When I was about eight-years-old, I felt the stirring of my creativity. We were a hard working family, and our time was dominated by school and housework. Each Sunday, though, after church, our time was our own, as this was the day of rest. I grew bored very quickly, not knowing what to do with this energy stirring within me. Some days my mother would lead us in crafts like ceramics or plaster of paris. Sometimes Mom would lie on the couch, while we munched popcorn and watched old movies. But some Sundays, my siblings would run outside to play, climbing trees or riding motorcycles, activities that I didn’t care much for. Left behind, I would hound my mother with my proclamation of boredom.
Sometimes my mother sewed. It was during one of these times that I stood beside her complaining of my lack of anything to do, and she handed me some fabric and an envelope. She told me to pin the envelope to the fabric and cut around it. She had me do this over and over, and she opened up her stash of fabric scraps to me. I cut rectangle after rectangle till I had a whole stack of them. Then she told me to lay them out, and she showed me how to mix them up to make them appealing to the eye. It was then that she taught me to use her sewing machine to sew them together. When I look back, I think it must have been just what was supposed to be, something that she saw within my soul, this need to quilt, because I was awfully young to understand and implement the instructions and concept. I ended up making a baby quilt and then moved on to make a cover for my bed. I used old blankets for the batting and yarn to anchor it.
I didn’t do much quilting from that time forward. When I lived in New Mexico, I did make a small baby quilt for my son. Then when my daughter was about eight years old, I decided that I should make her a patchwork quilt for Christmas. I thought of it as somewhat of a filler present, as the budget was tight. My husband, a carpenter by trade, built a toy box for our son.
When my girlfriend, Debbie, saw the quilt I had made for Abigail, she decided she would make one for her mother. Little did I know that this was going to light a fire that would not easily be extinguished. While Debbie was constructing her quilt, she visited the local fabric store and saw a sign for an upcoming class called, “It’s Okay If You Sit on My Quilt.” It was a class about constructing quilts and quilting them by machine. She begged me to take the class with her, and I finally decided I would break the budget and go. We each constructed a Triple Rail Fence quilt barely big enough to cover an American Girl doll. When the class was over, and our projects were complete, Debbie and I were both hooked. She even designed quilts in her sleep, waking long enough to sketch them out with colored pencils. I was envious of her original designs, as mine were inspired by patterns and pictures in magazines and books that I got at the library.
My grandmother and aunt taught me to quilt by hand. Grandma taught me how to easily knot my thread. When she came to visit my mom, and then lived with her temporarily, we quilted together. Later, I taught my mother-in-law how to quilt, and she, too, became enamored with this new pastime. She and I even took a trip to Paducah, Kentucky to the huge quilt show there.
It’s been twenty-two years since Debbie and I took that quilting class together. I have since encouraged my younger sisters to make quilts, and my younger brother has joined me in my love of quilting. He returns home from San Francisco each Christmas, and makes a quilt to take home with him. We laugh and tease him saying that he makes a quilt in a day.
Looking back, I have to say that I am grateful for the women in my life who have led me down this path. I don’t know what I would do without my quilting. It is a gift they gave me that cannot ever be taken back. It is a legacy my grandmother left, even without knowing she was doing it.
Last night after I got home from walking with Abigail and her husband, Adam, Mike decided to go to the museum to see a WWII presentation. I opted to stay home and sew. I worked on my grandson, Jaden’s quilt, and I loved watching the transformation as the colors and the pieces joined to form a new picture. The colors are so rich, and as I pressed the seams to the side, the crispness of the fabric brought a thrill to my heart. I am grateful to my mother, my grandmother and my friend, Debbie, for the introduction, inspiration and the encouragement to find such depth and meaning in this old craft – no longer just about bringing warmth to the body, but about bringing warmth to the heart and soul.