Custom, hand-made quilts and other textile arts, clothing and crafts by Heathen/Heather Derr-Smith.

I love to make things. Here are a few things I’ve made for myself, but I’m also happy to take commissions and make something for others. Email me at if you have a project in mind.

Here are some dresses and skirts I made for my own readings using old notes from manuscripts of Tongue Screw and Thrust. I have a ritual where I tie ribbons in my garden in the spring and then they get all sun-soaked and rain-soaked for the summer, and then I bring them in for the fall and sew them on clothing. Ribbons ward off evil, so they’re a good thing to wear.

Here’s a skirt I made with Vintage Soviet fabric from Estonia and a vintage ribbon from East Germany.

societ fabric skirt

Here’s a quilt I made for a friend from Ukraine. It has Pysanky egg designs which are also an old folk tradition intended to ward off evil or draw blessings. There are flower motifs, birds, fish, hens, reindeer, trees, and bees! I made this quilt with traditional linens from Brno, Czech Republic. Gucci, my pug, loves to sit on whatever I sew. All the animals do, actually. This quilt below is tied, not quilted, but I love to quilt and can make you one either way.

This quilt I made for a friend who loves Kafka. I embroidered Kafka’s handwriting and some of his doodles on it, along with some quotes from So Loud A Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal, one of my favorite books of all time. It’s also pieced with Czech linens from Brno and Prague. I tied this one as well, rather than quilting it. Sometimes I like them tied because they are floppier and better for snuggling that way.

Heather Derr-Smith, Thrust Thrust by Heather Derr-Smith, winner of the Lexi Rudnitsky Editor’s Prize, Persea Books, 2017





Thrust Heather Derr-Smith Winner of the 2016 Lexi Rudnitsky Editor’s Choice Award This potent collection revisits a backwoods Virginia girlhood marred by sexual violence. In explosive poems, which explore the confluence of trauma and desire, Heather Derr-Smith reclaims a troubled past, empowering the present through an unlikely chorus of grace and fury. “Derr-Smith uses an intently packed, beautifully crafted pile-up of images to explore a rural Southern upbringing defined by the ugliness of abuse. In a world shaped by violence, by the casual male assumption of authority, and part of ‘a family of seekers, pick ax and lust,’ she's a girl pursuing the intensity of experience on her own terms” —Library Journal, starred review “...essential feminist and southern literature.” —The Iowa Review “This is poetry that is breathing: aliveness that is both measured and wild.” —TC Tolbert



Heather Derr-Smith

Tongue Screw

“In Derr-Smith’s Tongue Screw, each poem “lifts its rattle to astonish us,” each line both an anatomy and ecology of our own darkness. Derr-Smith’s poems are imagistically rich and unflinchingly honest as they unfold, one after the other, the thin and permeable boundaries between war and desire, violence and beauty, politics and the inexplicable motion of experience.” Stacey Waite, author of Butch Geography “In rivetingly ecstatic and stunningly musical lines, Heather Derr-Smith composes paeans that praise and bless the yearning blood-thrum and finite vulnerability of human embodiment. Tongue Screw evokes the metal torture device used to prevent Mennonite martyrs from testifying as they were burned alive, and in these incandescent poems, the abjections and beatitudes of the flesh are tenderly rendered as ravishingly spiritual. Equal parts hymn ringing over the open plains in four-part harmony, and visceral soul-cry of punk rock, the poems in Tongue Screw are fiercely glorious in their evocation of troubled memory, gritty desire, and love’s holy ghost.” –Lee Ann Roripaugh, Author of Dandarians



The Bride Minaret

Heather Derr-Smith’s second collection journeys to the rough core of desire, creating and destroying binaries along the way. Familiar artifacts of domesticity become as volatile as land mines, and the streets of Damascus, Calcutta, and other faraway locales obliterate the American landscape. Yet Derr-Smith’s poetry transcends time and place, illuminating the ties that bind man to woman, mother to child. The Bride Minaret is a relentless chronicle of experience, where the sacred and profane become interchangeable, where “Every tent has a name, and every name is the breath of you." The Bride Minaret is a book of emotional, literary, and cultural substance. As Mandelson wrote of Auden: the poems bear witness to the close connection between intelligence and love. The same can be said for Derr-Smith, whose work is global, with settings in Iraq, British Columbia, Algiers, Paris, Sarajevo, Bosnia, Cairo, the West Bank, and various U.S. locations. Her poems are intercultural, expansive while still grounded in the evocative complexities of motherhood, childhood, and faith. The Bride Minaret is a wonderfully intense collection. —Denise Duhamel, author of Two and Two and Mille et un sentiments In The Bride Minaret, Heather Derr-Smith explores the complex and difficult realities of our global world more comprehensively and comprehendingly than most American poets consider even attempting. Often paying close attention to those displaced and/or disconnected from the society around them—Arabs in Europe, Americans in the Middle East, Mennonites in Iowa, Balkan refugees, Roma orphans, Palestinians, and, at the heart of the book, a mother now separated from her former, childless self—these poems ultimately argue that dislocation is itself a kind of location, just as living forever in one place can end up dislocating oneself from the realities of our time. —Wayne Miller, author of Only the Senses Sleep and The Book of Props