Nineteen books comprise this excellent series about Sylvia Compson, her quilting group The Elm Creek Quilters and her home, the historic Elm Creek manor. The series begins with “The Quilter’s Apprentice” where we are introduced to Sylvia and her home. Sylvia is the last living member of the Bergstrom family and has come back to Waterford, Connecticut to clean out the family manor. Sylvia is scarred by the tragedies of the past and wants nothing more than to sell the house and go back to her solitary life. She hires a young newlywed, Sarah McClure, to help with the cleaning. In the process, Sylvia begins to teach Sarah to quilt and Sarah teaches Sylvia how to heal and find new meaning in her life. As the series continues, we meet other members of the Elm Creek Quilters and find out more of the rich history of the Bergstrom family in particular and quilting in general.
Bubby: Technically, The Elm Creek Quilts Series is Sissy’s choice, but since it’s my week and I love the books and I found them first, I am stealing them.
Sissy: You did NOT find them first. I found them when you were still in Junior High.
Bubby: I am very young, it is true, but since it was published in 1999 and I have teenagers born before then, I think you might be a big liar. Regardless of who found them (and now that I think about it I actually think Mom found them first) they are excellent. I haven’t read all 19, but they are on my list.
Sissy: Either I am a dismal, aged crone with cobwebs for brains or the 1999 publishing date is a typo perpetuated by the fiends at Amazon.com
Bubby: I choose option #1 . . .
Sissy: At the dawn of time, when I discovered the first book, I immediately thought “Nah, not reading a quilt book.” I do have warm fuzzies about quilts and spent many happy hours playing with my Barbies underneath quilts that Mom and Grandma were working on. I did not, however, inherit the quilting gene. Ditto on the sewing. So I thought that a quilt series would be boring. I couldn’t have been more mistaken. A rare occurrence, mind you. It turns out that quilting and quilts are a goldmine of life metaphors. I was so inspired, I almost decided to make a quilt out of the 40+ year old fabric scraps I have in a bin from Mom. After more than ten years, I am still looking at those fabric scraps, but now I appreciate more their history.
Bubby: Excuse me for just a moment while I run to the garage and fetch a shovel with which to shovel myself out of the above load of crap. “A goldmine of life metaphors”? When did you turn into Oprah, Sissy?
Sissy: The green-eyed monster rears its ugly head once again. I am sorry that you can only write drivel, Bubby.
Bubby: *Shoveling frantically* OK. All clear. Yes, Mom and Grandma were quilters. I still have the quilt Grandma gave me for my wedding sitting on the foot of my bed. I, unlike the Queen of Schmaltz Sissy, have actually MADE a quilt. But only one. And it was difficult. And I’m not ever doing it again. But I like to pretend that I am a quilter and these books help me do that. There is a great cast of characters, from curmudgeonly Sylvia, sweet young Summer and her free-spirited mother, to quilt shop owner Bonnie and many others. The books cover all sorts of topics; slavery, teenagers, divorce, Hawaii, love, and cooking but everything is tied together with quilting. (And by the way, only one of us has green eyes. It’s not me.)
Sissy: I prefer to be called Queen of ‘de Nile.
Bubby: Whatever floats your boat. Ha! That was funny! Get it? Boat? Nile? Floating? . . . *crickets*
Sissy: You need to rein it, Bubby. This is a serious blog for serious readers. The Elm Queek Quilter’s Series by Jennifer Chiaverini has introduced to me a whole subculture of which I had no foreknowledge. Did you know that quilts have an absolutely fascinating history? Do you know the importance of quilts in Feminist Issues? Did you realize that there is a whole body of quilt-related collegiate study opportunities? Read the books and you shall know more. I am reminded of Maeve Binchy’s characters which are constantly interwoven throughout her various novels. You find characters in Chiaverini’s books sometimes playing major roles and sometimes making cameo appearances but almost always present.
Bubby: Before I read these, I had no idea that quilts were used to help slaves find their way to stops on the Underground Railway or that I could go to college and major in “Women’s Handicrafts.” I might just do that someday! The plots are varied and interesting, the characters are vibrant and the history is enlightening. So glad that I discovered this series on my own and then introduced them to Sissy!
Sissy: I have read 16 of the 19 Elm Creek Quilters novels and think Jennifer Chiaverini is an excellent storyteller. I read a review on the latest one (The Giving Quilt) which said that the author is too politically liberal. Therefore, I would not recommend it for gun-hoarding, right-wing conservative militants such as Bubby. I will read it first so as to keep Bubby from making a run on the ammo store. That said, I highly recommend this series!
Click HERE to buy The Quilter’s Apprentice by Jennifer Chiaverini