300 Words About Quilting: The Perfect Quilt
Upcoming topics and deadlines are:
My Favorite Quilt I Didn't Make: March 1, 2015
The Haunting of a UFO (Unfinished Object): May 1, 2015
A Very Quilty Christmas: July 1, 2015
Quilts and Music or Movies: September 1, 2015
The Perfect Quilt
My mom deliberated over the fabrics but never doubted the pattern. She saw it clearly in her head but worried that she wouldn't make it as perfect as it should be - as perfect as her love. My mom would listen to the TV each night, propped in her recliner, carefully sewing the pieces to make a block. She was in Delaware and I was in Texas. In fact, all of her children were no longer near her. Her dreams of watching her grandchildren grow up slowly faded away as she sewed block after block of the quilt.
Over time she put the top aside, moving on to other blocks for other quilts. None of them were ever finished.
I was in town for a long weekend visit one time when she showed me the top. It was beautiful - each block perfectly aligned with its neighbor, the colors spectacular. "Why haven't you finished it?" I asked. "I don't know how to do the edges," she remarked. This woman of amazing talent, who had hand pieced a complex geometric star had lost confidence in piecing rectangles.
Together over the next two days we finished it, giggling and talking from morning to night. We laughed at shared memories and talked about my mother's grandchildren. Eventually I had to go. She finished the top and handed it over to a friend of hers who was Amish. Her friend hand quilted a beautiful pattern to emphasize the lone star pattern.
The quilt is my pride and joy and graces my bed. Yes, the pattern is spectacular and the colors are rich. But it's the perfect quilt because my mother made it. Each stitch was made with love. It's perfect because I got to share in its completion - and the memories of that crazy weekend with my mom are priceless.
The Perfect Quilt
I started a quilt with two jelly rolls. I cut and sewed and designed as I sewed. I ended up with a nice quilt top with stars, triangles and borders. When I ran out of fabric, I had a fair-sized throw. I didn't love it or hate it, but I had no plan for it. Someday I would find a purpose for this quilt.
One early morning in April, a shocking text came over my phone. My friend, Therese, wrote that her adult son had attempted suicide, was in ICU and would not live. I spent most of the next two days with her in ICU as she stood over her son's deteriorating body.
He had chosen to be an organ donor. As his body lay dying, machines started taking over to keep his precious organs working. Finally, his body was finished with its earthly journey. Surgery for his organs was scheduled for the next morning. Many others would be given an amazing gift of life from this tragedy.
My friend was very grief stricken. There were many tears, hugs, questions, but no appropriate words. I needed a comfort quilt for my friend - and fast. I remembered the quilt top I had started and I finished the quilting and binding in record time. I was able to slip it into her car right after the funeral so she would find it when she got to her home that was now short one family member. I wanted her to be able to feel the comfort of the quilt. The quilt was far from perfect yet very perfect in its function as a grief quilt.
I named the quilt, "Hugs for Therese." The label had one single leaf for her son and under that, five leaves - one for each of his life-saving organs.
The Perfect Quilt
After many years of quilting, I still consider myself a beginner, perhaps an advanced beginner. I don't have many examples of my craftiness because I give away most things I make. I do have a collection of UFOs hanging around, but I'm easily distracted. There are so many ideas for quilts floating around in my brain, I think I might explode. I'm very fortunate to have a sewing room, and a rather large fabric stash. Much to my husband's dismay, it keeps on growing.
Recently, I was tasked with making a baby quilt. I found an adorable focus fabric, online, and took a chance. How can you go wrong with whales, turtles, sea otters and octopi? The colors are mostly aqua, teal and white, with bits of green, yellow and orange added for pizzazz. I chose a very simple pattern, alternating 6½-inch squares and 4-patch blocks, all set on point.
Like most quilters, I strive for perfection in all of my projects. I try, but never quite get there. I think my biggest problem is my rotary cutting. My ¼-inch seams are pretty consistent and I press my seams rather than iron them. Are my blocks always perfect? No. But this quilt really came together nicely. My measurements, cutting, seams and pressing all must have been close to spot-on. When I pieced my 4-patch blocks, all of my squares met just like they were supposed to. When I added my setting triangles, everything went smoothly, no cut off corners or points. When I measured the length and width of the finished top, before cutting fabric for the borders, all of my measurements were accurate within an eighth of an inch.
Was this finally my perfect quilt? Yes! Why? It was sewn, with love, for my first grandchild, Molly.
The Perfect Quilt
Infusing my heart and soul into creating a quilt for someone that I love is my recipe for creating the perfect quilt. Perfection is in the eye of the beholder, and sometimes the creator - it is never universal. Perfection is the idea of a creation that fulfills the objective.
Years ago, I came across some stunning vintage fabric on eBay. As it was truly vintage, it was only 20" wide and was like an old English painting - delightfully portraying the utter sweetness and simplicity of life through a child's eyes. When the fabric arrived at my door, it looked even better than it had on my computer monitor and I was thrilled to have it in my hands. I folded it and placed it in my stash, not having the vaguest idea of what it would be used for.
One day my beautiful granddaughter, Harlow, was born. Once I saw her sweet little face, I instantly knew why I had purchased that fabric so long ago. It reminded me of her! Even though I hadn't yet met her, my heart knew her. Harlow is a blessing beyond words whose only mission in life is to find joy and spread it around.
I made her a quilt featuring the vintage fabric; it's uncomplicated and simple, like her. Soft pink and muted green cottons work in concert to complement the unmistakable innocence of the vintage fabric. An embroidered H for Harlow confirms the quilt is hers, and pale pink flannel serves as the most comfy backing ever. No quilt was easier to make, yet it meant so much to me.
There are imperfections in Harlow's quilt, but I don't see them. I just see the lovely perfection that is my granddaughter and delight in the way she snuggles under her quilt at nap time.
The Perfect Quilt
My parents divorced when I was fairly young, so my father was not always a part of my life. As a result, our relationship was rocky. Fortunately, despite all of our problems, we were always able to say the words "I love you" and mean them, even when we couldn't always show our love in our actions.
My son was always very close to his Grandpa, but it wasn't until my father was diagnosed with a terminal illness that the two of us were finally able to build the relationship I had always wanted us to have.
I had been quilting for about five years by this time. To me, nothing shows love like making and giving a quilt. I wanted very much to show my father how much I loved him. He had served in the US Navy, so I thought he'd like a quilt made with patriotic fabrics. I worked diligently on it, but I hadn't finished quilting it when Father's Day rolled around. I had no idea how much time my dad had left, so thinking that he may not live to see it completed, I made the decision to show him the quilt in progress. I'll never forget him mistaking my basting stitches for hand quilting stitches. He slowly ran his large hand over the quilt and said, very kindly, "Hon, your stitches are a little big." That's a good memory!
Dad lived for a little more than four months past the day I showed him the unfinished quilt. I did finish the quilt in time. He got to sleep under it many nights. He knew it was an expression of my love. It was manly and long enough for his 6' frame. For both of us, it was the perfect quilt.
My Perfect Quilt
My very first quilt was made in 1969. I was in college full time and working midnights in a psychiatric hospital. At work I would do anything I could to stay awake. One day someone donated bags of clothing for the patients. They took what they wanted and the rest were headed for the dumpster. I thought "Hey, I could make a quilt from these; there's a sewing machine here." I rummaged through the bags. Remember, these were clothes that even the psychiatric patients wouldn't wear. I pulled out lime green polyester knits and brown wide wale corduroy and slithery 60's paisleys. Clearly I knew nothing about fabric but figured I could do this. I cut and sewed while my sweet patients slept. Finally, I had it done. I was especially proud of the orange and yellow happy face fabric that I used for the center of the stars - it made the purples and avocados and lime greens pop! Then I needed a backing. I found an old chenille bedspread that was all stained and thought I could tie dye it. Off to the industrial hospital laundry, coming back all nice and clean with a lovely purple and green tie-dyed star. What shall I do for batting, I wondered. Scrounging around, I found some old military wool blankets that even my sweet patients refused to sleep under. I pillowcased the whole thing together (because who knew about silly technical things like bindings or quilting). One of my sweeties gave me some red ribbon - perfect for tying the quilt with wonderful bows. Finally it was done, and it was perfect in my eyes. Colorful and strong, it brightened my bed, comforted my dog during storms and warmed me when my car broke down. Yes, it was the perfect quilt to me.
My Perfect Quilt
In the last two years I have had a number of serious health challenges and am still dealing with some issues. I had to learn to walk again and have some permanent limitations to my hand movement. Quilting started as a hobby and turned into a stress-reliever, a constant friend, a source of fulfillment and accomplishment, and then turned into a way of life. While sick I thought of how important quilting had been to me and all the wonderful national teachers I have learned from. I decided to make a sampler quilt that would be a tribute to them. It would be the perfect quilt for me to work on as I continued my recovery.
It was very difficult to decide which teachers to represent in the quilt when I wanted to include them all. I found that if I used a 2" sashing and not too large a border I could have 30 blocks with each block 12".
Since I couldn't quilt a large quilt on my home machine anymore, I decided to make and quilt each block before assembling the quilt so I could use the method most appropriate for the teacher represented.
This was the most challenging quilt I have ever made. Blocks were resized, teachers contacted for permission (I received many encouraging notes with their replies), labels created for each block and decisions made as to how to connect the blocks. Finally, I had to decide on placement so as to complement the wide variety of designs.
There was no boring phase in making this quilt. There were always decisions to make and problems to solve. It was the perfect quilt to help me through to recovery while at the same time thanking those wonderful teachers.
I am the mother of three wonderful grown sons. My youngest son chose a military path. He is a Navy Corpsman (field medic), and has traveled with all the branches. The first time he was deployed to Iraq was the worst year of my life! As his mother, I felt helpless knowing there was nothing I could do to help him. I tried not to watch the news, but couldn't stop myself. I had to ask my friends not to send patriotic emails because I would read them and be crying at my desk when my students came in. I looked for support groups and found none in my area. I would cry about anything, and nothing. It was a miserable year. Having your child in harm's way and knowing there in not one single thing you can do to help them, except send yummy care packages that sometimes do and sometimes don't make it is just not how a mother wants to be there for her child. Luckily, he returned safely and continued with his career. The second time he was deployed to Afghanistan/Kuwait I knew I had to get some sort of direction and not become a blubbering idiot again. So I decided I would find the most difficult quit pattern I could find (Tonga Nature by Wing and a Prayer) and searched for manly batik prints (no girly calicos for my boy) and have a beautiful quilt finished when he returned. If I was extra worried, it was time to sew. If the news was extra bad, it was time for extra sewing. It gave me direction and a cause. I know it didn't really help him in his dangerous work, but it made me stronger and maybe that in turn made him stronger.
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