Memory Patchwork


Luanne Castle

I’d like to welcome Luanne Castle to Anneli’s Place today. Luanne is writing a memoir called Scrap, about growing up in the sixties over a bomb shelter and in front of the city dump.

She taught English at California State University, San Bernardino, before moving to Arizona, where she now lives with a herd of javelina.

Her creative nonfiction took first place in a contest sponsored by Midlife Collage. Her poetry has been published in The Antigonish Review, The MacGuffin, A Narrow Fellow, 13th Moon, Redheaded Stepchild, and many others. She recently put together her first poetry manuscript, called Doll God.

 Grandma's crazy quilt

Memory Patchwork

When my grandmother moved out of her duplex and into a nursing home, she gave my father a Victorian crazy quilt which had been stored, wrapped in tissue, in her bottom dresser drawer.  In my sixteen years, I’d never seen it before, but was immediately drawn to the warm shades of dark reds and soft golden beiges  and tans dramatized by the hint of Yale blue in lush velvets, as well as the intricate and beautiful stitching which linked the irregularly shaped scraps together.    Each patch had been embellished with embroidered flowers, animals, hearts, paisley, or was itself a patterned velvet or velour.

Grandma framed the quilt with a sedate red gabardine, and it was folded very neatly; still, some of the scraps had begun to show signs of wear.  Dad left it lying on the kitchen table when he went out to the garage, and I unfolded the quilt, examining the rectangles, wedges, triangles, squares, circles, angles, strips, and heart and moon shaped pieces.  Any one of these scraps might be swept up and thrown away after an afternoon of sewing.  A basket of these scraps would look like junk.  But here they had been artfully trimmed, arranged, stitched, and embellished to tell an intricate story.  This random patchwork design spoke to me of the past and the intersection of practicality and beauty.

When my father came back in, I said, “It’s getting ruined, especially where it’s folded.”  My father didn’t seem to understand the value of this old cover, nor did my mother, who walked up the stairs with her laundry basket and said, “Yes, that’s nice.”  She arranged the quilt, folded on the back of our living room couch, where it lay for a year.

I thought I could see the scraps fading and began to badger my parents to save the quilt.  I suspect my father began to agree with me because eventually he took the quilt downtown and had it framed in a painted golden frame under non-glare glass.  He hung it on the wall over the couch.  In their will, the quilt will be coming to me, as my brother has never shown an interest in it.

When I started writing down my memories, they came to me in pieces, much like the irregular and fancy shapes of the velvet scraps.  The oldest were faded and threadbare.  Sometimes the more I wrote of a memory, the more details that came back to me.  Sometimes I would meet a dead end and not be able to find any more to the image or story.  These images act as the embroidery on the quilt pieces.

I’ve tried to arrest the aging process of my memories by recording them, just as my father had the quilt framed to preserve its condition.  As I began to write these fragments of memory, a book about my father and me began to take shape. In honor of my grandmother’s quilt and our linked family story, I’m calling the book Scrap.


Do you have any thoughts about Luanne’s post today?  Is there an old quilt in your background? What might the maker of the quilt have been thinking about during the many hours it took to sew it? Leave a comment and tell us what you feel?

Please visit Luanne’s blog link at


28 thoughts on “Memory Patchwork

  1. Pingback: What Do Your Memories Look Like? | Writer Site

  2. Beautiful story, Luanne. As an adult in college, my final project was an anthology of my classmate’s writing, “Finding Our Voices.” It was chosen for presentation at an out of state college. A classmate had made a quilt with a special piece from each of us sewn into it. Her project was chosen also and we presented them together. This memory came to me when I read your story.


    • Patti, thank you so much for reading it! I love how the anthology and the quilt came together for this presentation! Isn’t it amazing how memories well up when we’re reminded of them in some way? What a wonderful phenomenon.


      • You are very welcome, I do my best to share our mutual support…I feel bad when things fall through the cracks.
        I have to go check on Susan now (SKNichols), looks like she’s having a hard time AND a birthday:>)
        Let me know if I miss anything you’re doing, I love your writing!!!


  3. What a perfect way to frame a memoir. Because memories are so random, full of shapes and sizes that don’t fit together without a bit of work to stitch them all together.


    • Ah, Jill, thanks for noticing about the colors. The photo doesn’t do them justice because my scanner is not very good and I had to scan a photo my dad gave me, but you can see that they are a really special selection of colors. Thanks for your loyal reading, Jill–I appreciate it more than you could know!


  4. Some beautiful imagery here, Luanne. Scraps that would have looked like useless junk in the basket married together in a way that the piece would be lesser for the loss of any one piece. A wonderful metaphor for our lives. I especially liked the phrase “intersection of practicality and beauty” which could be used to sum up my family relations.

    Thanks, Anneli for showcasing such work!


  5. I really “love” this story, Luanne. Great title! I imagine the time it took to shape and piece the “scraps” together, where the scraps originated, perhaps, a child’s old dress, and what your grandmother was thinking as she sewed. Rustlings of the heart. Beautiful!


  6. Pingback: The Motif of Scrap | Writer Site

  7. What a beautiful analogy Luanne, the scraps of material and our scaps of memories. As I write my book (memoir) and also share snippets of memoir on my blog I see how it is like building a quilt out of all the scraps that once seemed to have been left behind, neglected, but in fact were always there, hidden away in an old box in the dark attic just waiting to be rediscovered. Waiting to be carefully and lovingly sewn into a beautiful quilt to be shared with others and handed down generation to generation. Fantastic inspiration for your book. Wonderful post, thank you 🙂


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