Friday, December 10, 2010

The Quilter's Secret Handshake

I think humans of every stripe have one thing in common. We seek contact with other humans.  And generally we feel most comfortable among people who share our interests and our cultural background. Quite simply, at school, the nerds sit with the nerds and the jocks with the cheerleaders. How we gravitate toward each other is a little more complicated.

Gay men are said to have gaydar…. a concept that I find fascinating since the penalty for misidentifying a possible contact could be pretty severe given the level of homophobia these days.

Women my age shepherding young grandchildren around the shopping mall give each other extra wide smiles in unspoken sisterhood.

Organized groups like the Freemasons….who included people like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Mark Twain…have a secret handshake.

So I guess it’s not surprising that when I see another woman knitting socks in the waiting room of my Toyota dealership, it feels totally natural to strike up a conversation with her. Oh, so what are you knitting? Oh, my, they’re beautiful. And who are they for? You know, that sort of easy introduction.

Several years ago, I was settled into the waiting room of the cardiology unit at a big hospital in Newmarket, Ontario. I’d been warned I’d be there for a while so I had brought along my knitting. Others came and went over the day. Most of them were silently worried. Some obviously bored, restless, not good waiters at all. But the knitting broke the ice for quite a few…both men and women. People wanted to reach out and make a connection. Women told me about their knitting projects and one man was intrigued that I seemed to be able to knit without looking at my work (which isn’t a very big trick at all….the totally blind knit, after all….but it’s fun to pretend we’re more accomplished than we really are).

The knitting is incidental to my story. It was the bag that held my knitting that tells the tale. I had made a quilted bag just the right size with just the right number of pockets for my knitting. I had appliquéd a design on the front of it and made the handles just long enough to sling over my shoulder. It was on the floor at my feet.

I can’t tell you how many women remarked on my bag over the 8 hours I sat there asking “Are you a quilter?”, each having recognized a kindred spirit. Once we made that connection, we could talk as if we were longtime friends just catching up.

A quilted tote bag. A quilted jacket or vest. These are the badges of our avocation. Like the silent nod or knowing smile, it’s the secret handshake that signals our membership in a very special club.

Copyright 2010 Cheryl Coville
In case you’d like to make a bag like mine, click here and you’ll be able to download a .PDF of the bird design.  I added 2 inch borders. The bird is appliquéd and the details are embroidered. The feather is embroidered and I embroidered Carpe Birdie-Yum! on the front…. a silly riff on Carpe Diem (Seize the Day). Now, go out and make a new friend!


  1. not sure what I'm doing wrong but the click here does not work. It just sends me to Blogger Dashboard, which sends me back to here?? what do I need to do to get to the PDF.

  2. Don't know what on earth happened but I think the link should work now. If it doesn't, write me directly at grandmacocosdesigns (at) gmail (dot) com and I'll send you the PDF directly. Thanks for your interest in my design.

  3. This bag is absolutely adorable. I am going to make it to hold my crochet projects. You are very talented. Thank you for putting this up here.


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