broad Irish face dimples all over as we reply, “I trust entirely to my girl; you’ll have to ask her. She is an excellent hand at bread and biscuit.” Just then a sharp cry from the nursery calls Bridget off from her pleasant duty of waiter, and her absence is the signal for the servant question to come up, and I am told I “ought to thank my stars that I had been lucky enough to get such a girl.” I don’t think it’s luck altogether, but I hardly dare say so just then and there, and so proceed to cut the pie and pass the cakes, and urge them to taste the citron and eat up their custard.
  58. Severally they are complimented, and I have to give my receipt for doing up citron, and tell whether I boil or steam my custards and what I flavor them with, and whether I think boiling the cinnamon stick in the milk is as good as dropping in the essence. And that brings up the cooking question, and the English, the French and the American methods are warmly discussed.
  59. “If we sit here and talk all the evening that quilt wont [sic] get along very fast,” says one lady at last, more thoughtful than the rest, and a general move is made again for the parlors. Bridget had run down the front stairs when the baby was quieted, and lit both solar lamps, and I carry in the two glass ones, which I had altered to burn fluid, but somehow, dispose them as we would, the light wont [sic] fall just as it should.
  60. “Haven’t you any of those old-fashioned flat candlesticks which our mothers used to have? I don’t suppose you have though. I wish I’d thought and broaght mine along. I’ve four that I keep on purpose to lend out to qiltings.”
  61. “I’ve one,” I responded quickly, and ran to get it. It was on the upper shelp of the pantry, stored away amonst vials and pill-boxes and ointment jars, not an heir-loom, but a love-loom, to coin a word, for it, or the candles it held, had light H. and I in our Sunday evening love-feasts. It was not very bright just now, but rottenstone and sweet oil will do wonders in a few moments, and it soon shone in brassy splendor. But the candle! We never used one or thought of such a thing.
  62. “Sure an’ ye can have my starch candle, so as ye’s willin’ to get me another.”
  63. “Of course I am. I’m glad you thought of it,” and Bridget’s starch candle is soon lighted, it being the spermacetti one, which whisked around once or twice in the boiling starch, gave such a pearly gloss to the linen. And then I thought of the two flat japanned kitchen lamps and hurried to the parlor with the three additional lights.
  64. “That’ll do nicely,” they all said, and again began the context as to which should roll first.
  65. Eight o’clock brought the husbands, and then I insisted on the ladies putting up their thimbles, and as soon as they got dispersed from the quilt Bridget brought in the apples and nuts and raisins, and a general good time was enjoyed till half-past nine, when “the company left and the doors were made fast.”

    the morning after

  66. I didn’t feel very well the next morning. Nobody ever does, I believe, after having a party, and had I consulted my feelings I should have lain down right after breakfast with a wet bandage on my head. But how could I do that, with the quilt staring me in the face and seeming to sing that dismalest of chorusses “stitch, stitch, stictch.”
  67. I took a survey of it. It was just about half done. If it takes ten ladies one afternoon to quilt one half, how many afternoons will it take one lady to quilt the other half. I propounded the question to myself and worked it out — with my fingers; worked mornings, afternoons and evenings, whenever I could get out of the nursery or kitchen; worked hard too, harder than I ever did in my life before, and yet I never got that quilt off till the next Thursday, a week from the time the first stitch was set in it. I shouldn’t have got it off then, but Bridget came in in the afternoon and offered to help me. She had offered before, but I was afraid of her clumsy fingers, and put her off with one excuse and another, but I was reckless now of long stitches and dirty thread, and glad enough to have her help.
  68. The next day I bound it. It took me all day to do it too; that is, it took up all my leisure, for it was my general sweeping day, and a hard time I had to get the lint off my parlor carpets, and I resolved, if I ever put up another, it should go into the nursery or garret.
  69. And was I satisfied with all my toil and trouble. Did I fold my quilt up with a feeling of satisfaction and carefully lay it in my blanket chest. No indeed. By my sore thumb and fingers, which I had greased every night with mutton tallow, and rubbed twenty times a day with pumice stone, I said no, no; and tossed it on to the spare bed, exclaiming in a vexed tone, “it’s nothing but a patchwork quilt, after all.”
  70. I took a cup of strong tea that evening, for I felt that I needed an enlivener, and then turned despairingly to the pile of reading that had accumulated on my stand during that busy week. There were daily Tribunes, and daily Times, and Covenants, and the last Repository and Quarterly and a new volume by Longfellow. Not a line had I read in any; nay, even allowed dust to gather on my mother’s Bible. O, dear! Had I been wicked, or only foolish?
  71. That evening, when my husband came in from the lodge, he found me lying on the sofa wrapped up in his old overcoat, and my blanket shawl folded over my feet. The room smelt strongly of camphor and laudanum. He understood it all with my telling him. I had had the neuralgia and was too weak now to care whether I ever got to bed or not.
  72. “You’ve worked too hard,” he said kindly, “let me help you,” and he brought my night clothes into the warm parlor and undressed me, and then lifted me as he would have done a bay and carried me to my bedroom. How I blessed him, even then, half-crazy as I was, that he didn’t say a word about that quilt.

    the accounting

  73. A fortnight passed and I was myself again. We sat together one evening in the study. He had been paying over to me the monthly allowance for the house and assisting me in adding up my accounts. Suddenly, as though it had just occurred to him, he looked up ans said, “Have you ever reckoned up what that quilt cost you, Carrie?”
  74. I felt my face flush, and I felt a sinking sensation at my heart, but I mustered strength to say, “Not yet, but I guess it didn’t cost much but time and labor.”
  75. “Suppose you count it up, though,” and took up an old letter and laid it before him and dipped his pen in the inkstand.
  76. I hesitated, but then, resolved to make a clean breast of it, I said “one and a half yards of calico, eighteen cents.”
  77. I expected he would exclaim, “what, did you have to go and buy calico to cut up,” but didn’t, though I observed his lips twitched as though they ached to say something.
  78. “Well, go on.”
  79. “Thread to sew it, two spools, ten cents. Six yards of calico to join the blocks, nin-pence a yard, seventy-five cents. Twelve yards of muslin to line, eight ents a yard, ninethy six cents. Batting twenty cents. Thread to quilt it; le me see, about six spools were used, six times five are thirty, thirty cents. That’s all,” and I gave a sign of relief.
  80. My husband counted it up. “Two dollars and forty nine cents.”
  81. “So much,” I answered. “Well that’s not a great deal after all, for a new quilt.” “Are you sure you have all the items.”
  82. Yes, sure — O, no, I paid that little swill boy nine-pence to get the frames for me, and the same to carry them back.”
  83. “Twenty-five more,” and he added them in.
  84. “Yes, I answered febly, and then smiling a very grim smile, I added, “and gave Bridget my new gingham apron to keep her good natured, and get her to help me; put down another fifty for that.”
  85. “And how much did your supper cost you.”
  86. “Supper! You surely ain’t going to reckon that in?”
  87. “Would you have got up such a supper if it hadn’t been for that quilt,” he asked quietly.
  88. My conscience told me no, and I made my lips say so too, after awhile, but it was hard work, I tell you.
  89. “We won’t count in what we had in the house; count only what you bought expressly for that occasion. Begin.”
  90. “Let me see; there was the tongue. It weight three pounds; I got it because it was an extra one; nince-pence a pound, thirty-eight cents. And three quarts of milk extra to make the custards and the biscuits, fifteen cents. Nine eggs to each quart is eighteen, and the whites of six to the biscuit and coffee — two dozen — fifteen cents a dozen; thirty cents for them. Two pans of loaf-cake, forty-two cents a loaf, eighty-four cents; two sheets of sponge-cake, twenty cents a sheet, forty cents. That’s all I bought extra. The rest come ouf of the store room.”
  91. He silently added the items.
  92. “Well,” said I impatiently, for I wanted it over, “how much does it all come to?”
  93. “Five dollars and eighty-one cents.”
  94. “And it’s nothing but a patch-work quilt!” Tears gathered in my eyes as I continued with a broken voice, “and for four dollars I could have bought me a beautiful white spread. What a fool I have been.”
  95. “Don’t take it so much to heart, Carrie,” said he, as my head dropped on the table, sobs almost smothering my breath. “The quilt will do you as much good as a Marseilles, if it isn’t as pretty.”
  96. “But my time, my time,” I cried. “How’ll I ever get that back. I’ve wated the whole winter on that quilt. There’s my French lessons; I was going to review them all, and I haven’t written the first exercise. There’s my Bouveau Testament that I was going to read through. I have only got to the ninth chapter of Matthew. There’s that beautiful copy of Racine you brought me. I’ve only translated the first page of the preface. There’s Macaulay’s two volumes — I haven’t looked into them. There’s — — every thing neglected — — nothing done.”
  97. O, yes; you’ve a new quilt,” and he laughed and drew me to him and whispered words so precious that I forgot all my troubles in listening to them.
  98. Gentle friend! I call that quilt, my folly. Years have passed since I made it, but I have never forgotten the lesson it taught me, and now a-days, when folks ask me why I don’t make quilts, I tell them, “I don’t think there is any economy in them.” And I don’t. Do you? If you have a sewing machine, perhaps you will say yes; but unless that machine will quilt, as well as piece your blocks, why — I advise you to go down street and buy a spread and save your eyes and time to read your Bible.


The above essay is in response to “Letter from a Quiet Corner” (by “E. A. B.”, presumably Eliza Ann (Munro) Bacon, editor) in The Ladies’ Repository 28 (February 1860) : 313-315 (google books)
(384) (hathitrust)

on the The Ladies’ Repository, see wikipedia

11 March 2022