300 Words about Quilting: Quilts and Family

Quilts and Family

QN invites you to share your quilt stories with other QN readers–in 300 words or less. If you have a quilt story that fits the topics listed at below–be it funny, sad, poignant, or anything in between–we want to hear from you. Send your story, its title, and your complete contact information to submissions@qnm.com. Write “300 Words” in the subject line.

Upcoming topics and deadlines are:

Why I love my quilt guild: March 15, 2012

If I had the chance to do it over, I'd... : May 15, 2012

Dreams and goals for my quilting: July 15, 2012


Where Is My Leaf?

Just before my grandmother passed away in 1949 she asked her 11 children to stay connected. In 1963 they held the first Hawkins reunion. The reunion is held every three years in varying locations across the country. It is not uncommon to have over 100 attendees. By 1980 the quilting bug had hit my mother. She designed a family tree quilt. It is a living quilt; with each marriage, birth, divorce or death in the family, Mom updates the quilt. My father always referred to my mother as a master quilter.

The quilt has different colored leaves for each generation; the trunk has the names of Mom and each of her siblings and their spouses, and the roots containing the names of her parents and other ancestors. Currently there are 300 leaves on the tree representing everyone born to her or her siblings and their children. There are five generations represented in the trunk and leaves alone. The roots date back to 1225. The quilt hangs at every family reunion. Young and old alike go to the quilt with the question, "Where is my leaf?"

This year at the age of 83, Mom once again updated the quilt in preparation for the reunion. With tears streaming down her face, she made the hardest update of all. She recorded the death of my father and her husband of 65 years.

So at this year's reunion once again, I, along with relatives from across the country and from multiple generations, will ask, "Where is my leaf?" But I will make a special point to find Dad on the trunk of the quilt as well.

Quilting Creates Families


I moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, after leaving Louisiana in 2000. I stayed with my dad for a couple of months before moving into an apartment on my own. One day while I was at work, Dad called and told me he wanted to introduce me to his friend and employee, Carol. “She’s a quilter, and you need to get a hobby.”  He explained that she taught quilting classes and “something else about choosing colors,” and wanted me to sign up. Although I was totally broke, I signed up thinking “Dad really DOES know best!”

Carol and I met at the class she was teaching and I signed up for her beginner quilting class that evening. By the first night of the quilting class, she and I were fast friends. In fact, she told me that her brother was moving to town for awhile and that she thought we should meet. Soon, both she and my dad were making a combined effort to get her brother and me together.

I continued taking the quilting class and loved it, although I was somewhat bored by the beginner book we were using. Carol and I decided that I should come over and search her magazines for a new quilt pattern. While I was there, she invited me to dinner at her home for that evening. She said, “The entire family will be here, including my brother!”  We decided I should go and she didn’t forewarn him. Ha!

Carol’s brother, David, and I recently celebrated our 10-year wedding anniversary. We were married 7 months and 4 days after we met!  And, I’m still hooked on quilting. In fact, Carol and I just went on our first quilting cruise together. I can say from personal experience that quilting creates families.

Storm in the Garden

I had worked hard on my green Storm at Sea quilt top. I had many green fabrics of all different values. Since the pattern depends on color value contrast, I had spent many hours in front of my design wall arranging and rearranging pieces until it was just right.

I had almost finished sewing the top together when we heard the news that my cousin, Mark, had terminal cancer. "He is too young for this diagnosis," I thought. One of five boys, our families had regularly met at our grandmother's house for weeks during the summers of our childhood. He was my brother's age, 4 years younger than I.

Our grandmother had died many years earlier, when I was in my twenties. She was one of my inspirations for learning to quilt. Although the quilt was planned for me, I decided I would give it to Mark. I quilted it following the curved lines. I called it "Storm in the Garden." I mailed the quilt to Mark in the fall.

A few days later Mark's mother called me. With tears in her voice, she told me how much Mark appreciated my gift. She asked if I knew green was Mark's favorite color? I did not. She said one of Mark's brothers had dreamed that our grandmother had made a quilt for Mark and when he put it around his shoulders, his cancer was cured! She said that grandmother seemed to be present in this somehow. Did she guide my hand and my heart?  Did she choose the color for me?

These questions cannot be answered, but Mark lived four remarkable years longer than his original six-month life expectancy.



When I was 24, I had a college degree, a divorce and an active 3-year-old son, Chris. I wondered how I would raise him to adulthood as a single parent.
I decided to make a quilt for Chris. I zigzagged red and blue patches on squares of batting and backing, and interspersed them with red squares of poly-cotton.

During the years, we moved several times. Finances were a struggle. The red patchwork quilt was always with us. Chris had success as a high school athlete and was granted a football scholarship to the University of Kansas. The red patchwork quilt went to college. One summer, Chris brought the quilt home to be mended. That was easy. I zigzagged more red and blue patches on top.

In early November, the quilt was ready. I took it with me to the football stadium. The day was bitterly cold and I was glad for the warmth of the red patchwork quilt. The Kansas Jayhawks were hoping for a win to assure them of a bowl game appearance. The Jayhawks were ahead in the third quarter, but then the opposing team's quarterback began to move his team smoothly down the field. The crowd was still – the momentum was shifting. Suddenly, a roar went up. A Kansas Jayhawk defender had intercepted the ball. Touchdown! It was Chris!

After the game, I waited in the cold outside the locker room to talk to my son. Because sportswriters had wanted to talk to Chris about the big play, he was the last man out.

After brief congratulations, it was time to leave. As Chris turned to go, I said, "Wait, here's your quilt." Chris reached for the red patchwork quilt. With the biggest grin of the day, he said, "Thanks, Mom."

*The football game referenced in this essay was on November 4, 1995. The Kansas Jayhawks went to the Aloha Bowl in Hawaii and won on Christmas Day, 1995.

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Leah Day
I've followed Leah Day's work for some time. I was pleased to read the article about her in this issue. Her quilts are fabulous and very inspirational. Thank you for telling the quilting world more about her and her work.


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