One Hundred Good Wishes: Quilts that Connect

“An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but will never break.” – An ancient Chinese belief

 

A new baby in the family.

Joy bursts untethered as the parents, grandparents, extended family, and friends prepare for the arrival of the little one. One way to bring together the happiness of everyone is by creating a quilt. In northern China, there is a centuries old tradition of stitching a “Bai-Jia-Bei”, or otherwise dubbed as a “100 Good Wishes Quilt”.

Photo from Crayon Box Quilt Studio

Pressing on everyone that the family knows, well-wishers are asked for the donation of a piece of fabric of their choice. One hundred swatches are needed. The cloth is especially chosen, and may be new.  Often, it is trimmed from a grandmother’s apron, or a cousin’s favorite outgrown shirt. Even a grandfather’s handkerchief. Fussy cutting brings the donor’s thoughts front and center. The square represents a good wish in textile form.

In addition to the fabric donation, a written wish for the baby-to-be is presented in the form of a quote, poem, a saying, a verse or a unique wish from the heart. All of the cards are placed in a scrapbook for the child to read and ponder at a later date.

A small sample of the fabric donation is attached to the wish card. That way, the child will know who presented which material on their quilt and will associate the meaningful message to the square. It becomes a precious record of those who rejoiced in the birth of this child.

In China, the belief is that luck, energy and good wishes will surround the child when the One Hundred Good Wishes cuddle around them. These quilts are passed from one generation to another as a reminder of the support from community needed in child-raising.

Photo from A Bai Jia Bei via @Grace Lin

Adoptions and the Quilt

This collaborative tradition has been embraced by countless adoptive parents. With the growth of American adoptions of Chinese children in the late 1990’s and 2000’s, the stitching of a One Hundred Good Wishes Quilt serves to link together the Eastern and Western cultures, as well as to connect the adoptee with his people and culture. Pre-adoption clothing or bedding can be incorporated into the quilt, making it a bridge between the parents. Adoption involves loss, but the One Hundred Good Wishes Quilt reminds the child of the excitement that people felt at the moment of the introducing a new life into the family. Of how very much they were wanted.

Wrapping in Comfort

Children who own these comforters talk about their tactility. They speak of how they “wrap” or snuggle” in them, sniffing the scents of the people and places it has been near.  Besides the physical sensations, the quilt envelopes the child in a metaphorical sense- in love, in comfort and in welcome.  One parent stated, “I really liked the idea of a child coming home to have this blanket that literally cocoons them, then metaphorically surrounds them by all those people who love them and contributed to the quilt.”

What a meaningful manner to welcome any baby or child into a family. Putting love into a textural and visual form is life-giving. It is One Hundred Good Wishes.

Sewing is a way to mark our existence on cloth: patterning our place in the world, voicing our identity, sharing something of ourselves with others and leaving the indelible evidence of our presence in stitches held fast by our touch.”   -Clare Hunter, author of Threads of Life


This book traces Teresa Werner’s collection of fabric for her child’s quilt. Compelling. 


Additional photo credits:

https://pixabay.com/photos/china-asia-world-temple-culture-4187045/

https://unsplash.com/photos/P6Lq1PtPmvk

 

 

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