Slice of Life 2020 – Day 26
A quilting community is similar to a writing community. Fellow quilters support each another, offering suggestions and techniques. They demonstrate and teach. They provide feedback and encouragement. Thanks to The Two Writing Teachers 13th Annual Slice of Life Daily Writing Challenge, I am creating stories from words, phrases, and images. Thanks to my quilting community, I am learning to create masterpieces out of fabric.
Mom taught my sister and me how to sew clothes as young girls. My first, almost-independently-sewn, outfit was a two-piece short set, which I later modeled at the church Mother-Daughter banquet in second grade. It was the beginning of my sewing life. From there, I moved onto sewing Barbie clothes. As a teen, the idea of handmade garments lost its appeal when friends were purchasing the lastest trends from stores, and my interest in sewing disappeared.
I recall our family’s passage from sewing garments into the world of quilting began in 1981 when my mom asked family members to draw pictures on blank fabric squares, which would later be sewn onto my grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary quilt. It was the first of many quilts created by my mom. The second was another combined effort since I was living at home, fresh out of college and beginning my life as a teacher. It was to be my someday wedding quilt, Grandmother’s Fan.
I didn’t contribute my fair share of the labor with that particular quilt, being a first-year teacher. I was consumed with creating bulletin boards, hand-cutting letters before die-cut machines, and smearing oil pastels on poster board before Carson Dellosa sets emerged. I eventually obtained many of those sets with same determination a quilter stashes fat quarters.
Grandmother’s Fan was fastened to a massive wooden frame taking up our entire study. It stayed there for well over a year while mom lovingly hand-stitched each block. I attempted one block, which fell short in comparison to my mom’s perfectly even stitches and lost interest. The quilt was finished by the time of our wedding and remains our most treasured gift of all.
Through the years, Mom designed and crafted quilts for each of her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and family friends. Each family member received a baby quilt, a graduation quilt, and a wedding quilt, all hand quilted. In between, numerous table runners and wall hangings were created as well. Her sewing life switched from sewing clothes to quilts. She joined a local quilters guild and continued to sharpen her skills.
While my teaching career continued, my sister caught the quilting bug. I watched the relationship between Mom and her deepen as they consulted one another on projects. I became a color and design contributor on the side. Someday, I told myself.
My inspired sister was able to produce quilt after quilt much faster than my mom, preferring to machine quilt instead of hand quilting. The recipient of one of her bright, bold, cheerful batik fabric quilts, appropriately named Friendship Braid, the gift is my go-to quilt of comfort. Though we live many miles apart, quilting continues to keep us connected as we send photos of our design walls inviting each other’s input. Excursions to quilt shops are the norm when we’re all together. Our hobby keeps us woven together like a braid, my mom, sister and me.
In 2003, Mom began working on a quilt made entirely from hexagons. The fabrics were given to her by a member of her quilter’s guild who was unable able to complete it. She taught my mom the technique for creating paper templates, tracing, and hand piecing each flower in the pattern, Grandmother’s Flower Garden, a design dating back to Colonial times. The quilt contains 3,324 equilateral hexagons, called sixes. I came upon this entry from my mom’s quilting journal she’s maintained throughout her years of quilting.
“Began making hexagons from reproduction fabrics. Fascinated by technique after watching Carol at our quilt show in September. A good project to take along and work on while traveling, watching tv, et. All hand sewing. A long range project.”
The hexagons traveled with my mom, or could be found alongside her favorite chair near the tv for many seasons, however, the quilt was put away for many years while Mom cared for my dad following his heart surgery and declining health. The hexagons resurfaced again in 2013 when Mom needed another project after completing a granddaughter’s wedding quilt. In the meantime, her Macular Degeneration was progressing, and it became her renewed mission to get the hexagons sewn together to finish the top. I was informed it would be my job to complete the quilting portion because I had begun quilting myself after discovering how to use a longarm machine thanks to a friend I worked with. We had decided to relieve the stress of work by devoting time to quilting. We both had a desire to learn how to longarm and registered for a day-long class. We’ve been scheduling time to rent the machines ever since and I’ve completed five quilts because of our commitment to staying creative. With each quilt, my skills are improving.
Mom managed to complete the flower portion of the quilt top and passed it along to me last year to add the borders. Upon inspection, I see the history. An heirloom documenting a skill my 84 year old mother has passed along to me and my sister. I see tight, straight, even stitches, 20 per inch, along the edges of the inner flowers progressing to loose, crooked, uneven stitches, 12-15 per inch, marking the timeline of Mom’s aching back and failing eyesight. The vintage fabrics remind me of my grandmothers’ and great aunts’ aprons gathered around a turquoise, vintage, chrome kitchen table.
I’m looking forward to the day this summer when my mom and I can rent time at a favorite quilt shop to finish Grandmother’s Flower Garden together on the longarm machine, this time with her bent over learning from me. Seventeen years in the making, we will complete it side by side and she will be able to see the layers of love woven in between.
I knew my someday would arrive. My mom, Master Quilter, provided a soft, warm layer of love needed to pass along her legacy of quilting to my sister and me. We’ve each adapted the craft to meet our needs. My sister is passionate about batiks and machine quilting, while I’m drawn to reproduction fabrics and the longarm. Learning to layer fabrics and add lines of stitching in a decorative design of art is the thread between the two generations.