Myopia

by Sue Ann Connaughton

“A girl’s success in life depends upon her ability to sew,” Lovberda’s mother would say. “If you can’t stitch together a collection of finely-made bed linens for a trousseau, you may as well forget about marriage to anyone, never mind to a proper gentleman.”


But Lovberda couldn’t work needle, thread, and fabric into something that satisfied her mother. Her first and only attempt produced a lopsided doll blanket. The small heart she embroidered on the back, to enclose her name and the date, didn’t look like a heart at all and it was too small, so to fit, she shortened her name to “Lov.”

Her mother scrutinized the quilt. “The colors clash,” she said, “vermillion, indigo, ochre. Such an odd, garish combination. The seams are crooked and the stitches so uneven.”

When she turned it over, she winced as though her heart had been pierced with a bodkin. “Is that your signature inside a bird’s nest? Oh, Lovberda, such poor planning: you cut off your name after the first three letters!”

The whole experience so upset Lovberda that she tossed the quilt in a drawer and refused to ever sew again.

Do as you will,” her mother said. “You’ve sewn your future.”

*****

She spoke in a hushed, reverential voice. “As you’ll see, it’s in excellent condition for a 19th century textile.”

The Museum trustees moved closer.

Annabelle Smythe, the Curator of Folk Art, donned white cotton gloves before lifting the doll quilt from its conservation box.

“The first feature you’ll notice is the combination of fabric colors, so fresh and artful in their childish abandon, yet contemporary by today’s standards.”

Curator Smythe pointed out the threads that danced across the surface like spider legs, “Uneven stitch lengths like these indicate it was probably a young girl’s first sewing project, before she mastered control of the needle. See this brown dot? It’s a bloodstain, most likely from pricking her finger with the needle, so easy to do, even for experienced quilters.”

She turned the quilt over and delicately laid it on a sheet of archival paper. “Here we see the maker’s signature inside a primitive heart shape. Look how she adapted to the limitations of a small space by inking in only the date and the word ‘Lov.’”
The trustees nodded solemnly at one another.

“We don’t know the provenance of the quilt, but our research indicates it was constructed around 1859. It’s possible that she wrote the word to evoke the emotion of love, rather than her name. We may never identify the maker of this treasure, but most likely, she grew into an accomplished seamstress with the sensibilities of an artist.”

Sue Ann Connaughton is a New England-based writer. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Twenty20 Journal; Candidum; Liquid Imagination; Boston Literary Magazine; Six Sentences; The Adroit Journal, Bete Noire; Orion Headless; Fix It Broken; The Binnacle Seventh and Eighth International Ultra-Short Competition anthologies; With Painted Words; Every Day Poets; On the Premises; South Boston Literary Gazette; Everyday Weirdness; American Tanka; and Modern English Tanka.

What was the inspiration for this piece? What ideas were you hoping to explore through the juxtaposition of the two sections? I wrote “Myopia” in response to a prompt from my writing buddy: compose a story that contains a nest and a character with a bird’s name. I decided to include the nest as a frame for a signature. Once I came up with the character’s name, the idea for the story solidified. “Lovberda” conjured up to me, a girl who falls outside mainstream expectations, someone whose creativity might be celebrated in another time or setting.

By contrasting two time periods and sentiments, my intention was to offer for consideration, two questions:

  1. What are the criteria for determining “art?”
  2. Do craftsmanship and creativity carry equal value?

In each section, an expert evaluates the quilt according to standards that reflect and limit her judgment.

This entry was posted in Connaughton, Sue Ann and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.